Creating fine jewellery with an organic, contemporary edge, Los Angeles-born Brooke Gregson now works out of a boutique-cum-studio in London’s Westbourne Grove. We went behind the scenes at a workshop packed with gemstones, artwork and charm.
"I feel lucky to be a bit of an outsider looking in... just keeping my eyes open while walking down the streets of this city can boost my creativity."
What do you love about your workspace?I love that my showroom is off the beaten track and seen as a bit of a hidden gem in Notting Hill. Because I am across the street from residential houses I decided to also give the showroom a more home-like feel, I even have a few paintings from my childhood home in LA covering the walls including Billy Al Bengston who is a well known Californian artist. I chose all the furniture and lighting to represent my love of colour and texture, and also made sure there was lots of room for all of my inspiration books. Another part of my workspace that you probably won't find in any other fine jewellery space are all my yarns from my knitwear days. The colours and textures of these yarns definitely add to the feeling of the space. I keep my moodboard above my desk and am surrounded by all of my gemstones so I am always happy when I’m there!
Why did you choose Notting Hill? I have lived in so many areas: Battersea, Brighton and Chelsea, just to name a few! When I found Notting Hill I immediately connected with its small village feel - it reminds me of Venice Beach near where I grew up in LA with its eclectic nature. My favourite street in all of London is Golborne Road, it’s a melting pot of cultures on one street. You will find a mix of unique Portugese, British, Swedish, and Moroccan shops and restaurants all on one road. I always find inspiration here and at the Portobello Market on the weekend. It is very hard to get bored in Notting Hill.
What was the transition from LA to London like?My transition to London has happened very slowly. I actually first came here to study Art History for a semester during University and then I came back to study Design and Textiles in my 20s. Although I’m a true LA girl at heart I immediately fell in love with the vibrant energy of this city and its incredible museums and galleries. Although I miss the laid back vibe of LA, if I ever do move back I will always miss the unique energy of London and the eccentricity and inspiration it has offered me.
Do you make everything by hand?Everything is made by hand and I have taken advantage of the high quality of British craftsmanship which I so admire. I also have a full-time former textile designer who makes all of our fine woven bracelets in our workplace. I appreciate my clients can distinguish the fine details that come from hand-worked pieces, created with the utmost attention to detail.
Do you remember the first piece of jewellery you made?The first piece I made was a wire-wrapped peridot and apatite bead necklace. At the time, wire wrapping was the only jewellery skill I had mastered. I immediately wanted to learn more skills so I could experiment with colour and techniques and create pieces with a unique character.
Why jewellery?I love the idea that jewellery is deeply personal, and not only has aesthetic value but can also be symbolic to the wearer. Although I loved my former life as a knitwear and textile designer, I feel fine jewellery is a much more permanent form of creative expression. I also have a great passion for unique gemstones and have an appreciation for the way they are naturally formed by the earth, as well as the idea that they have a certain life force you don't find in any other material.
Do you design in your workshop or do you prefer to go out and about?I think it’s very important to spend some free time every week just taking in everyday happenings. Sometimes I will go and see a show at a museum or gallery and bring my sketch book to draw out ideas that I can work into new design concepts. I also love visiting gem shows around the world, many times these visits will introduce me to the perfect stone and/or shape that might spark a whole future collection. As a designer I always like to keep open minded in how I design and then edit when back at the desk.
Where do you go to find inspiration?I am lucky enough to find inspiration from everyday life as well as from gallery shows and my huge library of books. I think inspiration can come in many different forms. If I’m very inspired by an idea or image I prepare sketches as well as watercolours which evolve into a colour scheme for my designs.
Do you have any work-related goals for 2016?[My goal] is to really just go for it with colour and design approach. I’m really excited about the upcoming collection since I’m going to be introducing unique enamel work, engraved work and other tools which can help me be more expressive in my designing and in turn allow the wearer to be more expressive as well.
What are your work day essentials?I usually like to start the morning with a good jog while listening to music and then I feel like I can start the day clear-headed. I also like to have BBC6 in the background and of course my iPhone not too far way in case I think I might have the perfect Instagram image!
What do you tend to wear for work days?I would like to call my outfits casual/dressy but usually it consists of a wearable dress, tights and boots. If I have a client meeting I will upgrade to some nice heels. Besides some Isabel Marant staple shoes and clothes I like to wear smaller label brands such as Demylee and an Australian label where the owner hand paints his own prints and has all fabric print work done in house.
What do you love about the Liberty jewellery room?I love that it’s spacious and has a nice flow; you can see across the whole room. I also love the people working there. Chris who works there seems to also know his gemstones and has a true appreciation for craftsmanship, which is a must when talking about my jewellery!
What’s your first memory of Liberty?Liberty was by far my favourite department store when I was a student studying textiles at Chelsea School of Art. My first memory was walking up the beautiful wooden stairs to the haberdashery department at the top floor and looking over the balcony to the floors below. I loved seeing the contrast of the Tudor style open interior which housed some of the most trend-setting brands. For me Liberty is what I love about London, and I never take it for granted since you don't get anything like it where I am from in Los Angeles!