Pieces of me: Angela O’Kelly, jewellery maker, lecturer and curator

The head of design at the National College of Art and Design has a passion for black, from her wedding dress to precious heirlooms, and from the jewellery she makes to the decorative objects in her sittingroom


Internationally renowned jewellery maker and curator Angela O’Kelly lives in Co Dublin. Made from paper, plastic, fabric and precious metals, her necklaces and other pieces can also serve as sculptures in their owners’ homes.

She is a curator of craft and design exhibitions, and as head of design for Body and Environment at NCAD, she is responsible for inspiring the next generation in everything from fashion and textiles to jewellery and metalwork.

Describe your style

My clothing style is quite simple. I wear a lot of black, layered shapes and I really enjoy interesting, good-quality fabrics.

This is quite a contrast to my house. I have mainly white walls, which are a backdrop to lots of prints, ceramics and quirky pieces I have collected from the exhibitions I have curated.

My kitchen is quite colourful, and my downstairs toilet is a dedicated pink room. I love mixing old and new, jewellery on walls, student work sitting beside established artists and designers – there’s always a blend of materials and processes.

Which room in your home do you most enjoy?

It has to be my kitchen area. I really enjoy having people around for casual meals, with good food and wine.

I have a lovely oak table, which is decorated for entertaining with bright pink and red felt placemats, white plates, a mix of Alessi accessories, hand-thrown ceramics, Nel Linssen TableTalk trivets, gorgeous John French bowls, glasses that don’t match, antique silver spoons, and coffee cups that are at least 50 years old and were a wedding present to my mother.

I am also loving the new simple crockery ranges at Dunnes Stores designed by Helen James and Paul Costelloe.

Which items do you love most?

I love my Diamantini & Domeniconi cuckoo clock; it is white, and a cheeky little red bird pops out the side every hour. I also adore my collection of ceramics, wood and metal pieces by Daphne Corregan, Sophie Cooke, Kyra Cane, Jack Doherty and Chris Keenan.

I have a gorgeous collection of black objects in my sitting room, which comprises beautifully intelligent forms: metal pieces by Cóilín Ó Dubhghaill, wood by Liam Flynn, Roger Bennett, Malcom Martin and Gaynor Dowling, and a sculpture by Ann Mulrooney.

I just need a Sara Flynn black ceramic piece to complete. I tell my boys these are my precious things so they are not allowed to go near them.

Who is your favourite designer, and do you own any of their work?

Alongside the designers I’ve mentioned already, my favourite clothing designer for years has been John Rocha. I love his use of fabric manipulation, surface treatments and tactile quality.I still have pieces in my wardrobe from his Chinatown collection from A|Wear, which are timeless. My wedding dress is a gorgeous black John Rocha piece, which I have worn lots since.

The majority of my wardrobe is black, apart from a couple of quirky Natalie B Coleman dresses which have engaging prints, interesting fabrics and great attention to detail and cut.

Which artists do you admire?

I have a Stephen Vaughan print that hangs in my kitchen, next to work from my good friends Dara O’Neill and Lorna Watkins. It’s so lovely surrounding yourself with personal works of art that hold memories.

What is your biggest interior turn off?

Everyone to their own, I think. Though white walls create a neutral backdrop so your objects and accessories can stand out.

Which travel destination stands out for you?

I went on an overland trip from Kenya to Zimbabwe when I was 21, while at college in Edinburgh. I was very interested in African art and culture and this trip was hugely inspirational for my work at the time. It still resonates with me.

Looking back I can understand why my parents were anxious that I was spending five weeks travelling by truck and camping with a group of strangers. My only communication with them was a fax every couple of weeks.

Although I love the heat and exploring new countries, I am equally happy camping in Kerry and going walking, and swimming in the sea is so invigorating.

If you had €100,000 to spend on anything for the home, what would you buy?

I would build an extension to my kitchen out to the garden, and a toy room for my sons to house their extensive Lego collection. I am imagining a whole wall of Lego.

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