Sia Taylor is an English jewellery designer who was a mystery to me for a very long time, an enigmatic person, the only image I had of her was the portrait I could see on the White Bird website.
Never present at her agent’s Paris showroom during fashion week, never previously seen at a Trunk Show, never even spoke to her on the phone when I bought her brand for a jewellery designers’ store in Beirut, Sia remained an ethereal character, a kind of paradoxical heroine out of Jane Austen, discreet and silent, but nevertheless endowed with amazing talent!
Without ever having left her workshop to meet her clients, without ever doing the slightest PR, without the slightest arrogance, Sia Taylor has made her own way up for the past ten years, a straight path leading to the peaks of jewellery creation: her brand is present today all over the world.
But how does she do it? It’s so rare to take off without playing the “it girl” card today, I’m really tempted to solve this mystery.
Discovered by Dover Street Market London in her early stages about a decade ago, she has since conquered the best boutiques for international creators White Bird and Hod in Paris, Twist in the US, Liberty in London, Studio 102 in Dubai, Macle in Beirut, and a recent consecration, the very prestigious American department store, Saks Fifth avenue.
When Stéphanie Roger told me that she would be hosting a Trunk Show for Sia last Wednesday at White Bird, I immediately got on board. It had taken me forever to meet this so discreet English rose, whose charmingly organic and sensual jewels had had me dreaming for ages.
There were a lot of people there on Wednesday, but I was able to get hold of Sia by navigating between the customers who came to try on her wonderful necklaces of small golden seeds, and especially, by concentrating on her words, which were just like her: sweet, discreet and calm.
Most of the designers I’ve met up until now and about whom I describe to you in my blog have flamboyant personalities.
They adore their job, are passionate about their creations, their creative research, their discoveries, their jewellery, their universe, their successes, everything which fills their life in a way, and they speak about it gladly, with for some, a lot of verve. In brief, they hype it up.
Sia is the contrary.
She inhabits a silent world of her own, a world of all that is infinitesimal and precious in nature, a world that she seems to be the only one to explore, to observe, to reproduce, a world where everything is slow, tiny, charming and poetic, the world which she recreates by hand in her workshop, with the patience of craftsmen from long ago.
Looking at me with her greyish blue eyes, Sia explains that for ages she has been fascinated by what is small and naturally attractive, without any particular message, without a double meaning, without any explanation, as if it’s obvious.
After studying sculpture at London’s Royal College of Art, she goes off with her husband on a journey to Bostwana and it’s there that she discovers this fascination for plants, seeds, insects’ wings, these tiny multitudes which constitute the immense nature of the Bush.
It is in these organic details that she is going to find her initial inspiration, the source of which she hasn’t relinquished a jot since her beginnings, which she never stops revisiting, reinventing, updating, exploring step by step new materials and new forms, barely different from the previous ones, like an infinite declension of all the details that she observes.
After sculpture, whose volumes didn’t permit her to crystallize her imagination, she turns to jewellery to create shapes, textures and things. She tells me this in confidence, and it’s the key to her creativity: “I felt the scale wrong in sculpture, it was too complicated. My scale is definitely tiny.“
It’s in the Bush of Botswana that she created her first line of jewellery, and it’s this element which is going to become recurrent in all of her collections, these “dots”, like peas made of gold, a replica of the seeds which she had observed in nature.
The day-to day work in her studio consists of making every single piece by hand.
From a gold thread which she crushes to make a flat bead, she polishes, then welds it onto a very fine gold thread, and then threads it onto a gold chain. She then finishes it off with a tiny gold weld, an operation of extreme accuracy, because the slightest error burns and melts the chain. The horrible thing not to do when 50 small dots are already fixed… Total nightmare, like losing the whole chapter of a book we’ve just written because we didn’t protect a file, Arrrgh!
I go stir crazy after 10 mn of manual labour, and make vague, dreadful knots to attach my beads (with bigger or smaller loops, who cares!) so am absolutely fascinated by the work of Sia, which is similar to the work of a bee in its hive.
