Marle Woman: Holly Ryan

Marle Women is created to celebrate our philosophy of designing pieces for women of all ages and stages of their lives. Each feature profiles a selection of women across the generations that we admire. We hope each interview inspires you, the same way in which these women do to us.
There is nothing quite like a piece from Australian jewellery designer Holly Ryan. Subtle representations of the female form and organic shapes found in nature weave throughout her bespoke creations - an ode to an aesthetic that speaks to her heart. Supporting traditional craftsmanship and encouraging circularity, Holly stands on strong morals that are reflective of her deep love and appreciation for the natural world.
Inspired to push the boundaries and eschew conformity in her designs, Holly notes her creative work is often a form of radical self-exploration, reflection and expression. Here, we speak with Holly about her connection to nature, influential upbringing and forthcoming intentions.
Please share a little bit about yourself, noting some of the defining aspects that have contributed to the woman you are today.

I grew up on the Sunshine Coast, in a small beach town called Coolum, on the side of a mountain overlooking the ocean. I have climbed the mountain too many times to count and feel most at home in the ocean. I had a very active and creative upbringing, always close to nature, learning to sew at a young age and spending time in my parents' jewellery studio. Dad taught me to surf and how to fish, he also took me hiking and camping from a young age and so a deep love and respect for nature was instilled in me very early on. 

You note that both of your parents had  studied jewellery making in Mexico during the 1980’s. Can you tell us a little more about their learnings and how this has influenced your approach to creation today?

My parents moved to Mexico in the 80’s to surf but wound up at a bar with a guy recruiting jewellery school students and next minute found themselves learning the traditional craft of silversmithing in a small colonial city called Taxco, which used to be one of the largest silver mining capitals of the world. Taxco itself is a stunning city, wedged in a valley surrounded by mountains. The streets are all cobble stoned, the walls of buildings rendered white with red tiled roofs and flower boxes on each window. Literally every car is a white VW Beetle (I have a cream 1965 beetle named Stevie, her number plate ends in NYX) and the streets are filled with mariachi bands, a strong smell of corn and mezcal margaritas. Whilst my parents were studying silversmithing they fell pregnant with me and although I wasn’t born in Mexico, it has always been said in our family that silversmithing runs deep in my blood, it’s a true calling and soul connection for me.

Your work often takes influence from artistic mediums - can it be challenging finding a balance between art, inventiveness and wearability in your designs?

Definitely, I mean that is probably the hardest part of designing, it’s an internal battle. There are so many pieces that I have designed that have never made it into production because they are really only destined to be editorial pieces, not everyday wearable pieces, but I have always tried to push the boundaries and eschew conformity by consistently celebrating organic forms in my work and avoiding traditional classicism in my jewellery.

The sculptors and artists I admire were also heavily inspired by nature or biomorphic forms, such as Jean Arp and Barbara Hepworth and I feel like we all as humans resonate with soft curves and flowing lines, subtle representations of the body or shapes found in nature. Also, something I always find myself saying when I am designing is ‘the weirder the better’.
We loved the post you wrote about your connection to Point Arkwright - feeling soothed by the sound of crashing waves when you were a baby. Can you share a little more about your connection to nature and how it inspires you?

I wrote that post on a day of deep reflection. 2021 and 2020 were incredibly isolating for most of us and it has definitely been a time in my life where I have felt the most alone. Nature has been my saviour my whole life, but it is the warm hug or deep cleanse I have needed to find the strength to push forward through some dark times recently. After so much uncertainty, a daily swim in the ocean, a long walk in the forest, climbing the mountain I grew up on or going for a surf or a dive has reinvigorated my soul, given me back my confidence and allowed me to slow, breathe and nurture myself once again. I owe everything to nature, it is my joy, my purpose and my reason. 

In late 2020, you exhibited your third solo sculpture show at Jerico Contemporary Gallery titled On Self Respect, which melds your creative realms and the introduction of beautiful new materials and techniques. What was the musing behind these sculptures? Was it a reflection of your own thoughts and feelings?

I think my work is always a reflection of my own thoughts and feelings. 2020 was a year of emotional turmoil globally, so this body of work  functioned as a form of radical self-exploration for me personally. I am constantly revisiting notions of female beauty in the modern world. And my unwavering admiration for the wabi-sabi aesthetic lends itself organically to abstract female forms.

There is something quite beautiful about the process of working with bronze, because it forces you to slow down and enjoy the lengthy and physical process of bringing these pieces to life. For this exhibition I explored the idea of sculpture as a sacred object. The totemic nature of these sculptural forms is not so dissimilar from the talismans I create in my jewellery practice. These works are just future heirlooms for the home, rather than the body.
How would you describe your personal style - how has this evolved over the years?

I’ve always been pretty into 70’s fashion, and clothing I can wear to the beach and the bar. I’ve always owned a lot of flared denim and crochet pieces, old band tees and long flowing dresses. I predominantly only buy vintage, however when I do purchase new clothing it is from brands that resonate with me on a personal level in terms of responsible production, ethical standards and environmental consciousness. It is incredibly important to me to know where my clothing is coming from, who is making it and what impact that has on our beautiful planet earth. Recycle, reuse, repair.

"After so much uncertainty, a daily swim in the ocean, a long walk in the forest, climbing the mountain I grew up on or going for a surf or a dive has reinvigorated my soul, given me back my confidence and allowed me to slow, breathe and nurture myself once again. I owe everything to nature, it is my joy, my purpose and my reason"
How do your Marle pieces make you feel? Do they inspire a feeling, time, or memory?

Marle pieces always inspire calm, they bring me back to nature because of the natural fabrications used and because the pieces are so easy to wear, they are luxury for every day.

What are your intentions for 2022?

I will be releasing a short film alongside my new collection in January, shot on and off land in my hometown - I am very excited about it.

I will also be opening my first retail space which will house my jewellery and sculptures, a new furniture and homewares project I've been working on with a good friend Sam Creecy and brands run by my friends which are all incredibly close to my heart. The store opening has been delayed many times due to Covid, so fingers crossed 2022 will be the year! But personally, I have really been trying to slow down, focus more of my energy and time on healing and being healthy. I moved to a cottage on 6 acres of rainforest recently and have been tending to my veggie patch and hanging out with my chicken, Lady. I’ve been cooking from scratch more often and working towards a more plant based diet. Unlearning the celebration of being busy is my ultimate goal.


Quickfire Questions:
Texture or colour?

Arghh that is so hard, probably colour, yellow or orange specifically.

Summer or winter?

Summer forever.

Most treasured accessory?

My ‘Sunshine all the time’ ring in 14ct yellow gold with five diamonds.

Currently reading…

We are the weather - Jonathan Safran Foer

Currently listening to…

Everything at the moment! My vinyl collection just arrived out of storage so I’ve been spending afternoons sprawled on my living room floor revisiting old favourites and reminiscing on the times spent with each record over the years, the people, the places, the heartbreaks, the dancing, the laughter and the magic.

Holly wears the Simmonds Dress, Kenzie Tee, Alma Sarong and Oma Hat. Photographed by Moriah Overall


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