Based in the heart of Brighton, Cara Tonkin creates exceptionally tactile and playful jewellery that only truly comes to life when worn. Her pieces are designed to make women feel empowered, strong and confident.
Growing up in Brighton, a city renowned for its originality and artistic shops, markets and galleries, and being the daughter of two artists meant Cara was surrounded by creativity from a very young age. “I was particularly encouraged by my mother who would love to get involved whenever I had a creative project at school. Her favourite artist is Gustav Klimt who does rich decorative and symbolic paintings with gold leaf and jewel-like colour palettes, so I think her style definitely influenced mine and led me to where I am today.”
With a strong interest in all aspects of art and design, Cara went on to study an Art Foundation course where she discovered her passion for jewellery design. “When it came to using metal I was hooked. It is such a challenging and versatile material to work with, so combining that with my interest in fashion and adornments, jewellery design soon stood out as the perfect career for me.” After training at Central St Martins in London, where she achieved a first class honours degree in Jewellery Design and gained invaluable experience, Cara returned to Brighton to establish her own eponymous brand.
As a lover of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco, Cara takes aspects of these movements and applies them to her designs. Marrying classic and contemporary design, Cara creates intricate and playful jewellery that comes to life when worn.
“What drives me is my love of creating beautiful, well-crafted, intricate and tactile objects. Every collection I design tends to be different from the last with different making techniques because I love being challenged technically and visually so my work will always keep evolving.”
Honesty is a key part of the design process for Cara. She doesn’t follow trends; she simply creates designs that she finds stimulating and exciting. “People often tell me that my jewellery is unique and unlike anything else, which I find a real compliment as my designs are born from my love of creating objects which I find interesting and challenging. I am not trying to follow trends. I know what I like and I’m not doing it to please other people but because I really do enjoy creating my vision. It’s very satisfying making your ideas come to life!”
"I am not trying to follow trends, I know what I like and I’m not doing it to please other people but because I really do enjoy creating my vision."
Every piece from Cara’s collection is handcrafted by her in her studio, and her ideas come from a range of sources. “I get ideas wherever I go: on train journeys, walking to work, and often when I am at my busiest making orders! My inspiration often stems from the art and fashions of the past; in particular the 1920s, but I am also interested in contemporary design.”
Cara has achieved a lot with her jewellery over the years, from being accepted for the IJL Kickstart Program and exhibiting at Goldsmiths Fair, to gaining the V&A as a stockist. “The V&A Museum is one of my favourite places. It is somewhere that I always go to find sources of inspiration and I have long admired their selection of contemporary jewellery. To have my jewellery in the same space as such incredible artworks and contemporary jewellery is a real honour to me.”
Cara's creations are designed to move and come to life when worn; “I love tactile fabrics such as velvet and silk, and take a lot of inspiration from clothing and textiles. I enjoy creating similarly tactile qualities in my work and believe that jewellery should feel alluring to touch as well as having visual appeal.”