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'Within Chaos there is Life'

Pierced Silver and Silk Threads

Image by Shannon Tofts

This collection is a reflection on my journey over the last 3 years, both personally and professionally. It tries to express both the chaos and calm that is part of everyday life, and a need to try and stay balanced, calm, and centered when you have no control of what goes on around you.


This collection started life as an exploration on bamboo upon finding it on Corstorphine Hill. It made me reflect on my recent transition from living in Asia to moving back to Edinburgh and how hardy and adaptable bamboo is regardless of the environment within which it finds itself. It made me question my own adaptability through, what seemed like, the chaos in which I found myself following divorce and international relocation.

At the same time I was also drawn to the designs of Mari Ishikawa, a Japanese jewellery designer who, in one of her collections used red threads. I was intrigued by the effectiveness of its use and decided I wanted to incorporate colour and texture through threads in to my work.

This began a series of experiments playing with fabrics and felts but I kept coming back to embroidery threads and found a 17th Century way of twisting the thread to give the effect of moss.

The other material used in some of my pieces is Tagua Nut. Vegetable Ivory, growing in the rainforests of South/Central America, was once the largest export from there before the invention of plastic. In recent times it is making a resurgence and allowing indigenous communities relearn age old traditions in harvesting and creating from it. This nut has made a come back at a time when environmental issues are at their peak.

Why my colour choice of predominantly green? Given my experience and knowledge of Asia I knew I wanted this to reflect Chinese beliefs in the meaning of colour and green expressed my needs: harmony, growth, regeneration, and hope.

In my mind, this colour also helps tell the story of the Tagua Nut, and expresses life out of death – moss growing from a dead tree – much of which I found during my walks on Corstorphine Hill.

The pierce cut design reflecting chaos originally came about through experiments with etching, and one piece in particular that had been left in the tank too long. There was beauty in how the acid had eaten away parts and left an intricate design inside. There was no control yet something beautiful was left behind.

Knowing that this could not be duplicated I stencilled the etched piece and played with the lines to create my a more controlled, yet no less unique, design. Pierce cut, domed, and cost, it is this design that is carried through all the pieces in the collection.

Personal experience and reflection, combined with the enduring force of nature to overcome the chaos that surrounds it, allows this collection to speak on many levels and is open to interpretation by the wearer or admirer.

Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.”

― Henry Adams

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