Raven Smith Meets Alex Monroe
Cultural creator Raven Smith talks to Alex Monroe about their new genderless jewellery collaborationRead more
Inspired by hidden meanings and laced with unexpected details, the new genderless jewellery collection from celebrated designer Alex Monroe and quick-witted cultural curator Raven Smith is a sleek meeting of curious minds. Keen to learn how it all came about, we listened in on a conversation between the two of them…
RS: I know you as a jeweller, but how did you get here? How did you forge a career (see what I did there?)
AM: Can you really imagine me by a great furnace hammering away… just like Thor? The reality is much more prosaic. I think I’ve always had something to prove because when I was at school, I was far more into music and art than anything else. I grew up wanting to make things, and as a slightly socially awkward young person yearning for a place to fit in, I went to Art School. I found myself drawn to all sorts of craft, except I loved fashion, so sort of fell into jewellery. Except Yah Boo world… I absolutely love jewellery, so I got my dream job in the end I guess!
After studying mainly silversmithing, I was very ambitious and wanted to work really hard to get myself noticed. Initially I wasn’t planning to start a jewellery brand, but after selling to small fashion shops around London, my jewellery began to gain momentum and caught the attention from buyers all over the world. And we have continued to grow for the last 30 years. Now I feel I’m quite good at what I do, so finally in my mid-fifties I’m hoping I can relax a bit more and be more confident.
RS: Remember when we first met? I told you about my lucky coin and how it’s hidden in my bag ha ha. That idea of hidden meaning was important, right?
AM: Oh my gosh yes. I love that coin. That is exactly what it’s all about. I’m quite a visual person and I love things. People have always needed a thing to represent huge and important emotions. But those meanings are often intimate and personal. Jewellery allows you to carry those sentiments with you, but you don’t necessarily need to show them off all the time. I’m interested in those important secret meanings that people carry close to their hearts. I am loved. Or I have loved.
I’m interested in those important secret meanings that people carry close to their hearts.
RS: I’ve never felt like my go-to jewellery is particularly masculine or feminine. Why were we so keen to explore genderless jewellery?
AM: From my point of view I’m going right back to my origins; Suffolk in the 1970’s. I struggled to reconcile my gender with how I felt. I wanted to wear eye liner and experiment with making clothes. I was interested in flower pressing, drawing and making jam. I’m left with a real dislike of any sort of stereotyping, particularly gender. Men’s jewellery often used to be chunky, mechanical or sporty, and I had no interest in it at all. I was keen to explore non gender specific jewellery further, I’m glad you were too! This was such a great opportunity to have some fun making jewellery, specifically disregarding gender. I loved it.
RS: I loved how easy the collaboration and working with you was. My neurotic moodboards came to life. As a seasoned collaborator, how did you find the process? What did you learn from working with my shimmering brilliance ha ha?
AM: You were fantastic! There is only one danger working on a collaboration; that your collaborator has no personality or tastes or opinions. That definitely isn’t you and it was brilliant. You were bursting with ideas and you have a strong aesthetic. We could have made ten times the amount of jewellery and then some. Ideas kept spinning off in all sorts of directions, it was more a matter of editing it down than grafting away to create designs.
RS: Our aesthetics are different right? Do you think we got to a middle ground with the final pieces? A true collaboration?
AM: We had a conversation right at the start where we thought a collaboration should create something greater than the sum of the two halves. I think we did that. And I wonder if that only really happens where you have difference? Like when you draw one of those diagrams where two circles overlap… like a Venn diagram. The magic happens where the two circles meet, right?
RS: Can I come to your country pad?
AM: Ha ha! Absolutely. Actually I think we’d make a right pair. I think you were the first person who made me feel good about my white socks and sandals habit. I can see us walking through the forest, me the old fella in socks and sandals and you the supercool newgen. I think we’d turn a few heads. We’ll leave Denise and Richard to cook supper while we solve the a few problems of the world over a pint of Adnams?