Posted by Laura: January 24 2015
‘You know that moment when everything comes together?’
A newly-engaged couple on the threshold of life together come to look for a ring that will embody the promise made on a favourite local beach.
A young man sidles in to ask advice about a valentine’s gift for his first ‘proper’ girlfriend.
A woman celebrating a professional milestone tiptoes in to find something that will symbolise a secret ‘well-done’, made by another professional woman who knows what it is to pioneer.
An older lady brings in her late mother’s jewellery, hoping to create a special keepsake inspired by their shared love of nature.
A divorcee arrives brokenhearted to melt-down her former lover’s gifts, and to discover that new life is always being redeemed from the raw material of the old.
In the goldsmith’s workshop, magic is always underway.
After fifteen years ‘at the bench’ and five years working from her shop in Castle Street, Erin Cox’s new workshop celebrates the moment when everything comes together. Hidden away in a historic Exeter street, the tiny venue holds the promise of hard work and skill, a love of home, and the secret ingredient of a personal approach to each client and their story.
Erin has experienced some big adventures since days at college, but she has always been a pioneer.
She was in a minority at John Cass Department of Art when she surprised her tutors, leading one to observe that “When women first came to the bench, I didn’t think they could do it, but it’s girls like you that keep proving me wrong”. Over a growing career, she has not only developed her own thriving business in the heart of Exeter, but in a world in which otherwise beautiful jewellery is often tainted by its dubious connections to exploitation in developing countries, Erin sources ethical precious metals and stones. Each piece made with fairtrade metals will flaunt an additional hallmark to prove its authenticity.
She is now able to offer completely fair-mined gems, fair-trade gold and ethically sourced pearls, the latter of which come from small-scale pearl farms in South Pacific.
It’s a journey which, like any life or relationship, has had its tough moments. This year marks the 21st anniversary of death of Erin’s father, who was a big influence in Erin’s passion for fairness and ethics, as well as a huge encouragement. Erin has also faced battles in protecting the integrity of her creative work and disarming sexism. But it’s the sometimes challenging realities of everyday life that make the moments of celebration precious, and the hard work and passion evident in Erin’s work honours both struggles and the moments of grace.
Asked what gives her greatest pleasure in her work, Erin lights up: ‘Anyone open to the creative process - who will be collaborative, listen, genuinely be excited about the process and being involved in it’. As befits a true artist, Erin cannot choose a favourite commission. Remodels offer ‘the interest of a blank canvas of materials’, and creative decisions about ‘what to cut up, pull apart, keep, which can take you anywhere’ and are typically initiated by women. Bespoke engagements rings, sometimes chosen by the husband-to-be alone, offer the thrill of collaborating in secret with a very special set of personal ideas on everything from colours to flowers to metals to stones: “It’s amazing the lengths some men go to”.
It’s this ‘honest process’ with its own ‘quiet magic’ that Erin’s clients love and which makes it felt in her own designs, as well as her bespoke work. Erin loves Devon’s natural landscapes of sea, moors, even drawing inspiration from the delicate gills and root-systems of mushrooms from a recent foraging trip.
With sketchbooks secreted all over her house, shop and workshop, Erin is alert to the moments of inspiration that can help capture her client’s stories and passions in symbols that words cannot express.
Come and experience the magic!
Written by Elizabeth Sercombe
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