Growing up surrounded by beautiful jewels (her mother was a restorer of Victorian Jewellery and her father was an antiques dealer) it’s no surprise that Emma Swann was drawn to jewellery design. After studying at London’s Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design (other grads include Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen and Zac Posen), Emma became the photographic editor for celebrity and fashion magazine Famous and was offered a full time job for Elle magazine. Her eclectic beginnings in publication saw Emma fortuitously recognised on the job for her handmade trinkets. Through word of mouth, fashion editors and stylists began to request her pieces eventually prompting Emma to ditch life behind the desk and establish her jewellery label ‘Recreational Studio’ back in 2010.
Five years on and her delicate jewellery and leather accessories are both understated and timeless, synonymous with personalisation, craftsmanship and intricacy. Her distinctive style is an infusion of minimalism juxtaposed with the use of sterling silver, gold and rose gold adorned with pave diamonds, antique gemstones, pearls and Swarovski crystals. We got to know the dynamic blonde after Emma welcomed Beauticate into her Inner Western Sydney Studio. Emma opens up about the inspiration behind the brand, her unpretentious approach to beauty, incredible leather sourcing trips to Tuscany and her newly found infatuation for surfing Sydney waves.
Photography by Dominic Loneragan, images originally published on Citizens Of The World.
“I was always around artists, craftspeople and surrounded by beautiful antique
I grew up in London among a very crafty, creative family. Mum is a restorer of Victorian jewellery and my lovely late Dad was an antiques dealer with three antique shops. In hindsight, it was inevitable that I would eventually follow in their footsteps.
I did start a career on magazines in London after graduating from central Saint Martin
While still fairly creative, my first job was not quite as hands-on as being a jewellery and accessory designer though. A friend who was a fashion photographer who was shooting for magazines in London like Dazed and confused, The Face and Elle, he asked if I could help him on shoots assisting and making props. I’d be wearing my jewellery on the shoots I’d be working on and get asked regularly by the stylists where my jewellery was from, if I could make some pieces for them to wear and for future shoots. Word spread and fashion editors and stylists started requesting pieces. I got offered a full time job on Elle magazine, but desk life wasn’t for me and I always craved the making. I really wanted to learn more about diamonds and gemstones so every weekend I worked with a Hatton Garden Jeweller which was incredible, hands on experience – working with diamonds and a group of highly trained craftsmen.
I love the creative process of my job- being inspired by places, people, art, and light
Then taking these inspirations and turning them into something tangible, material, and (hopefully!) beautiful! I also love creating products that my Recreational Studio customers can personalise – or 'make their own' – using precious metals and luxurious leathers. They're carefully crafted designs and become treasured gifts or keepsakes when monogrammed or engraved with a name, initials, or a personal message.
I’m comfortable focusing on maintaining a good complexion and keeping make up fairly simple
I usually like to use mismatched earrings and necklaces to ‘adorn’ my look. For day, my beauty look is low-key luxe. Good face cream with SPF and a strong brow with minimal make-up. Night time I like to experiment with strong looks – I might do a heavier smoky eye or keep the eyes ‘clean’ and work a Chanel red lip in Pirate instead. I also love Nars shimmer powder across the high points of my face. Helena Christensen is a big influence for me with her minimal make-up, luminous skin, and the hair I wish I had.
I love the feeling of well-cleansed skin so I use the gentle face wash by Cetaphil
It’s so cheap but so good as it is really gentle on my sensitive skin. I try to get enough sleep and drink a lot of water—the usual cliché, but it works! Kosmea is an amazing Australian brand that uses rosehip oil and I love their moisturizing lotion SPF 30 and also the radiance 24/7 youth boost leaves my skin glowing and it smells divine. The best eye-make remover is a French brand Avène which is super gentle and removes all my eye make-up. My luxe product, which I discovered when in London, is RéVive Moisturizing Renewal Crème Supreme. It’s expensive but has really made a difference to my skin texture, making it visibly smoother and my pores are smaller. Overall, my routine is pretty low-key and natural. I really hate products that have been tested on animals and wish it could be banned for all beauty products.
I find as I get older I wear less make-up to avoid looking like a dolly bird!
My attitude towards ageing is just to go with the flow! It’s going to happen so why fight against it. I truly believe that women, like good wine, get better with age. We develop more character, more depth and a more gentle beauty.
The best brow pencil (and I’ve tried a few) is by Laura Mercier
I try to enhance rather than mask, so I like a strong brow. I use the colour Blonde. I don’t feel myself when I have too much make-up on. For me I think less is more when it comes to make up. I love a good concealer as I have really dark circles under my eyes - it makes me look alive in the mornings. I love mascara Sumptuous Infinite by Estee Lauder to bring my eyes out, a nude lip and some Nars bronzer for a healthy glow even if I’ve only had 5 hours sleep. I like to sweep the bronzer on my temples which makes my eyes look more awake. If I’m feeling really exhausted after a late night of making in my studio I keep some spoons in the fridge and place them on my eyes; this really wakes me up and seems to reduce any puffiness.
