The London Office Speaks To: Melanie Eddy
Swarovski, Victoria & Albert Museum, and Central Saint Martins College, are just a few of the organisations whom have contracted the time and skills of Bermudian jewelry designer, artist and craftsman Melanie Eddy. Her passion for her work, and eye for creative innovation has taken her as far as Kabul, Afghanistan and India in recent years. Though her resume is impressive, Melanie continues to hone her skills, and take advantage of new opportunities. Here she shares with us her experiences and thoughts on living in London, and has insightful words of advice for the aspiring artists in the UK.
Jewellery designer or artist? Which do you prefer?
” Ooh tricky – I am an artist but also a jewellery designer. I think the term jewellery designer can be a little problematic because it unclear whether you are making the pieces yourself or not. Artist or craftsman is probably more accurate as I also handcraft the jewellery that I design.”
When did you first realize that you wanted to a part of this industry?
” It was something that crept up on me – an opportunity presented itself to be introduced to the jewellery industry with the Gem Cellar in Bermuda. I was always interested in jewellery and gems, and I jumped at that and basically the rest is history.”
What has been your proudest moment thus far?
” That is a really hard question – there have been a few proud moments. Usually when I surprise myself but I would say the most poignant are when I have seen the difference my belief in others in this industry has spurred them on to take steps towards the career they want.
Seeing individuals who have taken courses with me, or who I have worked on with professional development really fly. That’s really important to me as I wouldn’t have taken the leap at difficult points if people along the way hadn’t stepped out and said “Girl, you got this” when I was unsure of my own abilities.”
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
” I have no idea – I know that is probably crazy but so far I’m pretty happy with the places I’ve turned up in. Most of the amazing things that have happened to me have been because I just took things a step at a time. I’ve spent most of professional life thus far saying yes to opportunities and seeing where they would take me, now I’m in the stage of focusing my energies, honing my skills as opposed to continuing to amass additional skills.
The main thing is that I hope I can continue to be in a position to seize opportunities for growth as they present themselves but to be more selective about what I say yes to. Having said that you do have to balance the reactive with the proactive so I’m working on strengthening the framework that I operate within but still having enough flexibility in my plans to be able to seize opportunities as they arise.”
What made you relocate to the UK?
” Actually I wasn’t planning to relocate here, I originally planned to come to London for two months training in 2004 and basically I have been here ever since. I came here because I knew that the opportunities to increase my skill-set in my chosen industry were limited in Bermuda. At the time I was very focused on technical skills and the UK was well known historically for their level of craftsmanship so I thought it would be a good place to take myself to the next level in terms of my work.
Once I was here I realised that the UK was an excellent place to build my career and my artistic practice and set about finding out how I could further my education to support that and to establish a business from which to do that.”
What do you love most about the UK? What do miss most about Bermuda?
” I am going to focus my answer on London more specifically. What I love about London is that it truly is a hub of cultural, creative and artistic activities. It also has the economy to support this. I think here in the UK there are a lot of opportunities and if you position yourself to capitilise on them then you can really chart your own course.
Sometimes it is just access to experts in your field or to free advice – there is so much on offer here if you are proactive. For me the UK has shown me just what possibilities there are in my industry, over and above what I had conceived as possible while working in Bermuda.
What I miss most about Bermuda: the sense of community. London can be a lonely city – you can know lots of people here and have many friends but in general it takes a lot longer to get close to people here than in Bermuda; the joie de vivre, that joyful spirit of Bermudians that we have no matter what is going on and Hugs – I hug my friends here now, it took a while for them to get used to that one but now they are converts!”
What has your experience been like in the UK so far, in regards to establishing yourself in your field?
” I’ve had a very positive experience. London is not an easy city – you have to be willing to work hard but if what you have to say or what you have to offer has merit in time you’ll be able to make your way.
My work, my achievements speak for themselves – organizations and people here actively seek me out for my work or what I have to contribute. Being a young professional in Bermuda can be a challenge as there tends to be this idea that you have to pay your dues – I didn’t have that experience here. Perhaps there is more of an interest in a fresh perspective.”
When you tell people in the UK you are from Bermuda, what sort of responses do you get?
” People are usually surprised or interested in the fact that I am from Bermuda. More often than you would expect they tell me a story about a relative or friend who worked/works there. It is a small world after all. The other response I get is “why the heck are you here?” – which is also quite amusing.”
Have you ever used your Bermudian heritage/culture as inspiration for your work?
” Yes, not a literal inspiration but more of my experience growing up in Bermuda and Bermuda as a contrast to being in a big city like London has informed the development of my work. In terms of other aspects of my professional career, for instance working in countries like Afghanistan and India, my Bermudian heritage and culture has actually helped me to make a connection with the people I was working with as aspects of my life growing up in Bermuda are perhaps closer to their experience than say someone from the UK, Europe or America. We can relate on aspects of life, family, community, faith etc.”
Has being Bermudian ever been a hindrance or benefit to you at any time in your career?
” Being a Bermudian has never been a hindrance – there may have been times where I was a bit of an unknown quantity because I was coming from a place like Bermuda but the loss of those opportunities only lead me to places where I thrived. So in a way it was a blessing.
I truly believe that being a Bermudian is a benefit – the experiences of growing up and living in Bermuda has shaped me and as such my approach is unique and my outlook is different. If anything I think it gives you an edge, an advantage, well at least in my field but I’m sure the same could be said of other Bermudians working abroad.”
What advice would you give to aspiring young Bermudian artists (especially those in the UK)?
” To aspiring young artists from Bermuda currently in the UK – for them to take advantage of all that the UK offers culturally and artistically, the urban centres in the UK are great places to emerse yourself in all types of artistic experiences but also to travel about the UK and try to see how various artists and designers here operate.
There is no right approach, when it comes to being an artist it is about designing the practice that is right for you – you are in the unique position to literally design your future. Make sure it works for you and allows you communicate what you want to the world.”
How often do you hear the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ reference, and what is normally your response?”
I hear that reference so frequently that I don’t even react to it anymore – I just start in with the things I think they want to hear about the weather patterns and where the actual triangle is – meaning that Bermuda is not in fact inside the triangle.”
” Although I had it happen recently in a more unlikely context: sitting in the Ministry of Interior, at the registration office for foreigners in Kabul, Afghanistan when they saw I was from Bermuda they were absolutely fascinated and asked me all kinds of questions. They offered me tea while I was waiting for the paperwork to be finished and the sentence I will remember the most is them reading my form looking up at me with pure wonderment and saying “Bermuda – wow, dangerous place!”. The irony of hearing that statement in Afghanistan will be with me for some time to come!”
Swizzle, Dark & Stormy or ginger beer?”
Dark & Stormy for sure”