After 3 years of studying BA Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martins — without a placement year — recent graduates often feel the need to work for others and gain industry experience, while continuing to develop their own aesthetic on the side. Having just left uni, Gabriella Garnham did so, and worked for both Felicia Swartling and Alexander McQueen. But, for a creative person it’s difficult to subdue the urge to start crafting projects of one’s own… Returning to the studio with her ‘partner in crime’, Gabriella is working on something that may defy any conventional ideas we have when thinking about a piece of jewellery. She spoke with us about her plans for the next few months and how pairing up with the one you believe in is necessary to make it in this big, sometimes daunting industry.
“I want to make people re-evaluate our beliefs of the value of jewellery.”
What have you been doing this year?
Looking for a job… It takes pretty long, to be honest. I was assisting Felicia Swartling for a couple of months in her studio, before her exhibition in Stockholm. I have just finished working for McQueen, actually, helping out with the run-up to Paris. I worked within the jewellery team, drawing high-quality digital files of the entire SS16 collection. I provided interdepartmental assistance, which involved communication with major clients, both in London and Florence. Additionally, I assisted the designers in Paris during and after the show, as well as in the showroom there. It was pretty intense. I guess the exciting thing right now is that I’m working on starting my own thing, with a fellow classmate.
I know it’s fresh, but looking back at your BA at Central Saint Martins, is there anything you learnt after graduating that you would have rather known before?
One thing I learnt is that you have to be true to yourself. There is so much pressure, that often it is hard to focus on what’s really important to you as a designer. Also, the stars from your class are not necessarily stars of the industry!
Your final collection and the video you made for it were very distinct from the ‘usual’ BA Jewellery pieces. How do you feel about it now?
For me, the collection was just a starting point. The video helped to pull all the elements of the collection together. Film is incredible, it really has the ability to go beyond the accepted relationship we have with jewellery and enhance it. Rauwanne Northcott — who recently graduated from CSM’s Fashion Communication and Promotion course — and I played for days with a load of new and older equipment, and mashed it together. The video was also quite a breakthrough visually; just because my tutors would often tell me that my imagery was too ‘blurry’ and ‘distorted’. It didn’t fit within the norms of the traditional jewellery industry.
“My tutors would often tell me my imagery was too ‘blurry’ and ‘distorted’. It didn’t fit within the norms of the traditional jewellery industry.”
Do you see yourself as a jeweller?
No, not in the conventional sense. Actually, I see myself more as an artist. I guess because what I do consists of much more than creating a product, although I do love making, and I am very familiar with the process… I am interested in how it sits on the body and how it is made, but also how it is styled and communicated. I found it frustrating at times during the course, always having to reflect on other jewellery designers, whereas I prefer to take inspiration from much wider avenues. Just because I studied jewellery design, doesn’t mean that my focus needs to be so narrowed. For instance, my collection was mainly made up of straw, juxtaposed with horn and white sapphires. I really want to make people re-evaluate our beliefs of the value of jewellery, as well as materials. Horn is something I simply fell in love with in my final year… I can’t describe it, but it felt so natural to use such a beautiful material, that’s so malleable and easy to work with.
Would you like to do an MA, or do you feel the industry is a better school for what you want to do?
An MA in jewellery? No. Perhaps in Communications or Artistic Direction. At the moment I have no plans to go back to school. That’s a big commitment financially right now, with the school fees. Maybe in the future? My plans are to continue to develop my knowledge and understanding of the industry by working for a label or House while exploring the possibilities of starting out as a duo.
What is next for you?
I’m working closely with my partner in crime right now, Isabel McMullen. We have a couple of things in the works; something really exciting.
Words by Colombe D’Humieres