Ask jewellery designer Seb Brown to define his creative process and he’ll tell you, “haphazard”. While such disorder conflicts with the typically precise practice of his field, for Brown, it’s proven to be a winning formula. Having trained as a graphic designer, he switched his focus to jewellery in 2009 - establishing a namesake line the following year. Today the Australian native works from a (possibly haunted) paint-splattered studio in Melbourne, toying with negative space and texture to realise roughly refined silver and 18ct yellow gold rings, punctuated by organically placed sapphires, rubies and diamonds. As his collection lands at Liberty, Brown reveals all on breaking with convention, being at the centre of Melbourne’s creative scene, and his own brand of ordered chaos.
You studied graphic design and went on to work in the field. When and why did you turn your back on it?
I found it very difficult to get design work as a new graduate so decided to go it alone. I haven’t exactly turned my back on graphic design – I design all my own collateral – I just had no interest in designing for clients. It took me quite a few years to focus in on jewellery, but I haven’t looked back.
When did you first become interested in jewellery design?
I started playing around with forms in silver and bronze in my honours year of university in 2009 and it has built steadily and organically since then.
“Melbourne has a vast and exciting creative scene which everyone in my world seems to be a part of.”
Do you think your previous experience as a graphic designer is evident in your jewellery collections?
Definitely. There is a graphic element to my work, particularly with the use of negative space and how I lay out stones on the face (and sides) of my signet rings. Texture also comes into play, which is much easier to achieve in metal than on screen or paper.
How did you hone your craft?
I am self-taught as a jeweller, so it has been a very steep learning curve. This has allowed me to be free of jewellery conventions (of which there are many) and I bring a fresh approach to jewellery but maintain the fastidious quality of a traditional jeweller.
Can you talk us through your creative process?
Haphazard. At any time you may find me working on an art show install, various half completed jewellery pieces, and a packaging or stationary design. I like to be busy, and the anxiety of deadlines keeps me going. I travel a lot and look at a lot of painting and sculpture which always inspires new forms.
What materials do work with and why?
Predominantly gold, silver, diamonds and precious stones. My favourite materials are 18ct yellow gold and champagne diamonds. I also love Lapis which was traditionally (and still is) used to make ultramarine pigment. There is an internal warmth to gold, and it is indestructible so can be reworked ad infinitum. Hard precious stones (sapphires, rubies, diamonds) are always a pleasure to work with as they are infinitely beautiful and change with different light.
“There is a graphic element to my work, particularly with the use of negative space and how I lay out stones on the face (and sides) of my signet rings.”
How long does each piece take to make?
Anywhere between a few hours and six months.
Where’s your studio?
In a residential street in inner city Melbourne. It used to be a pub, a brothel and a rooming house – so there’s definitely some ghosts. The studio is home to a lot of musicians, which is a great environment to work in, as it removes me from the finicky world of jewellery.
How would you describe the space?
Ordered chaos. I tore up the carpet when I moved in and there was old paint splattered floorboards underneath. We have a small door onto the street, so we can greet clients and watch the passing parade.
When and why did you move to Melbourne?
I moved to Melbourne for my studies at RMIT University in 2006. I grew up in a small town on the coast, so it was the logical move to pursue a career.
In what way does the city influence your aesthetic?
Melbournians are obsessed with the next-new-undiscovered thing, they’re also very well dressed – so there’s constant influence and change. There’s a strong desire for understated luxury pieces, which my client base really appreciates.
Are you part of a creative community there?
Absolutely. I am also an artist, I show sculpture, drawing and print-based works occasionally. Melbourne has a vast and exciting creative scene which everyone in my world seems to be a part of.
How would you describe the Melbourne jewellery scene?
Thriving. We have everything from gold rush (1850s) era Victorian jewellery through to indigenous makers using fibre, feathers, teeth and shells. Melbourne is the best city in the world to be a jeweller.
Does it differ to London?
Definitely. It’s a lot smaller, but we have a great contemporary scene which is relatively easy to break in to for younger makers. It’s also quite art focused, so there are a lot of jewellers with art/fashion practices and vice versa.
How do you define the aesthetic of your jewellery?
Immediate, roughly refined, warm.
Where do you look to for inspiration and how do you capture it?
Everywhere. I capture it on my phone camera or sketch it up on paper.
Why did you choose to stock your designs at Liberty?
The beautiful selection of clothing and jewellery - obviously the iconic building - and the team of dedicated jewellery staff.