My hands get really dry due to using jewellery tools and polishing every day
My hands are my least favourite features because they look like pork chops. So at night I rub heel balm which is supposed to be used for cracked skin on your feet, I rub into my finger tips and put on a pair of white cotton gloves which you can buy from the chemist (my hubby says its like sleeping with Micky Mouse!). In the morning though my hands are transformed - super soft with any hard skin smoothed and soothed. I also exfoliate my lips with a toothbrush with lip balm on the brush, it gives me an instant plump pout and removes any dry flakey skin.
I do try to take good care of my hair, it’s fairly low-maintenance thanks to regular trims and treatments
I get regular monthly trims and wash only three times a week - not everyday as I feel it really dries my hair out. I love Kerastase as it makes my hair feel soft and smells good. I also use a beautiful oil called Zenz Organic Deep Wood No. 99 in my hair to keep it hydrated and nourished and avoid looking like a scarecrow! As for my favourite feature? I’ve got a good derriere - or so I’ve been told! - so I’m going with that one!
My own personal style is an interlace of vintage with a few designer pieces thrown in the mix
I call it my ‘Crazy Aunt Cathy’ look as I remember my aunt who could wear the most beautiful YSL black smoking jacket in the 70’s but team it with a pair of bright pink pants and lashings of gold chains. It was so wrong.. ..but also so right! I find myself in a lot of navy blue V-neck cashmere sweaters, and my old Stan Smith trainers (so old they have Velcro tabs instead of laces) and a Celine jacket. In Summer the studio gets really hot so I’ll wear my Acne leather shorts and a white Bassike tee. I like to be comfy in the studio. When I go out it’s all about the silhouette and I love Acne for clothes and Loewe for shoes, with lashings of fine rose gold with tiny diamonds (Recreational Studio of course!) on my neck and hands.
My mum taught me that a smile and being happy is beautiful...
and beautiful jewellery helps with that! Growing up, I used to sneak into my granny’s bedroom. She had a lovely old wooden 1950’s dressing table with big mirror and lights. I used to put her flamingo bright pink lipstick on at the age of four which was from Avon. I remember the lipstick was really heavily scented. I’d also spray her Chanel No5 in my hair. For some reason I thought she wouldn’t notice if it was in my hair and not on my skin - four-year-old sneakiness. I’d get a real telling off when caught by granny but would always sneak back in to her bedroom and do the same thing next time I was around to visit her for tea and cakes. A decade or so later it was all about bright make-up and Madonna. One of the first products I used was the Rimmel London sparkling eyes shadow, I was trying to channel Madonna’s Get Into The Groove video but ended up looking like Herman Munster. so I suppose I’ve gone the opposite to that now with a more pared back look.
I like reading in the bath, it really winds me down
My current favourite book is Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan. I always turn my phone off, lights off and soak in my hot bubble bath with a Diptyque Philosykos candle burning which is heavily scented. I’m always burning essential oils from Aveda at home and in my studio, these really relax me. I occasionally get a green-tea facial and afterwards my skin feels unbelievably soft and dewy - I feel alive again. I mainly go to a spa when I’m travelling in Europe as I find it hard to switch off from work in Sydney. I visit Florence twice a year to meet with my leather supplier and had an incredible Tuscan Cypress body scrub at the Four Seasons Florence. It’s a restorative exfoliation treatment that perfectly smooths and hydrates the skin; the Tuscan cypress nut works to eliminate impurities while oxygenating skin cells. When back in London I love the Cowshed Spa at Babington House for a Marhalika Facial - it makes me feel like I’ve had a face lift.
What you put into your body is just as important as what you put on your ski
I eat organically and seasonally. I don’t eat processed food and find this really helps with my skin, hair and general well being. If I eat badly it really shows through my skin and it affects my mood. Having said that I do love a glass or two of vino and dark chocolate, so I’m not a saint. I love organic porridge oats with almond milk. I throw in some flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, cinnamon, heat and then add raspberries. It keeps me fuelled until lunch time and its power packed with Omega-3. Great source of healthy fat and antioxidants. I keep a good stash of nuts and cacao buttons at my studio in glass jars when I need a energy boost . I’m a pom so can’t function in the morning without a cup of English breakfast tea. I’m quite fussy with my tea - it has to be the Organic loose tea from T2. I drink about four cups at day at my work bench.
We live in stunning Sydney surrounded by the ocean and nature which is very inspiring to me
I love living in Australia. I try and be amongst it as much as I can at the weekends to recharge. I’ve just started to learn to surf and it is truly just magical being in the water, we have some of the most stunning beaches in the world. To de-stress, I run because I like the fresh air and sun on my skin. I run around Sydney Park three times a week before getting to my studio and walk my dog, Bear, for 40 minutes in the morning and evening so he can see his furry friends. I really try to live mindfully and consistently do my best to maintain mine (and my husband, and my dogs!) wellness.”