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Q&A with Aleks Ashton

Research psychologist-turned-jewellery designer Aleks Ashton won the prize for Jewellery at the 2018 PPC Imaginarium Awards.

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  • Tell us about yourself. Where are you based and what projects/undertakings are you involved in currently?

 I am the owner of Night Shine Candy Designer Jewelry, which is based in Johannesburg. At the moment I am working on a collection for the Liz Loubser Jewellery School’s student show in September this year. I will be using various elements from my PPC Imaginarium Awards entry, “Tiara of the Heart and Head”, in these pieces.

  • At what point did you become interested in jewellery? Do you have any formal training and/or qualifications?

 When I was eight years old, my father bought a giant bag filled with bits and pieces of jewellery from all over Africa. I became hooked.

Career-wise, I did not start out in what is traditionally considered a creative field. I have a master’s degree in research psychology. The mind and mental health have always fascinated me and I was particularly drawn to the concepts of usability and person-centred approaches in treatment, research and design. After university, I worked for several NGOs and finally in the corporate world as a monitoring and evaluation researcher for a social development management company.   

Over the years, I had fewer and fewer opportunities to really engage my creativity. I fell into the trap of viewing creative pursuits, particularly outside of the workplace, as a luxury, when in fact they were integral to my wellbeing. With the support of my family, I made the decision to pursue my love of jewellery design in 2014. I am working my way towards figuring out just how to make it rock as a business.  

 PPC Imaginarium

  • Who and/or what inspires you as a creative?

 I have a need to celebrate the aspects of life that make survival worth it (I am paraphrasing a C.S. Lewis quote) – to notice the beauty in things that may be easily overlooked by a busy mind: nature, physiology, the beautiful tension and interplay between the organic and geometric, expressions of faith and creativity from ages gone by, my family.

 There are a number of people who inspire me, but at the forefront is Marchand van Tonder, my teacher at the Liz Loubser Jewellery School, as well as the fabulous designers at Studio Loubser and Tinsel Gallery. These people are my heros. They have opened my mind to what it truly means to create unique high-quality jewellery that is innovative, breathtakingly beautiful and yet something that can naturally become part of a person’s go-to wardrobe. For years I have seen gorgeous jewellery online but it was something ephemeral and out-of-reach. Experiencing their work first-hand on a regular basis has made my dream of one day becoming a masterful jewellery designer into an ambitious but tangible goal.

 

  • What is your opinion of the arts and design industries in South Africa?

 Last year, when I was runner-up, I mentioned that collaboration and mutual empowerment between designers – being part of a creative community – are a great source of inspiration and motivation.

 This year, I feel it’s important to ask: What can organisations and individuals do to authentically spread the love of art and design beyond the existing group of enthusiasts? There is so much passion in this country. It is full of the potential to grow the community that drives, and is inspired by, the industry.

 PPC Imaginarium

  • As a creative, what part of the PPC Imaginarium Awards did you find the most rewarding/fulfilling?

 I always learn a lot more from creating a piece for a competition than any other activity. 

 A competition piece has to go beyond a high standard of design. By its nature, it demands innovation and for you to push beyond your current level of technical skill. It’s a time when exploring/experimenting is a sacred priority. It is emotionally and physically exhausting and toughly fulfilling.

 Whilst these are common elements in the pieces I create, I find the experience greatly magnified when I create a piece for the PPC Imaginarium. My experience with the PPC Imaginarium is what led me to give myself permission to venture past my preconceptions and doubts into the place where the magic happens.

 

  • What role does a platform like the PPC Imaginarium Awards play among emerging creatives in your industry?

It highlights to those in the creative industry that there is a space and need for art and innovation beyond what is dictated by current industry trends. This innovation, as well as the support provided by platforms such as the PPC Imaginarium Awards, is what will nurture opportunities for designers to create the trends of the future, today.

 

  • What are your plans for the future?

 Create, create, create. And to launch my online store, Night Shine Candy.

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