A leap of faith during lockdown led 24 year old Ebony Birks to set up her jewellery brand and studio. Three years later EB Jewellery continues to produce elegant, sustainable, handcrafted pieces.
For many businesses the last three years have been full of challenges and uncertainty with the unpredictability of COVID many had closed their doors or limited their services to adjust to the frequent changes. But not Ebony Birks. When lockdowns hit and Ebony lost her part-time work, she took a leap of faith, putting all her savings into setting up EB Jewellery studio and brand. Now that defining decision has given her a insight into the challenges and triumphs of owning an arts business.
A proud descendant of Kamilaroi and Dunghutti people, Ebony draws inspiration from her cultural background when creating her hand-crafted pieces. EB jewellery takes artistic inspiration from an enduring sense of identity and Ebony’s personal relationship to Country. Through the minimalist, understated designs, Ebony demonstrates a contemporary and distinctive aesthetic free from influence of the commodified and short lived trends that saturate the current jewellery market and media. Her studio currently in Brisbane, Ebony identifies as one of an emerging class of young designers hoping to render a distinctly local aesthetic to her art and jewellery.
We had the pleasure of interviewing this quietly bold creative and maker of the ‘Aboriginal Symbols’ Pendants now available on our online store.
Tell us about EB Jewellery. How did it come about?
I’ve been practising the art of jewellery for around 5 years while having other jobs. I had originally planned to transition from full-time to part-time work and focus more on my jewellery. But then covid happened and I lost my part time work. I was sitting around twiddling my fingers for the first few weeks of lockdown then
decided to spend all of my savings to set up my jewellery studio and brand. This is my third year in business.
What is your process of creating your collections? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I think I have a few creative influences which helps me to explore and create different aesthetics. One of those influences is country. The designs in my collections are more minimalistic and reflect the feelings and emotions experienced when on Country. You can see this through a lot of the shape and line work. I guess this ties into your new questions with my bespoke work also. I get to work with clients to create a piece that involves their style and my designs. This really challenges me to create new designs that suit my clients but still have an EB aesthetic. Bespoke pieces are usually a bit more colourful and bold compared to my current
You touched on it a bit there but could you tell us your process with bespoke jewellery?
I really enjoy the bespoke process. It’s a fun journey where I communicate with clients about their style, birthstone, and why they want the piece, so it’s quite
intimate. Once we have an idea of design I get to go and source gemstones, sketch designs, then we do some fine tuning and I sometimes learn new techniques on the fly. My favourite part is when the piece is completed, my clients receive it and they are really happy. It’s challenging sometimes but I’m always learning through the design process.
Your website mentions the significance the environment plays in not only your jewellery design but in your sustainable practices. Can you talk more about this?
When I was first setting up EB I took a lot of time to research practices and materials to run a sustainable business. My focus was to try to keep it Australian based and to make sure my practices had a low-to-no impact on the environment. This does take a while. I think it’s easy for people to turn away and take the easy path which isn’t always sustainable.
My metal comes from an Australian company called Palloys. They have a lot of green practices involving recycling and non-chemical processing. Each EB Jewellery piece is made with recycled metal. All pieces are solid metal, so there is no plating. Solid metal is more expensive than plated jewellery but it’s more
economical over time. Within my small studio there is no waste of metal, I keep all cuttings to eventually melt down or find some way to reuse it. Other methods like a pickle bath and tumbling machine stay in an isolated area which only require a top up of water occasionally. Reuse postage bags, bubble wrap, recycle batteries, list goes on. My packaging is recycled and recyclable, has non-toxic tissue paper, recyclable postage box, reusable jewellery box. I have a local gem supplier that has ethically sourced gemstones. I have a friendly relationship with a lot of my suppliers, which is makes my practice really personal. The sustainability pathway never ends, I’m always looking to find sustainable practices and reduce my footprint.
What are some of the challenges of your practice?
Having the confidence to believe in what you do, taking control of your design and realising you have the capacity to create. Finding the balance between work and passion. As a new, small business it’s financially difficult a lot of the time. You work so hard but don’t necessarily get rewarded how you would expect or want. That’s where work and passion collide as it’s hard to feel inspired and motivated when you’re struggling financially. Working for yourself can be amazing but you are alone and it can be isolating at times. Everything revolves and falls on you. You’re responsible for staying on top of work, being organised, staying motivated, being creative and mentally stable. So when things are quiet or you are feeling uninspired, there’s no one to turn to and bounce ideas off. It’s vital to surround yourself with good people who you can have those important conversations with. It’s cliche but it really is about the journey, staying focused and keeping in touch with your passion and roots.
Thank you for being a big supporter of Aboriginal Art Co!
*Since this interview, Ebony has started to work at Aboriginal Art Co as a part-time gallery assistant. We love having her fun and creative spirit a part of our team!
Check out EB Jewellery’s available works on our Shop page.