Soraya Ricalde is a studio holder at Leitrim Sculpture Centre in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim. Here, she runs her fine jewellery business alongside with ‘Counties of Ireland Jewellery’ design which she co-founded with Marion Fink of MT Frame Sligo. She also engraves the winners names on the Dermot Healy Poetry Award Trophy
Can you describe your childhood in Spain, and what about it piqued your creativity? I grew up in Santander, a seaside city in the North of Spain. I went to a very open school where they exposed us to wonderful art and culture experiences that really infused and developed creativity. They call it ‘ the artist’s school’ because all the creative and artist kids that come out. Always surrender by nature. Spending summer on the beach and winter in the mountains, going trekking or skiing. Wonderful times! So my designs have a strong influence from nature, very organic.
What was it about the life of a jeweller that made you realise this was what you wanted to do? I have been painting since I was 7 years old. And when the time came to go to college everyone expected I’d go to art college but I thought it would be very difficult to make a living from art. So I did a Marketing and Advertising Degree. By the time I finished college I didn’t really like it but ended up working in different offices but I didn’t enjoyed it at all. So searching for something new I went to a goldsmith course that I loved and I decided then to go back to college and do jewellery. I love working with metal, it is creative and saleable. Perfect combination. I was fascinated straight away by the tools, equipment and techniques.
Why did you choose to settle in Ireland’s North West? My partner’s job was the reason we came. We always loved the North West and wanted to live here but jobs were always an issue. So when the opportunity came along we were delighted.
How has living in north Co. Leitrim affected your life and creativity? All my designs have a strong influence from nature. To be surrounded by mountains, lakes, the sea it’s a great inspiration. The North West of Ireland is very similar to the North of Spain in many ways. I love it here.
Take us through a typical working day. My day in the studio is busy. First thing I do is paperwork, checking emails, social media, pay bills, order materials… Then I’ll talk to Marion Fink, my partner in the Counties of Ireland Jewellery business. We’ll go through everything that has to be done that day. And then I’ll start bench work, whatever it’s the next job, it could be repairs, commissions, Counties, or some of my designs. I have an open studio so during the day customers will be going in and out. Also I draw a lot as every design starts drawing and planning all the sizes and materials on paper.
Can you explain how the idea for ‘Counties of Ireland Jewellery’ came along and how did you get the products off the ground? All started one day in my house. Anthony my partner came out of the shower and he told me that he had a jewellery idea. Both of us thought that was a great idea as Irish people have a strong connection with their Counties. So I began to create the collection and sell them in my studio. At that time I was running a shop with other makers in Sligo. Nationwide from RTE television came to visit us all in our studios. So mentioned the new project I was working on, The Counties. It had a great response and I got different orders, one of them was a full map of Ireland to be framed. It’s when someone recommended Marion Fink of MT Frame Sligo that I went to meet her. She framed the piece beautifully and she mentioned then that it would be a great idea for a jewellery collection. I told her this is what I was working on, The Counties. It had a great response and I got different orders, one of them was a full map of Ireland to be framed. It’s when someone recommended Marion Fink, MT Frame Sligo and I went to meet her. She framed the piece beautifully and she mentioned then that it would be great idea for a jewellery collection. I told her this is what I was doing. Trying to bring it to the next stage and promote it widely. She proposed working together and creating a partnership. We set up the business Counties of Ireland Jewellery in 2012. Since then the business has just got better and better, both of us bring something to the business.
Judging from your experiences, how would you advise someone who wished to launch a jewellery product now? I would advise to be motivated, patient, persistent, research, learn and inform yourself well. Believe and go for it.
In what direction would you like to steer the company now that it is established? We would like to continue the good work. Expand, create more sales abroad and reach the Irish Diaspora all around the globe. And hopefully, in the future, create some employment in the North West of Ireland.
In your bespoke work, do you have a preference for working with different metals and gemstones? I love working with metal in general. Just love the process but my favorite metal to work is gold. Gemstones, diamonds because they are really strong so they are great to work on .
What is it like for a foreigner working independently in the creative sector in Ireland at this time? Working as self-employed is challenging for everyone. The creative sector is even more vulnerable, probably the same for all of us.
How does working in close proximity with other artists and craftspeople at LSC enhance your practice? Working from my studio in the LSC is great. I think it’s really good to be around other creative people from different disciplines as I think you create better. It’s brilliant support and a great network.
Check out Soraya’s beautiful work on the links below