Style Curious

29/01/2010

Hannah Whyman and her curiously charming curios



Hannah Whyman trained in Scotland, where she was raised, gaining a degree in textile design, before progressing on to designing and making clothes. Even as a child, she made clothes for her Swedish wooden monkey, which ended up having an extensive wardrobe - that included a bikini and a matching sun hat! Hannah subsequently  transformed her passion for seeking out treasures at textile fairs and flea markets into a business, and, for the past decade, has bought and sold in London at costume and textile fairs. She also restores textiles for a specialist Arts and Crafts dealer.





Hannah says that she “fell into jewellery making” when she needed something small to make when travelling between her home in Gloucestershire, and that of her partner in Wales. She made no conscious decision to become a jewellery designer, but has always been happiest when making things, “it’s my calm time, my time of reflection, and is as necessary to me as breathing and loving”, she explains.





With a name like Whyman, it’s hardly surprising that Hannah has always been curious: “I was brought up by architects who encouraged exploration and, as a child I was always being dragged, I have to say unwillingly, around various fascinating buildings - I found myself repeating this with my own children, as I realised what an important influence this had been on my understanding of design.”, she says.






Hannah is always searching for unusual pieces of bric-a-brac – in fact she frequently dreams about finding treasure. She collects all sorts of things, but does eventually pass them on “glad to have had  and held them for a while. I don’t feel anything is ever truly ours.”






Hannah’s ideal customer is someone who appreciates an object that she has discerningly chosen, or made, someone who feels the same thrill of excitement about it that she does. She really enjoys the special bond and understanding that this creates, and has met some of the most important people in her life through such shared passions.




Her design process usually starts with an obsession of some sort - it can be anything, but generally derives from something she’s seen and can’t forget. Hannah immerses herself totally in every project she’s working on, until another idea arrives and takes over. She spends weeks gathering suitable materials, mostly from flea markets, which she saves in a drapers’ cabinet until needed.





Hannah uses “any old materials” that seem to fit in with her theme for a particular piece – odds and ends, vintage miscellany like antique Valentines, postcards, tin photograph frames, glass flowers, old charms, the gilt-edged paper of an ancient book - anything with the right patina of age, that sits well with the other pieces she’s gathered. Although her work is a form of recycling, Hannah doesn’t have that objective in mind per se, she simply likes to make things out of old and used items – something, she notes, women have been doing for centuries.
 



The inspiration for the collection currently available at ShopCurious (click on the photos to view details) came from Victorian momento mori jewellery pieces, which sometimes include a photograph of a dearly departed relative or loved one, along with an exquisite furl of hair. She particularly admires Georgian pieces, which are minutely delicate works of art. Hannah has been known to spend endless happy hours in some of the oldest cemeteries in Britain and Paris, admiring the decaying glass domes which adorn graves, with their ghostly bouquets of white ceramic flowers.




Hannah’s favourite haunt in London is the V&A, which “never ceases to enthrall, inspire and excite the me creatively. Then it has to be Laduree, the oldest tea shop in Paris, for the most delicious tea and cake you are ever likely to experience.” Her ideal dinner companion would be Marie Antoinette, “at least if the conversation faltered, I could feast my eyes on her attire.”






You may have noticed that Hannah doesn’t often dwell upon the future, but says she does like to dream that one day she’ll have her own shop, in which she could let her imagination fly and share her vision with others. Well, we'd like to thank you, Hannah, for sharing your vision with us – as well as some of your beautifully intricate handmade curios, which we think make simply perfect gifts of heartfelt love and remembrance.