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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

EA Burns: an interview with ethical jewellery designer Lizzie Burns

The new collection from EA Burns is powerful jewellery at its finest: Ancient Rites is constructed entirely from ethically sourced materials and made in the UK: and it looks GREAT.

Written by Amelia Gregory

EA Burns, Ancient Rites by Rebecca May Higgins
EA Burns, Ancient Rites by Rebecca May Higgins.

Jewellery by Lizzie Burns first caught my eye on a market stall several years ago, and since then her work has gone from strength to strength. With a new website just launched and her wonderful new collection Ancient Rites now on sale, it’s time to catch up with the woman behind EA Burns.

EA Burns ancient rites
I love the fact that you produce an ethical collection that is also fashion forward – what prompted a move in this direction?
I really felt that (and still do) that designers have a responsibility to work ethically. We’re creative and there’s no reason why a good designer can’t be more experimental and work with less used materials or processes to create pieces which are still exciting but far less poluting or socially problematic.

EA Burns by Jenny Robins
EA Burns by Jenny Robins.

In your former life as a stylist who did you work for? any memorable jobs?
I worked for Mrs Jones (most well known for her white hooded catsuit that Kylie wore) for about 6 years, from work experience while I was still studying to just before I set up EA Burns when I worked much more closely with her. There were many memorable jobs- most unprintable(!)- but I’d say working with the Scissor Sisters back when I was still at uni takes the biscuit, I was on tour with them for 2 weeks at the height of fame, and they were headlining pretty much every festival. At Vfest after their encore with Franz Ferdinand I had to run onto stage to pick up clothes discarded in the moment, and being 20 standing on that stage looking out onto tens of thousands of people cheering for more is something I’ll never forget.

EA burns rings
What did you learn from working with iconic designer Mrs Jones?
Fee (aka Mrs Jones) is a truely inspirational person. Not only is she multi-talented (you should see the furniture she customises, or hear her DJ) but she’s a caring teacher who I was very lucky to have as a mentor. It’s very rare to find someone who is willing to impart the knowledge that they have taken years to acquire. I’ve learnt many things from her but I think the most important would be to stay strong and true to yourself and your vision.

EA Burns by Lisa McConniffe
EA Burns by Lisa McConniffe.

On a personal level why is it so important to consider the provenance of materials in your creations, and are there other ways that your lifestyle reflects ethical thinking?
I’d say that I try to be ethical in my lifestyle, but I’m not militant. I’m a big believer in little changes which everyone could do to make a big difference. Changes like eating less meat, choosing sustainably caught fish, and generally consuming less, caring more and using public transport wherever possible, that sort of thing. To me thinking about where my materials come from is part of this lifestyle.

EA Burns - Ancient Rites
EA Burns, Ancient Rites.

What was the process behind designing Ancient Rites and where did you look for inspiration?
I can’t pin point a particular inspiration, I collect images which I like and often I’ll see a way of doing something, maybe in something completely detached to jewellery, which sets me thinking and I’ll start experimenting with a technique until I can get it to work, then shapes start to form and the jewellery evolves naturally.

EA Burns by Lisa McConniffe
EA Burns by Lisa McConniffe.

Apart from using recycled leather, what other materials feature in your new collection Ancient Rites, and why are they so special?
The material I’m most excited about using is Rhodoid, a cotton and wood based plastic which is biodegradable and doesn’t have any of the health implication or environmental toll associated with petrochemical plastics. It was the first plastic to be developed at the turn of the century and has an amazing history of use in art and fashion, but has somewhat fallen out of fashion and is now mainly used for high end glasses. It’s so diverse and I can’t wait to push it to the limit of what I can do with it, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface with this collection.

EA Burns - span the depth earring
EA Burns, Span the depth earring

How do you find skilled crafts people to create your pieces?
I’ve been really lucky to have been helped by DISC, a mentoring programme which sets up UK designers and manufacturers with each other. They introduced me to various benchworkers, platers and polishers over the UK without which I wouldn’t have been able to make any of my metal pieces.

EA Burns - reach ring
EA Burns, Reach ring

Can you drop any hints as to what we can expect to see in your next collection?
Colour and texture!!

EA Burns began life as a fashion brand, how did you end up being a jewellery designer? Any plans to branch out again?
The early jewellery was quite popular and it just started to make sense. The more I made jewellery the more I realised that the clothes I made were all about the embellishment and that I was actually more of a jewellery designer! I still love making and designing clothes and the intention is always to go back to it, it might not be for a while but it will definitely happen.

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