Born into Irish landed gentry and growing up in "shabby opulence", Theodora Gould has always had a love of all things old and eccentric. Most of her childhood was spent rooting through auctions, rummaging in long forgotten box rooms, and asking endless questions about family history. This love of antiques, coupled with her endless creativity, eventually led to a career making silver jewellery, and she has never looked back.
Theodora:"I started making jewellery four years ago, when I was pregnant with my son. My mother wanted to take me off for a pre-baby treat and I’d heard about this stuff called ‘silver clay’ which I’d been dying to try so we went to the New Forest for a few days to learn about it. I’ve always been creative. My background is in restoration and conservation of antiques, and whilst I was studying antiques at university I lived with a silversmith. I was always fascinated by silversmithing but never actually considered I’d do it myself. Some 13 years later I made my first piece of silver jewellery out of silver clay and the jewellery bug got me, good and proper. I now mainly use traditional silversmithing techniques but the clay still has it uses and I love combining both."
Theodora’s silversmith career now sees her handcraft "whimsical, sometimes eccentric" and vintage inspired jewellery, but she admits that it had humble beginnings.
Theodora: "I started out working in our garage in Barton St David - all the best people start in garages: Amazon, Apple, Disney, Google. I still work from home, but now I have a beautiful studio in the garden which my wonderful husband built for me. It allows me to work around my little family, making the most of both worlds. I can often be found in there late at night and have been known to work in my pyjamas."
Theodora’s maiden name is Atkinson, and her company logo is the Atkinson family crest. And she says growing up in a "kind of eccentric, shabby opulence" due to her Anglo-Irish landed gentry background, has definitely rubbed off on her jewellery designs.
Theodora: "I take inspiration from the beautiful Somerset countryside, elements of my childhood spent in Ireland, Wales and Somerset, my fascination with family history and my love of anything old. I then put the ideas onto paper and work out how to make them come to life. In my little studio I make prototypes and master copies, which are then usually sent off to London to be cast, depending on the piece. Some pieces are then made up to be kept in stock, but I make many of them to order as needed. I also seem to get quite a lot of bespoke commissions which are always a challenge and a joy in equal measure. At the moment I work on my own, the dog keeps me company and makes me take breaks by pestering me for walks."
Theodora’s jewellery includes necklaces and pendants, rings, bracelets and bangles, and earrings. And her nods to Somerset are obvious in her designs – one collection is based on a wellington boot and has been "inspired by the countryside" that she loves.
Theodora: "I like to think that my jewellery is a little bit different, in a quirky, eccentric way, but not so far out that it’s unwearable. Whatever I make it has to have character and be as practical as possible. I hope that in 100 years someone will look at one of my designs, ponder the person that made it, the journey it took to get to them and hopefully it will make them smile. I love pieces which are tactile, quirky and tip their hat to the past; pieces which can be worn every day, cherished for a lifetime and passed down the family."
At the moment Theodora sells online through her own website, but hopes to get some of her jewellery into shops in the future.
Theodora: "While my little boy is small, I want to make the most of my time with him, but as he grows, I hope to grow the business. As for favourite pieces, it’s usually the last piece I made. However there will always be a special place in my heart for my button collection. Buttons are such lovely tactile things and I love the symbolism of them holding things together. A button pendant was one of my first designs and is still my best seller. I also love my little animals, little mice running around a bangle, holding on with their tails and little pigs sitting on a ring kissing each other. If you ever pass me in town, you’ll know me by the tinkle as I’ve just launched a collection of little bell pendants and I make a little tinkling noise as I walk."
So why does Theodora love Somerset?
Theodora: "There are so many reasons I love it. I love the versatility of the countryside; the rolling hills of the Mendips and Quantocks, the array of wildlife on the levels, the beach is never too far away, and there are endless places to walk and picnic. The pace of life is laid back, with happy relaxed people and winding country lanes. It has the perfect balance of history and mystery plus a healthy amount of eccentricity."