Elegant and graceful, unique and eye-catching, the work of Kamilaroi and Dunghutti jeweller Ebony Birks is changing the narrative of the jewellery industry.
The 23-year-old, Meanjin/Brisbane-based jeweller handcrafts gold and silver rings, earrings and necklaces from her home studio.
A young creative, Birks said she just happened to “fall into” creating jewellery. Not long after leaving high school, she had the opportunity to become a jewellery intern.
In 2019, she quit her job as a real estate agent, started working part time and building her jewellery brand.
“Then we got into 2020, COVID happened, and I lost all my part time jobs,” she said.
“I was sitting around at home and had nothing to do like everyone else. I just decided to spend all my money, all my savings and started buying all the tools.
“I launched my business in February 2020. It was always the plan to have my own jewellery business. But COVID really fast tracked that, and thankfully it’s being going really well.”
With EB Jewellery, Birks incorporates shapes and stones, drawing upon her culture and her connection to Country to create her unique, refined style.
“It wasn’t until after I created my first collection I realised there was cultural expression in my pieces. There’s a lot of line work that reflects my culture,” she said.
“I was kind of flying blind when I first started creating, but it was really nice to draw that connection … I’m inspired by nature and apply it in an abstract way. Which is my way of connection to Country.
“I’m always finding my style as well as connecting with my culture, which has been really
heart-warming — it gives that sense of identity.”
Jewellery forces Birks to stand still, pause and focus on her creation.
“I think it’s why I love jewellery so much, when you’re actually creating a piece, you’re forced to be present. You can’t really let your mind wander,” she said.
“I’m just feeling a bit agitated, I might struggle to start creating. But once I’m in it, I forget what I was worried about.”
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EB Jewellery provides products through both ready-to-buy collections and commission pieces.
“I really enjoy working with clients to create a special piece for them,” she said.
“It’s really reassuring that clients say, ‘This is what I want, but I want your touch as well because I like what you do.’ I love having that intimate process with the client and being given that trust.”
On average, commission pieces take Birks up to a month to create, whilst collection pieces take around a week. All pieces are made-to-order so there is no dead stock, which reflects Birks’ environmental awareness.
“I’ve always been a bit of a green thumb. I’ve always been quite passionate about the environment. So, for me to find my passion and be able to apply sustainability to my practice is really great,” she said.
“I love that I can spend time creating something really special for someone without having too much of an impact on the environment as well.”
Finding her feet as a business during COVID-19, Birks says social media has been a big influence on the EB Jewellery brand.
“Social media, that’s been a really great way for me to express myself and find my aesthetic,” Birks said.
“When I launched my business, I didn’t have a social media background, or a marketing background. I just started creating, taking photos and posting.
“It’s also been a bit of a confidence booster and reassurance that people are seeing my stuff and they’re liking what I’m creating, and posting as well.”
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Whilst finding support through social media, Birks also takes time to step back and ensure that her business reflects her at its core.
“With that said, I do think … you can get sucked into getting validation out of likes and followers,” she said.
“I’ve also had to take a step away from it, because I think I was losing inspiration and losing track of being authentic.
“I’ve always been really scared of that happening. So, taking time away has allowed me to reconnect with myself and my creative side … it’s just about finding that balance.”
With 2022 on the horizon, Birks has dreams to relocate to Naarm/Melbourne and continue making her mark on the jewellery industry.
“For me, it’s always been really important that I continue to always love my passion,” she said.
“I don’t ever want to be a massive brand … I just want to continue building on my skills and I know my practice reflects where I am and who I am at that time.”
By Rachael Knowles