Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Studio visit - Breda Haugh, Jeweller and Designer

The 'Studio Visits' will be a monthly blog instalment. We're opening our doors to introduce you to the artists and designers in The Design Tower! Each interview will give you an insight into the individual designer or business.

This month we're chatting to Breda Haugh - jeweller and designer

Breda, tell us about your business and how you came to be a jeweller.

Many varied experiences have led me here to The Design Tower. I was introduced to the artefacts of the National Museum and Gallery as a child which made a lasting impression. Art wasn’t taught particularly well at my school, but a friend’s brother was a designer in advertising – I was intrigued, and for some reason was particularly interested in the idea of design, reading all about it, and the art and design of the early 20th century, particularly that from Russia. I remember too, buying Mary Quant’s autobiography, (the English designer), which fascinated me.  It’s the thinking process I like.

A year after leaving school  I found myself in NCAD and subsequently the Design School, during changing times when it was very interesting to be a student. I eventually specialised in jewellery and was fortunate to be chosen for a summer intern-ship in the Kilkenny Design Workshops, during their heyday, and  subsequently received  a graduate  scholarship  enabling  me to further  study jewellery in London for a few years.

I stayed on for a while  to work in the jewellery industry, really enjoying my time , and making the most of the city. When I moved back to Dublin I was again employed in the trade, both manufacturing and retail. And then I found The Design Tower, where I have been designing and making jewellery ever since.

My fascination with design has taken a slightly more academic direction of late, as I am in the process of completing a taught MA in Design History and Material Culture in NCAD - back to where it all began!

What materials do you like to work with?


Metal was the material of all I experienced in NCAD which fascinated and held me, though wool and weaving intrigued too. I now work exclusively in the precious metals of silver and gold, with periodic enhancement of gemstones. I aim to create jewellery that is an expression of personal adornment and extension of self. Each work reflects my passion for design, and particularly the place metal holds in our national identity.

For conceptual work, along with metals, I like to introduce additional materials such as paper and leather.

What inspires you to design?

Abstract ideas, architecture contemporary design, different cultures, politics, history, natural forms, light and shade, uses of different  materials. Customers inspire too.

Tell us about some interesting projects you have worked on recently

In  2000 I was delighted to be approached by our National Museum to develop a new jewellery collection for their retail outlets, to be based on an artefact from the national collection. Selected for me was the Gold Ribbon Torc, found in Co Antrim -1200-1100 BC. This work with its fine command of technique, sense of proportion and sophisticated design, all  form  a superb example of the craftsman’s Art, making it a very inspiring piece for me to work with, and  one I had long admired. We have little information as to how, or indeed who made it. However  in recent years technical  investigations were carried out by the Irish silversmith Brian Clarke along with his American colleague the jeweller Michael Good, and they concluded that the Torc was made by a version of Anticlastic raising with a red deer’s antler being used in the  process.  

It was required that I  create  work suitable for sale while retaining a sense of the Torc. To do this I carried out research, completing preliminary drawings - from which having gained approval I created the Collection - a contemporary twist on a remarkable piece of art.


This is a full collection of Jewellery both in 18ct gold and Sterling silver. Later  I developed items of jewellery based on Viking artefacts and folk-life items such as the Bridget’s Cross and Harvest Knot, (see below).

In recent years I undertook the commission to develop jewellery based on the Bender Collection of Asian Art, on exhibition in the Museum of Decorative Art and History, Collins Barracks. This comprises brooches and pendants inspired by Fans from the collection.

Tell us about the piece you designed for the Wunderkammer Exhibition on 2009?


“The Gift “ was my piece created for the Wunderkammer Exhibition 2009- based on the Bender Collection, and is a tribute to  the generosity of Albert Bender, the limitations in his own life, his fascination with books, interest in and support of contemporary US and Irish artists and writers. The piece takes the form of two silver small works and an accordion book. The book contains  line drawings and watercolours based on nineteenth century Japanese Prints in the collection, and two lines from W.B Yeats’s poem “The Song of Wandering Aengus”-  “Silver apples of the moon, Golden apples of the sun.”

The silver bowl directly references the gift of fruit in the eighteenth century Thanka of the Arhat Abheda- a disciple of the Buddha, depicts silver and gold apples which are  reminiscent of the poem. The fine lines of gold applied to the external surface of the square silver box reflect the architectural structures portrayed in many of the Japanese prints, and signify confinement. In contrast the inside being is devoid of line, reflecting the notion of a certain freedom.

Are you working on any interesting commissions or have you exciting plans for the coming year?

My latest collection, the silver and baroque pearl,“Silver Circles in Space “ - see image below - inspired by Indian jewellery and circles floating in space, was selected as one of the top 50 products in Showcase 2011.

I recently completed a commission to develop jewellery for the Glasnevin Trust based on their Angel/ Flower logo. The jewellery is for sale in the retail outlet at the museum in Glasnevin Cemetery.

I have a few other projects in the pipeline, for which I will be able to give some information at a later date.

Can you tell us where your work is available to purchase?

A selection of my stockists include;

In Dublin
  • Archaelogy – the National Museum, Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
  • Decorative Arts and History, The National Museum, Collins Barracks, Dublin 7.
  • DesignYard, Nassau Street, Dublin 2.
Outside Dublin
  • Little Fish Designs,  Blackrock Shopping Centre, Co Dublin.
  • Avoca Handweavers, Kilmaconogue, Co Wicklow.
  • The Cat and the Moon, Castle Street,  Sligo.
  • The Museum of Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co Mayo.
A selection of items are available on the website www.Siopa.ie (Irish Gifts), and exclusively for the US market www.irishheart.com

My work is available also in my studio, where I see clients for private commissions, for which I prefer to work by appointment.

Thanks for talking to us Breda! Next month we will be featuring another designer from The Design Tower. You can also read the other interviews in the series.

Photo credit - Studio portrait of Breda by Lee Harding.

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