Ruby Seaward launched her eponymous label in 2012 as she set off travelling, crafting precious metals at her temporary accommodations. Seaward also made her own timber jewellery displays, small enough to fit entirely in a small suitcase. “I launched my label when I was travelling and then living in Berlin. One of the great things about being a jeweller is you’re quite mobile if you want to be,” Seaward says. “I call it my ‘suitcase studio’ and it can go wherever I go, I use it when visiting markets and it allowed me to start my business from overseas.”
Having studied Jewellery and Object Design at COFA (now UNSW Art & Design), followed by a stint crafting pieces in the jewellery department of Dinosaur Designs, Seaward developed a deep appreciation for jewellery as a form of wearable sculpture.
Her home studio is full of handcrafted pieces from friends: a large pastel painting, a leather work apron and various vessels to name a few. Pot plants are scattered around; Kangaroo Paw sits in a porcelain vase that Ruby made herself, and an Old Man’s Beard plant, collected from her front yard, drapes down from her mood board. Seaward grew up in the natural abundance of the Southern Highlands, and as soon as she acquired a home of her own by the sea – just north of Wollongong – she filled every nook and cranny of it with greenery.
Each of her collections is small and well considered, stemming directly from an experience abroad or an image on her travels that inspired her. As she talks us through her latest collection, White Valley, it becomes apparent that every single piece has a detailed story of its own. Seaward is equally particular about the subtle details and wearability of the piece.
“I always design first in metal instead of wax, which is commonly used. The process can be slower, but I get a really good sense of the form and functionality of the piece.” One of her pieces, the Tesselate ring, is made up of almost 800 tiny silver tiles. Each was painstakingly handcut by Seaward for the original. “I think I was a little optimistic about how long it would take,” she says.
The range is inspired by the distinct rock formations, known as fairy chimneys, that Seaward came across during her travels through Cappadocia in the Göreme Valley of Turkey. The mosaics and some tiny wild poppy pods from the area are motifs in the collection. The fairy chimneys make their appearance in the form of miniscule rose and smokey quartz bullet cabochon stones, set into rings and earrings. Chosen for their colours and hand-cut shape, Seaward wanted to reflect the beauty and strangeness of the landscape.
“I make my jewellery after work and on weekends, and so I needed to be somewhere quiet and calm. I’ve found that in Towradgi. Here I ride my bike most evenings on the track that follows the coastline and finally have access to the kind of physical space I had so missed.”