At her studio in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, Veronique Pullen makes jewellery that reflects the area’s maritime riches, from the colourful Hastings fishing fleet to the animals of the shoreline and shallows
Words Anna Turns
For Veronique Pullen, coastal walks from her St Leonards-on-Sea home are a multi-sensory experience. ‘The old town is so full of colours, sights, smells and sounds – it’s a maze of cobbled houses with iconic black net stores built for the fishermen’s materials, sails and nets and the base for 25 net fishing boats that launch from the beach,’ says Veronique, who moved from London to the Sussex coast 18 years ago with her family. ‘This beautiful coastline, with its backdrop of sandstone cliffs and the busy-ness of the fishing industry, brings me creativity and comfort in equal measure, and its ever-changing mood means that I find something new every time I visit.’
Veronique has always been interested in how things are made. ‘As a child I liked to rummage through my mother’s jewellery box and look at the stones and all the connections in pieces of jewellery, finding out where pieces came from and what they meant,’ she remembers. ‘Jewellery definitely was treasure for me then and still is now.’
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After experimenting with an evening class in jewellery making, she fell in love with metal work and took a foundation degree in contemporary craft, graduating in 2011. Now, she works from her small home studio, drawing inspiration directly from the hustle and bustle of the Hastings fishing fleet and walks through Rock-a-Nore in the old town at dusk: ‘The light is soft, the colours are still vivid, sounds are muted and there is a calm stillness,’ says Veronique. She loves the traditional craftsmanship associated with the rich heritage of this fishing quarter. ‘That’s juxtaposed with the brutal raw honesty of the industry – fishermen go out and risk their lives every day and bring home fish. There’s a beauty to that,’ she adds.
Veronique’s studio is her sanctuary. At her workbench, every tool she needs is within reach. As a nod to the pirates and smugglers of Hastings’ past, she makes treasure rings by heating and ‘reticulating’ the silver to give an organic surface texture to the metal. Veronique uses mainly eco sterling silver, which she accents with 22ct gold plate that has been recycled and certified. Once she has an idea for a theme, she’ll sketch in her notebook before translating her designs into metal – from anemones she finds in rockpools to crab claws and fish heads she spots on the beach. Each piece tells a story of the ocean and of the creatures and relics that live beneath the waves. ‘I never tire of the sea, it nourishes my soul and nurtures my creativity,’ remarks Veronique.
Photograph Georgina Piper
Find out more
• From crab claw bangles and treasure rings to anchor pendants and fish head earrings, Veronique’s quirky jewellery range is inspired by the fishing fleet in Hastings and the surrounding Sussex coastline. Prices range from £60 for an anchor pendant necklace to £240 for a mussel necklace.
• Buy online at veroniquepullen.com or contact the artist on email at [email protected] for further information about her collections.
• Follow Veronique on Instagram at @veronique_pullen.