For the February issue of Sligo Now and Mayo Now magazines I interviewed Maria Parsons of jewellery brand Terrible Beauty. Here’s how the publication looked: Terrible Beauty 1916
When I first heard of Maria Parsons, immediately I felt inspired and her story was one I really wanted to share. She returned to college as a mature student, won Newbridge’s Designer of the Year Award and Naomi Campbell has worn her designs. The Terrible Beauty 1916 collection, her current venture, is inspired by the ordinary and extraordinary people and events of the Easter Rising in Dublin. In designing each piece Maria has imbued her collection with strength and character that reflects the bravery and vision shown at this key moment in our history.
Tell us about yourself and your background.
I am a designer and a singer, I have always been a maker but not always a jewellery designer. Having raised my children and lost my job in the crash, I returned to education: first in BIFE Bray and then I was accepted into NCAD. Singing was my way of earning throughout those years. I graduated in 2014.
Did you always have a passion for design?
Yes, I always had a passion for design. Life is not long enough to do all the things I would love; I want to design houses, boots, shoes, furniture – so many things, but I absolutely love designing jewellery.
Would you have any advice for mature students?
I returned as a mature student and it was all a bit of a whirl wind. Not an ounce of confidence did I have; Watching all of the youth with their über confidence and ability only served to compound my low self esteem. But I have to say I am so glad I stuck it out. I am not in any way an academic and I know that puts a lot of mature people off going back – that fear of academia, but I got through and learnt so much by doing the essays (nearly killed me though) and then the thesis. It was a life long dream to go and study some form of art: I never knew what – I just knew I had to create. I would encourage anyone to return and do some sort of course – not necessarily a degree, and find ‘the real you’ inside that we largely ignore in our teens and twenties through trying to conform and please others and as in my case just simply having my children so young. It’s been a blast. I’ve had so much help and support.What are your greatest achievements to date?
There are many things in my life that I am very proud of: Naomi Campbell adorned in my necklet and cuff designs for which I won the 2013 Designer of the Year Award is one of them. Forming this new brand ‘Terrible beauty’ with my brother-in-law Eyre Tarrant in such short a time and seeing the reactions of all of the people who saw my first collection has been an amazing experience for me. But to be honest, every time I see my jewellery being worn by a woman or a man – my heart soars and I know I was meant to design. My mother died two days before Christmas and I would have loved to tell her about the wonderful reaction my work has had at Showcase Ireland. I am so proud of myself.
How did it feel winning the NCAD-Newbridge Jewellery Designer of the Year Award (2013)? Can you describe your collection?
The brief for that year from Newbridge was simply ‘celtic’. I designed a range of jewellery inspired by the Tara Brooch and I endeavoured to bring it to a contemporary place and cast an edgy quality to it. Newbridge is quite a safe aesthetic so it was a challenge to stay safe, so I was absolutely delighted to fulfil the brief and be acknowledged for the contemporary nature of the design. Winning the award raised my confidence as a designer. Coming into this game as a mature student can be very daunting and so I felt validated at last.
What inspires you?
What inspires me is reinvention and the excitement of it all, urban aesthetics, architecture, modernist designers of jewellery from the 70’s, Vivienne Westwood, the late David Bowie, Tracey Emin, Eve Arnold, Cindy Sherman, maverick women and men who dare to be different and create trends rather than follow, not unlike the women of The Rising.
What are your preferred materials to work with? What is your signature style?
I used acrylic in my graduate show and I absolutely loved working in acrylic – the texture and colour. I am working in silver at the moment in this current collection, but would love to introduce wood, acrylic, cement, stones, fabric… and on and on. My style is certainly inspired by the 1970’s modernist movement and also industrial aesthetics.
How did ‘Terrible Beauty’ come about? Can you describe your current collection?
My brother-in-law Eyre and I were having dinner on my birthday – 21st of April last year when he put it to me that we should join forces and start a collection with the 1916 theme. I am completely non-political, but he spoke with such passion that I knew that with my passion for design and his passion for history, we could become a great team and there and then yet another ‘terrible beauty was born’ (W.B. Yeats): our company and new brand. My sister Barbara Tarrant came up with the brand name and here we are!
Where can we buy your work?
The work can be bought in our online shop www.terriblebeauty.ie and will be available in many outlets around the country from mid March including Arnotts and the GPO (more places to be announced).
What next for Maria Parsons and Terrible Beauty?
I am currently working on a new and exciting range. We plan on a long and happy life within this brand and hope to make a name for ourselves in London, New York etc., onwards and upwards!
For regular updates visit www.modafix.ie and for collaborations email: firstname.lastname@example.org