Carolyn Kinnaird Featured Artist Interview

Those of you familiar with my blog will know that I love to travel and share art from all over the world, from the places that I visit. I love meeting and speaking with artists that also share this passion. I love the story telling through their work, drawing inspiration from their travels.

When I came across the work of Carolyn Kinnaird and her tribal inspired jewellery designs I knew I wanted to know more, and that she would be the perfect interviewee!

What’s your favourite material to work with and why?

At the moment I work predominantly in Silver. Some of my designs are quite heavy, a trait which derives from a lot of the tribal jewellery I am inspired by. I don’t like to compromise on the element of weight within my work, so Silver allows me to keep this without the price tag. Some solid 18ct Gold pieces would be magnificent however!

You’ve posted images of Berber women in their traditional dress previously, as well as been vocal in how these cultural representations of traditional tribal jewellery inspire your work. Can you elaborate on that?

Yes. I have been interested in the jewellery of the Berber people since first visiting Morocco in 2014. I was initially drawn to the work due to its aesthetic; the bold, colourful, yet intricate nature of each piece grabbed my attention (and my Dirham!). I felt compelled to find out more about these elaborate designs and was fascinated to learn that Berber jewellery is not only worn as adornment but is also worn in order express aspects of identity and ethnicity, symbolising an individual’s strength, whilst also warning off evil spirits.

Travel is a big part of your work, in terms of gathering first-hand knowledge of these incredible women and their adornments. Have you always been drawn to tribal inspired pieces or was there a key moment when you realised that this was going to be your inspiration/niche?

I think I first became more interested in tribal pieces after travelling in my early twenties, not long after graduating from Edinburgh College of Art. I loved collecting pieces from local craftspeople and was probably first captured by a Hmong ring that was sold to me whilst walking through a street stall in Northern Vietnam.

However, it wasn’t until I was working in my studio in Melbourne a few years later (when I started making again), that I had time to reflect and realise that my inspiration naturally pulls together various elements from the cultures I have experienced. For me, I don’t think you can decide what you are inspired by, I think it’s more a process of looking at what you create naturally and asking yourself why.

Tribal inspired jewellery tells a certain story, is this something that is transferred in your own work? Does each piece have its own ‘story’ or inspired memory that it evolved from?

I would say my work has evolved from many different memories, with each piece inspiring the next.

Do you have a specific way of working? Piece by piece for example, or do you have multiple items on the go at any one time?

I usually have a few pieces on the go at the one time as I am often working on commissions and pieces from my collection side by side.

When you are creating a new piece/pieces are you thinking of how they will work as part of a collection or do you create items that are stand alone, and later come together to form a collection?

I find that each piece usually inspires the next, so subconsciously I think I do always have in mind how they work together as a collection.

As travel is something that features in the research and inspiration of your work, are you planning on any trips soon? Or are there any places on your list for exploration in the future?

There are many places on my list for exploration but in terms of finding further sources of inspiration for my jewellery, I am desperate to organise a trip to India.

With lots of tribal dress being very colourful, often with bright motifs and colours, worn juxtaposed with the precious metal work, is that an element you also try to bring in with some of your pieces? or are you more focused on creating jewellery that can be worn with anything?

My jewellery is designed to stand out against any garment – be that the clothes that you wear to work or the outfit you are wearing for a special occasion. However, due to the bold, yet minimalist style of my work, I think Kinnaird Jewellery compliments pretty much anything.

I love that your jewellery is inspired by traditional dress. I myself have travelled and met with women of Northern Vietnam – Black and Red Hmong, as well as a settlement of Akha people in northern Laos. I can completely understand why you were so inspired by these women, and their traditional attire. With cultures that are so completely different to those in the West I have often found that these women are incredibly strong and resilient. Is there an element of this (and their strength) that is also transferred within your work?

I think the element that transfers, is the importance of jewellery amongst their traditional attire and the way in which they wear such pieces to express their strength. Although this is not its sole meaning, this was a very powerful message for me.

I would love to think that each piece of jewellery I create can provide its wearer with a little extra confidence and a sense of empowerment.

As a female creative, how important would you say is the element of female empowerment (or just empowerment in general) in your work?

I think it is important for all of us to feel empowered on an everyday basis and by that, I mean to have the confidence to strive to achieve whatever you need to achieve on any given day. For me I need to pull that strength from many different places but if putting on a special piece of jewellery helps in assisting someone to express their sense of identity and individuality, I have achieved all and more than I would have hoped.

I want people to feel great whilst wearing my jewellery and it is the most wonderful feeling for me to hear positive feedback from my customers who feel just that.

Do you have an all time, favourite piece?

My favourite pieces are most definitely my larger statement pieces. At the moment those are my Chandelier Earrings. They feel great to wear on a special occasion as they possess such beautiful weight and create such a delicate, graceful sound when they move.

Where can we find you?

You can find me online at – there you will find a link to my online store. My work will be showing at the Bluecoat Display Centre in Liverpool from 27th of April until the 8th of June.

Find Kinnaird Jewellery on social media…


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**All images are owned by the artist; Carolyn Kinnaird (black&white images by Laura Prieto). They have granted permissions for their use in this interview. They retain full copyright.

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