Think big, dream bigger

Holly Budge, Brighton, England

It was after doing a tandem skydive that Holly Budge decided she needed to make some life changes. “That 60 seconds completely changed my course,” she laughs. Working as a graphic designer in London, she knew she had to pursue a more adventurous career.

Six months later, Holly, now 39, was working as a camerawoman in New Zealand. Since then she has travelled to the Himalayas, and rode across Mongolia on horseback. But it’s her focus on elephants and ivory that has been her main passion over the past decade: a mission that has satisfied her both as an artist and a charitable campaigner. “I studied in Bournemouth and focused on jewellery design,” she says. “And I discovered vegetable ivory. I’ve been mesmerised by the material ever since.”

“I feel fortunate, but I also know that I’ve created my opportunities”

“The material comes from a palm tree nut in South America, and at one time was used to make buttons, before plastic superseded it. But in Ecuador it’s still popular, for carved jewellery and figurines. It’s amazingly beautiful.” As part of her studies, however, Holly inevitably ended up comparing it with standard ivory. “This led me on a passionate journey,” she says. Having discovered how many elephants are being slaughtered for their tusks, she began the How Many Elephants project. This helps to fund frontline anti-poaching projects in South Africa, and raise awareness of the issue.

“Think big, dream bigger”

Showcasing her beautiful sculptures made of vegetable ivory, Holly has also put on an exhibition illustrating 35,000 elephants – the number killed by poachers each year, which has been seen by more than 1,000 people.

And the secret to such a busy, fulfilling day-to-day? “Passion – it’s as simple as that,” Holly says. “It is part of everything I do. I feel fortunate, but I also know that I’ve created my opportunities. I always say: ‘Think big, dream bigger’.”

Photography by Jody Daunton