A Conversation with 1st Dibs
Luxury online platform 1st Dibs asked us for a quick interview about our new showroom, our jewellery, inspiration and love of design.
Can you give us the location of your new showroom and details of the interior design?
The showroom is located at 15A Ives Street, in the heart of London’s Chelsea district.
The building itself is a spacious two storey structure, complete with a little outdoor terrace at the back. Upon entering the showroom you step immediately into an open-plan drawing room, modelled on a Victorian gentleman’s study, rich in leather-bound books, kilim, taxidermy and art – the imagined objects of a modern-day Grand Tour. Upstairs is the working heart of the showroom – the office. Light and airy, this space is ideal for designing and for the first time in my career I actually have a specially designated painting desk. Whilst this floor is the working hub of the brand, it still retains a cosy, homely feel, with upholstered seating, plenty of plants, cowhide rugs and touches of vivid colour.
The jewellery is displayed on the ground floor in aged, wooden cabinets, more akin to those found in institutions such as the Natural History Museum than those on Bond Street. I see my jewellery as sculpture in miniature and so wanted to display the pieces in a manner that elevated them into treasured curiosities.
We officially opened the space on 6th December 2017, after almost three months of refurbishment. The space could not have been more dilapidated and uninspiring when we took it over. Luckily most of the work was cosmetic and superficial, so a structural engineer or architect was not needed.
We didn’t use an interior designer either. I designed the whole scheme myself and lovingly purchased every object. The showroom is an embodiment of the brand’s DNA, in the same way that the objects within the space are fundamental to understanding the stories behind the jewellery collections. Everything talks to everything else.
Are we correct in understanding your home was recently refurnished as well?
Home is squat Georgian townhouse in Chelsea that feels more akin to a cottage than an urban dwelling as it’s situated on a quiet, leafy street and has the joy of having a sanctuary-of-a-garden at the back. It’s decorated in quite a similar fashion to my showroom. There are definite antiquated elements – rich fabrics, endless leather-bound books, ethnic patterns, taxidermy and curious collectables – but here they are offset by distinct touches of modernity and lightness, such as matching white architraves and cornicing, bold design furniture, paler woods and bright contemporary art. The result is a space that is pretty eclectic but perfectly me.
How did you come into jewellery design?
I had a pipe dream to be a jewellery designer when I was a teenager, but decided to venture into the world of commercial art when I left school. After reading History of Art at Edinburgh University I went to work for a private art dealership in Mayfair, specializing in Impressionist and Modern Art as well as Brazilian Concrete Art, which was just beginning to make waves internationally at the time. Whilst those years at the gallery were fascinating, insightful, privileged and inspiring, there was no physical pen-to-paper creativity involved. In now-or-never fashion I decided to jump ship and move from the world of fine art into the world of fine jewellery with essentially no training or understanding of how jewellery was made. The first year was a steep learning curve full of exploration and inevitable mistakes, but I’m grateful for the lack of institutionalized teaching. Like a child I still think everything and anything is possible.
What was your first piece of jewellery?
I distinctly remember a pair of filigree hoop earrings from my early teenage years that I treasured very much. I also (regretfully) remember a black plastic choker from around the same time that was horrendous and drove my mother mad.
Your jewellery combines classic design with an irreverent sense of humour that is also visible in your home (e.g. the unicorn and watermelon table). How important is that balance to you?
I thrive off juxtaposition. Elegance is boring without playfulness. Whimsy is superficial without the gravitas of timelessness. Contradiction is what breeds design brilliance, what captures the imagination and inspires unique character and individuality.
As a designer I’m naturally interested in putting objects together that create interesting and unique narratives. On a small scale you could call that designing jewellery; on a larger scale it’s dressing a room. But the one force that governs my creativity – even the simple act of getting dressed in the morning – is juxtaposition, contradiction and a pinch of the fairytale. Life would be so miserable without unicorns and watermelon tables.
Which is your favourite bespoke jewellery project you’ve done for someone?
In terms of ‘wow factor’, a diamond engagement ring with custom-cut diamonds and interlocking pave-set diamond ring jacket; in terms of creativity, a pair of gold and mandarin garnet lion-head earrings.
Why did you open the showroom?
We were ready to take the business to the next step.
How important is having all-British-made jewellery to you?