Velvet Meets…Harvey & Quinn

Recently winning the Highly Commended British Jewellers’ Association Award at the British Craft Trade Fair, Velvet Magazine caught up with Rachel Harvey and Lucy Quinn (aka Harvey & Quinn) to learn more about their beautiful jewellery.

Taking inspiration from rare and unusual buttons to create unique and sometimes one-off pieces of jewellery, Harvey & Quinn are passionate about transforming their finds into new items that hold an air of theatrically.

1. How did you both meet, and how did you decide to work together?
Lucy and I met at a toddlers group with our children in Saffron Walden. Lucy told me she was a jewellery designer and maker and I was an actress, but I had always been interested in design.

Lucy had her own range of work, and I was immediately attracted to its contemporary design and bought a piece of her work. As we became friends we thought how nice it would be to work together, and I mentioned I had managed to rescue my Grandmother’s box of vintage buttons from going to a charity shop. We spent a morning looking through this box, and were totally absorbed in what we saw as a box of treasure! We found buttons from so many different eras, Edwardian, Victorian and Art Deco pieces from the 1930’s. That is where the seed of an idea began to grow!

Lucy has been a jewellery designer and maker for 17 years under the name Lucy Easton, and as I’m an actress who loves meeting new people, our skill sets work well together, as I tend to promote the business while Lucy is making. We come together through designing our collections and very much brainstorm new ideas as a partnership.

2. What is it about buttons that inspire the basis of your work?
Buttons lend themselves beautifully to jewellery making.They are exquisite little pieces of history in their own right, and we often wonder what garment they were originally worn on. The kind of buttons we use in our work are incredibly detailed, like the Austrian Tinies dating back to the end of the 19th century, and their richness and depth when set in sterling silver really rejuvenate the button and gives it a wonderful new function and lease of life which very much inspires us.

3. History is obviously very integral to your jewellery making, how do you integrate new and old to create your pieces?
I think what fascinates us is once a button is set and polished it is quite literally transformed. We don’t necessarily look to be contemporary, we simply wish to enhance the beautiful object we are working with. We are both very interested in ancient jewellery which so often has a surprisingly modern look, and our own work, I think, could quite easily be mistaken for work made centuries ago.


4. How do you source your buttons?
To start with, we visited antique centres, charity shops , collectors fairs etc. Although we did find some amazing buttons by doing this, we soon realised we would need to buy in quantity, so looked to the internet. We have found sources that particularly hunt buttons for us, and also scour ebay and Etsy so our buttons come from all over the world.

5.What is it about Elizabethan and Roman styles in particular that inspire you?
We are both personally drawn to the often beautiful simplicity and design of ancient jewellery. Our filigree buttons lend themselves to an Elizabethan look, especially our range of rings made with fancy shanks. It is always the button which inspires the setting.

6. What’s the oldest button you have (or had) in one of your collections?
The oldest buttons in our collection tend to be the Austrian Tinies which we call the Mini-Tini range. Some are 130 years old and were worn on gentleman’s waistcoats and clothing of the time. Our filigrees were mostly made between the world war years and produced in Czechoslovakia.

7. Are you able to make lots of the same item, or are most of your pieces one of a kind?
We do have a production range in the Filigree collection called the Sun Ray which we sell at the British museum. This is a gorgeous 1960’s button and has proven very popular. We also have smaller production ranges of between 50 and 12 buttons but often our pieces are one off originals which tend to suit our galleries.

8. If someone owns beautiful buttons they would like to have made into jewellery, do you take commissions?
We are always delighted to make bespoke pieces of jewellery for people who wish to see old family buttons recycled into functional objects which are seen and not left in old button boxes. A customer asked us to make a pair of cufflinks for her husband from his grandfather’s RAF buttons and also we have made pieces of wedding jewellery for brides from their grandmother’s treasured collection.

9. Can you give us an idea of what might be in your next collection?
At the moment we are very excited by our Filigree and Mini-Tini collections and are working on new designs and gold plating many bespoke pieces which again look incredibly Elizabethan. Gold plating is relatively new for us and once again the buttons are totally transformed and given a new identity.

To explore Harvey & Quinn’s collection, head to their website www.harveyandquinn.com or when you’re next in Cambridge pop into Podarok on Bene’t Street or the Fitzwilliam Museum.