Julia Cook is a goldsmith and jeweller renowned for her colourful nature-themed jewellery. She’s the founder of Branch on the Park in east London’s Victoria Park, for which Factorylux supplied the lighting back in 2010.
When it came to finding someone to style a few pendants of a different sort to mark the launch of the Factorylux Plug-In Light configurator, Julia was the obvious choice.
The Plug-in Pendant Configurator enables customers to choose components from the Factorylux modular range – plug, fabric cable, light bulb socket and light bulb – to create a simple pendant light. All the Plug-in Pendants are assembled, tested and certified to BS EN 60598 by skilled Factorylux technicians at our HQ in Hebden Bridge.
In addition to designing the pendants, Julia agreed to be interviewed about her influences and inspirations.
Julia, tell us more about you. Where were you brought up? Have you always lived in London?
I was brought up in Chigwell, Essex in a Victorian house my Mother had lived in since she was 6. We also spent our weekends and holidays in Pin Mill, Suffolk. Growing up in two very contrasting worlds was great for us…mud, boats, tree houses and countryside at the weekend then during the week we lived in quite a materialistic world. I moved to London when I started at Central St Martins and initially lived with friends in Stockwell. After many years of living all over, I settled in Victoria Park and have been here for 20 years with my partner, Dominic, and three children. I love it in East London, it’s definitely home to me now.
Are you from an artistic or creative family?
My father was very artistic but he had to take over the family butchers so did not follow a creative career path. As a passionate sailor, he did occasionally draw and make detailed models of boats though, his talent amazed me. Dad was always really interested and proud of what I drew and made.
Yes, it was! I think his faith in me helped to to shape a successful creative career. My older sister is very creative and has a graphic design company, she mainly works with specialist food companies but has always designed my logos and packaging. My other sister is creative but chose not to use her talents professionally.
What interested you as a child?
As a child I spent most of my time either outside looking at nature and climbing trees or drawing and making things. I would make anything I could and if I didn’t know how to make it I would learn how to do it. I always knew I wanted to go to art college and would make things for a career.
Did you study jewellery design at college?Yes! I went to Central St Martins graduating in 1991 with a degree in jewellery design. It is a very traditional jewellery design course where we learnt lots of complicated skills. We also had the luxury of spending months on one piece!
Sounds fantastic. How did you go on to create and develop your jewellery?
When I left college I moved into a workshop in Soho where I designed and made a collection. I took it to shops and buyers which went really well, I sold to shops in England, Japan, Hong Kong, New York and Taiwan. I also worked on private commissions but wholesale was the biggest part of my business.
Conveniently, Conde Nast was just around the corner so I’d walk round and show them my creations which they featured in their magazines. Amongst all this, I was also able to create a family, I now have three children. As a mother I became calmer and and eventually gave up on wholesaling, focussing more on private commissions.
It was four and half years ago that I opened my shop, ‘Branch on the Park’ now, commissions are still a big part of my business but I also have an online shop called ‘Blossoming branch’ that may take me back to wholesale again, time will tell! I’m thrilled by the success of both outlets.
Your design work shows a particular style, what are your design influences?
Luckily I had a distinctive style from the start and this has evolved over the years. My inspirations come from nature and jewellery from the past. Nature inspires me everyday, we got a dog a short while ago and I walk him for an hour before the start of each day. Living next door to Victoria Park I get to see so many lovely things, the park’s been full of crazy fungus and mushrooms at the moment! I’d have to say, Cheapside Hoard is my perfect kind of jewellery and a great inspiration. I also love looking at antique jewellery, particularly Indian, Roman, Aztec, Victorian. Gemstones are a massive influence on how I make my jewellery, I love colour and use a lot of it.
How do you stay inspired?
It seems the more I make, the more ideas seem to come into my head. I’ve never run out of inspiration, my frustrations are more that I don’t have the time to make everything I would like to. I love my job and I’m passionate about what I do. It is such a pleasure to be looking at beautiful gemstones everyday!
How did you design the Factorylux simple pendant lights?
Well I had to pick the copper coloured twisted cable as it’s my original choice for my shop and such a classic. I really like the zigzag filament, the red with the reflector bulb, it’s fab and reminds me of groovy bars and clubs! The black and white with bronze fittings is just looks so stylish. I also like the traditional Bakelite fitting. I don’t use it for my jewellery but there’s quite a few Bakelite pieces out there. It was a very popular choice in the 1920s, throughout the Depression era, and beyond because if its wide range of colors and light weight. I think the purple fabric cable compliments it perfectly. I’m really pleased with the results of all four, they’re beautiful, understated and effortlessly elegant!