best tracker The Kāpiti jeweller taking on the world – Techss

The Kāpiti jeweller taking on the world

Camille Paloma Walton has quickly emerged as a rising star in her industry, with international exhibitions and a feature on the Amazon series Rings of Power. 

Camille hugs me at the gate, calling off her whippet who has been jumping up for a smooch. Leading me along a sun drenched deck of heaving planter boxes into a garden of dahlias, she welcomes me into her newly-built studio. From the street, you can’t tell this is the heart of a thriving jewellery business with eight stockists in New Zealand and one in Australia. 

Walton casts multi-coloured gems in silver, gold, and platinum in hand-carved settings. She carves forms in wax, sending them to a foundry who casts them in molten metal. This has become one of her signature techniques. “Working in wax is so freeing, and creates a handmade look I love,” she says. 

In the studio, her workstation is festooned with bowls of wax rings and necklaces and pieces that have already been cast waiting for stones to be set. Some wax rings still clutch their stones, ready to be shown to some of her many custom clients. Variously-sized ceramic pots hold the tools of the trade – files and polish and handfuls of sparkling sapphires in peach, apricot, green, and baby pink.  

Walton and her partner built this studio at their Kāpiti property over summer to be the centre of a jewellery business she started four years ago. She studied contemporary jewellery at Whitireia Polytechnic between 2010 and 2012, a course focused on making art pieces, rather than “wearable stuff”, as she puts it. After graduating, she nannied full-time in Wellington until the pandemic struck, and she decided to take her jewellery craft seriously. “I lost my nanny job and decided to go out on my own. I had tinkered throughout those years and some shops stocked my work, but I never took it seriously.” 

Walton in her studio. (Photo: Camille Pamola Walton)

 

Walton got her “big break” when KAUKAU, the Wellington concept store and gallery, started representing her, after she approached them via an Instagram message.

“For a lot of creatives, it takes someone like that to get you going. To believe in you and jumpstart your career.” KAUKAU and Instagram helped her connect with other stockists, many of whom are concept or design stores who embrace Camille’s artistic side whilst also allowing her commercial success.

Raised by a sculptor mother and painter/art teacher father, Camille’s primary motive is making art. “I always struggle when people ask me why I make things or the meaning behind a piece. I have no idea. There’s no grand meaning, I just know it’s what I have to do to stay sane.” 

While she takes inspiration from everywhere, Walton says she’s always had an obsession with sparkly things. “When I was little I used to dress up in my grandma’s jewellery and loved beads and anything that resembled treasure, so getting to work with these gemstones every day is very exciting. A lot of inspiration just comes from how I can show off the gemstone.” 

Walton in her studio. (Photo: Camille Pamola Walton)

“I’m interested in other creative mediums, but there’s “something about jewellery that feels extra special,” she says. I ask if that’s because people – like me – wear it. She says no; it’s more about making a piece of treasure. In the same way she marvelled at the shiny knick-knacks she found inside little pots in her Nanna’s pottery studio, she liked to imagine “a kid seeing their mother’s engagement ring and being like ‘wow’.” 

Custom engagement rings take up most of Walton’s time. “It keeps me up at night more than anything I do, but it’s a thing I really love and that is really special. The trust people put in you is a big thing,” she says, especially when she has been asked to use use people’s heirloom gemstones.She loves hearing the stories about why people’s prospective fiancées/fiancés would like a certain gemstone or style. “I like how they talk about it, you really get to know them, and it’s a fun little secret.”

Another fun secret was making rings for Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel series, Rings of Power. She had to wait two years between signing a non-disclosure agreement and the show coming out. A costume designer found her work at Public Record gallery in Auckland and the show ultimately purchased ten rings to use in the show. It was a “proud moment”, she says humbly. 

The Irene Ring, based on a ring Walton made for the TV series The Rings of Power.

Walton said she’s found a supportive community of jewellers in New Zealand over the last four years, connecting with many of them online. “During study [at Whitireia] there was an air of competition which I hated. But, this time, I’ve found the opposite.” 

Jewellers can be tight-lipped about their gemstone stockists. “Other jewellers sometimes ask me, but they have to go on that journey themselves”. That’s because good, ethical stockists are hard to find and build relationships with, she said. “Clients often have very specific requests” and, with limited supply of stones, jewellers want to make sure they’re first in line. Walton said she is planning a trip to South-East Asia to find new suppliers.

She’s grateful she doesn’t have to think of herself as a brand, or drop passion projects for commission. “The business side is wonderful for paying my mortgage and allowing me to come to my studio every day and not be distracted by other work, but the main thing is that I get to do my art every day.”

Meeting Walton, I was struck that she’s living the life every creative dreams of: making a living from losing herself in her studio every day. “I still feel a bit impostor-y that this is what I’m doing full-time,” she admits. “I can’t quite believe it, I’m not sure I ever will. I make because I need to make, I’m just lucky because the things I love, people tend to love also, so it’s translated into making a living.” 

About admin