Today I’d like to introduce British jewellery designer, Sarah Marafie, who forages for fragments of old porcelain that has been buried in the earth or washed up by rivers to make delicate pieces of jewellery. Some of her finds can even date back as far as the 18th century!
Falling in love with her work, I was intrigued by her creative process and ceramic collection and wanted to find out more. What I didn’t expect to learn was the extraordinarily serendipitous – or, some might say, spookily fateful – story about the meaning behind her business name, Boodi Blu …
Tell me about your background – what did you study and did you always want to be a jewellery designer?
I was born in Kuwait and grew up there until I was 18. My dad is Kuwaiti and my mum English. I came over to England to go to art school. Now, I live and work in Hackney, East London. I had always done painting and drawing but then decided to study fashion styling and photography. But after that I missed being creative with my hands and went back and studied Mixed Media Fine Arts. So, no jewellery studies but I have always been a real lover of jewellery and now looking back I can somehow see the progression … kind of.
Did you go out on your own straight away – how did you go about making this happen?
It has all happened very organically, really. At the beginning it was more of an experiment and I was just going with the flow. After I realised people actually liked the jewellery, I found out about The Princes Trust Enterprise programme [which is for young people aged 18 – 30 who are unemployed but have a business idea they want to develop] and applied for it. They have helped me so much with free advice and workshops, given me a mentor and I even went to them for a loan. Through them I have met others on the programme and during that time I got a small studio space, which really is such a boost from working at home alone! I couldn’t go back [to that] now!
What’s the appeal of broken ceramics?
The appeal for me was the excitement of finding them in the ground! The secret place that I first found them in had them scattered all over the woodland floor and I just loved the blue and white colours and patterns. I was originally collecting for a year to make a mosaic table. Since then, finding them anywhere is just really exciting for me. Not knowing what you’re going to find, wondering where it’s come from and why it’s there … .It’s probably one of the best parts of the job!
Where do you go to source the china?
Apart from my secret location in Hackney, there are plenty along the foreshores of the River Thames in various locations. I have found porcelain in the ground in Spain and recently Brighton. People are always telling me they find them in their gardens and I was recently given a load from a lady that had found them in her garden!
Does each piece have a story? What’s been the most interesting find to date?
Well, each piece has come from a different place. No two pieces are the same. So different origins, different owners, different journeys! One of the most interesting pieces was a cream ceramic head which was cut off perfectly at the neck and the features on the face were completely intact. It was sad to see it go but it did go to Vivienne Westwood’s son [Joseph Corre]!
Would you like to work with other materials? If so, what and why?
I’m quite interested in sea glass found along beaches. I just love the colours and frosted look of it! I think different techniques of using and crafting the porcelain are what I’d like to experiment with more than other materials.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of your work and/or the business?
I think the most challenging thing is trying to keep on top of all aspects of a business! I work for myself and don’t employ anyone – yet. So things like accounting are a bit of a nightmare for me. Also, computer programs like Photoshop and Illustrator are things I need to use on a regular basis and I haven’t got a clue! They’re first on my list of things to master.
Where do you go, or what do you do/read/see to get inspiration?
I often get inspired by raw textures and materials; old stained papers, layered textures, raw untreated stones and generally things that are old / made to look old and organically thrown together. History, past events and vintage styles really inspire me and I get a real buzz from interior design and objects.
What would be your dream find and/or project?
I’d love to be commissioned to do a large, elaborate, high profile piece for a museum in London, as most of what I find is found in London. But any large commission would be exciting!
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought?’ moment(s)? Tell me about it.
Probably every week at the moment! I’m still quite surprised at what I’m doing and how well it’s going! As a kid I always thought about having my own business but I never made the steps to do it, especially in jewellery. It just seems to have happened. The biggest ‘who’d have thought’ moment was this year, though. I recently found out ‘Boodi’ means broken china in the north of Scotland and England. This is shocking to me because I only called my business ‘Boodi Blu’ after my son’s nickname ‘Boodi’ which is what I have called him since he was born in 2007 – before I had even found any porcelain, let alone started a business!
What a great story, thanks Sarah! And you can find some of Sarah’s pieces over at our store.