Renee Blackwell, from Renee Blackwell Designs has been designing and making jewellery for more than 25 years and she’s as excited about her chosen path today as the day she started!
One of the main reasons for this is my discovery of vintage and antique buttons and how I have used them in my jewellery for the past five years or so. I still work with and love gemstones, but that’s another story!
Five years ago on a trip to Paris, I was at an antique market where I met a woman who deals only in these sorts of buttons and I was instantly mesmerised! They were so very beautiful and unique and I could instantly see how they might be incorporated into my designs. So I bought a handful, not really knowing their history or much about them at all – I just knew I loved them. When I brought them back to my studio I set most as earrings and pendants into sterling silver. They looked awesome!
Since then I have been back to Paris three times. I’m actually writing this from my apartment in Paris … we fly home to Australia in a few days. And yes, I have buttons! Beautiful, stunning, remarkable buttons. It’s hard work (but hey, it’s in Paris!) – I go everywhere to source these treasures like markets, antique shops, flea markets, button shops and several ‘secret sources’ that I have cultivated over the years. I never really know what my trip will bring – I might find just one, or an entire card of old but perfect buttons.
This trip also included a week in London which uncovered some wonderful buttons and antiques as well.
I’m always on the lookout for other interesting things to work with. On this trip I found vintage belt clips in London. These are quite small, hand painted clips from the 1940s. They are on their original cards and in perfect condition. I just LOVE these and my plan is to use them in earrings by setting them in sterling silver with 18ct gold surrounds.
I am often asked if I buy my buttons online. I guess this is because so many items are bought and sold online these days. But the very simple answer is no! I need to see, feel, touch and inspect each and every button I use. I need to and want to meet the person I buy them from – to learn what I can of their history, and so on. I also have several great button books in my library which help me to identify the buttons and the era they came from.
Because I set all of my jewellery in sterling silver or a combination of sterling and 18ct gold they become more ‘fine jewellery’ and my work is stocked in more than 150 jewellery shops, upmarket gift shops and galleries Australia wide. I also sell my work at a few hand-picked shows each year, including the popular Love Vintage Shows, which I find personally very satisfying.
I look forward to seeing you at The Vintage Fair in Sydney, September 27 – 29, 2013. Please come and say hello!
All images supplied by Renee Blackwell, Renee Blackwell Designs