She cuts, crushes, polishes and welds her small bits of gold by the hundred, by the thousand, without ever stopping, in an absolutely methodical way. It’s this patience, this merciless attention she brings to every tiny piece, which means that in the end, her necklaces, bracelets and earrings look like wonders of nature, incredibly sensual. She creates rivers of tiny pieces of gold which shine subtly in the light, with imperfections that are the seal of manual labor and the poetry of the jewel.
After her year in Botswana, Sia and her husband settled down in Ibiza. I understood later, whilst discussing with Stéphanie Roger, that she lived there for 10 years, renovating a house in ruins, having a child, developing her small workshop, collecting seeds and insect wings, and continuing her work like a bee: cutting, crushing, polishing, welding, assembling her little gold pieces, never taking break.
In my time, we used to call this type of cool person a hippy or a beatnik, relishing the sweet scent of flower power and revolution, joints and wooden clogs, sexual liberation and freedom.
Nowadays, it seems that this is called Slow Life.
I am willing to try everything, I adore sociological concepts, they give me the impression that Man (Woman) are changing.
In fact, it’s just that Man (Woman) can adapt.
The followers of Slow Life like Sia live like the beatniks of the 70s, but doing more work and less joints.
Their thing is their refusal to drown themselves in the frenzy of let’s have it all at once, in the madness of social networks, in the emptiness of the present, and in hysterical consumption. The creators of Slow Life reject all these behaviours or doing a rushed job which can botch, standardize and destroy creation.
In Ibiza her son grows up rather like Robinson by Rousseau, feet in the sand and head, no doubt, in the stars. Her brand begins to take off, and this is when Stéphanie Roger discovers her, and yup, she’s taken on at White Bird, the most beautiful shop for jewellery designers in Paris, just like that.
When Sia and her husband return to their native England, they do not go just anywhere, thanks to Slow Life! They settle down in Glastonbury, a village of 8000 souls situated two hours away by train from London, in the depths of Somerset, a godforsaken place in the middle of the countryside, but nevertheless a mythical small village: Glastonbury, witness to the birth of the first Christian monastery in England in the VIIIth century, shelters the graves of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Every winter an extremely rare specimen of Christmas hawthorn flourishes there and last but not least, from 1970 it’s the venue for the biggest world festival of music and entertainment, the Glastonbury festival. A village absolutely perfect to isolate itself from the world most of the time, yet remaining wired up.
Sia has her workshop in the countryside, right next to the nature that inspires her. For sure she spends two hours on the train to get her jewellery hallmarked in London, but she doesn’t care, just like a bee she continues indefatigably to work with her gold dots, transforming them into organic drops or insect wings, she tries out pink gold after yellow gold and silver, and now platinum of a more intense metallic grey, which links up beautifully with the pink gold
Sia is a recognized designer today, and Saks Fifth Avenue’s order has propelled her into the galaxy of creators present internationally, sought after by the best boutiques.
Nevertheless, it’s in her workshop that she feels best, leaning over her little gold dots. Her next research will be with tiny champagne diamonds which she plans to introduce in a random, meticulous way into her creations, but hush it’s in progress, she doesn’t want to say more yet.
She has delegated all the commercial part of her brand to her agent who accompanies her since her beginnings, she has no web site, she posts attractive images on her Instagram, slowly, at her own pace.
I left White Bird telling myself that I had met a person from another planet, a planet of the infinitesimal, in which a perfect, poetic and singular world is hidden. A silent planet protected from the pandemonium of the present.
I believe that this vision of a creative life seduces me because it’s preceded by an approach to the essential. I’ve had enough of Instagram and the tyranny of the immediate.
Yes, just like Sia, I too am tempted by the Slow Life, the village of Glastonbury, tiny gold dots that take forever to create in a workshop lost in the countryside, making sensual and charming jewellery. But all this is a dream, Parisian that I am, addicted to life in the fast lane, boosted by the adrenalin of life and little fake hearts on Instagram. Woe is me!
Sia, please, give me a job!