I love looking at a person's handwriting. The flourish, scale, weight and care that the individual gives each word says so much about them, that I find it intensely personal and revealing (non-descript, changeable scrawl or basic printing in capitals acts as a warning, and is hugely unattractive to me). It is also relatively easy to look at a body of work and identify a unique design 'handwriting' (see Fernando Jorge, Polly Wales and Hannah Martin), a cohesive tone that makes it instantly recognisable due to a familiarity of form, yet wholly original in style. New jewellery design duo Shimell & Madden have this quality - a small British jewellery brand that has been growing steadily over the past 5 years, their seemingly complex mini structures of layered linear pattern result in strong, bold, but delicate forms.
I met Emma Madden, fresh from a successful London Fashion Week (which resulted in prestigious concept store Dover Street Market declaring they would 'take it all') at their retailer The New Craftsmen to talk inspiration, building collections, and process.
Coming from a traditional jewellery background, Emma and her design partner Luke Shimell met whilst both working at a family-run jewellers in Devon, mainly undertaking general repair and soldering work for the shop. Sharing an interest in maths, pure geometric shapes and proportion, they launched their brand in 2010, which they now design and make by hand in their studio in East London.
Collections are started organically, without sketches, moodboards or tangible points of inspiration, and instead are borne from experimentation; playing with a simple concept of layering, initially with concentric circles - each circle painstakingly cut out by hand and raised above the previous one with tiny supporting joints, like miniature architectural models. This very visual way of working allows room for trial and error, and Emma tells me of the hoards of discarded brass models piling up at their studio.
The pair also spend time hunting down the perfect stone - design of a piece often follows the discovery of a one-off cut gemstone - with skinny, geometric cuts of tourmaline or lemon quartz taking centre stage in the middle of the maze-like structures.
The strong symbolic feel of Shimell & Madden's collections also add to their appeal; although according to Emma people tend to add different meanings to each piece, depending on their perspective. The satisfying symmetry, clean lines and repeating pattern feel familiar yet modern; reminiscent all at once of ancient pagan symbolism, old english mazes and stellar constellations...yet the pieces manage to sit proud in contemporary spaces such as Dover Street Market, Ruberg in Islington, and The New Craftsmen.