We regularly work with local makers to ensure we offer our visitors something truly exceptional in our shops. To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the First Folio, we have collaborated with award-winning jewellery maker, Sara Preisler, to create a distinctive collection inspired by the decorative initial letters and printers’ ornaments found in the First Folio. All the pieces are made from sterling silver and are hand finished, ensuring every item is unique.
Celebrating 30 years in business this year, Sara has been commissioned by various fashion houses, galleries and museums, notably the V&A and the Van Gogh Museum. She opened her first gallery in Birmingham’s Custard factory in 2002 and, in 2020, launched her gallery and jewellery school in Stratford-upon-Avon, a stone’s throw from Shakespeare’s Birthplace. She has recently opened a second gallery on the Pershore Road in Birmingham’s iconic cultural centre, Stirchley.
Our retail development team caught up with Sara in her Stratford-upon-Avon workshop to reflect on the project and the inspiration behind the collection:
Can you share some insights into your creative process when you’re conceptualising and designing a collection? What part of the design process do you find the most enjoyable and rewarding?
Designing collections always starts with the client’s brief and the subject that the client wants the collection to represent or attract, so that is always my first port of call. Usually, briefs centre around an occasion, either historically or a launch of a new production or festival of sorts so that is always a great start to a theme.
These ideas then can be researched and any motifs that exist already or are associated with the client can then be developed with this in mind.
My favourite element in the whole design process is listening to the client’s story and understanding what they need and would like from the commission, it really is such a unique part of the process and acts as a springboard and pointer to where to begin with the design process.
We wanted to commission a unique jewellery offer to celebrate the First Folio anniversary that was inspired by the printed book. We’d already begun to explore the decorative initial letters and printers’ ornaments found in the First Folio. What did you find inspiring and exciting about working with this source material?
The source material was so fascinating and there was a lot to look at, I really found that the accidental textural print of the wood cut imprints was most inspiring as it really resonated with my own collections. In addition, the scale of the illustrations was bold and dynamic for their time and I felt that it really gave a feeling of importance and weight to the text, I wanted to reflect this sense of prominence in the work I designed for the commission.
The design is directly inspired by the decorative initial letter O printed at the beginning of Richard II, Henry IV Part 2, and the ‘Names of the Actors’ at the end of Othello. Can you talk a little about the process of honing the designs? How did you develop the collection, and how did you see the pieces working together?
Initially I experimented with creating textures in silver that would give a printed quality to the surface of the metal, once I had established the look and finish of the pieces, I started working on the formal structures of each piece.
Was there a practical element to this too? We loved the ingenuity of the stud earrings and the different pieces all created out of the same larger design.
I felt that the pieces had to be connected, both to the original source material and each other, and as the printed elements on the borders of the folio were sort of broken off in parts from each other, it felt right and just that elements of the collection would replicate this.
What was the most challenging aspect of developing this collection?
The most challenging aspect of the commission was restricting myself in how many designs I came up with to complete the project, I loved it so much I could have gone on designing so many more pieces!
Can you say something about the use of texture in the pieces?
The use of texture is very close to my heart as I trained as a sculptor carving in wood so to see that I could facilitate this again with this commission was very exciting.
The pieces in this collection cleverly blend sixteenth-century decorative motifs with elegant, contemporary design. What do you hope people will respond to, and how might they feel when they’re wearing it?
Uttermost, I hope that it bonds them to their experience visiting Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Stratford-upon-Avon as a truly unique place in England’s heart. Beyond that I hope they enjoy the quality of both the visual design and workmanship that went to create every piece of this collection which was made by hand.
Do you have a favourite piece in the collection and, if so, what makes it stand out for you?
Ooh, hard question as of course I love all the pieces! I love the weight and solidity of the large pendants, the sweet detailing of the stud earrings and the sophistication of the hook earrings and subtle bracelet, the bangle too is really chic - I guess I can’t really answer that question as I really love it all and have had a great time making it all too!
The First Folio Collection is available exclusively from our Birthplace Shop on Henley Street and our online shop.