Despite being at a relatively early stage in her career, Birmingham School of Jewellery graduate Daisy Grice has already earned a number of accolades for her gothic, fairytale-esque jewellery, including being named Innovator in the Editors Choice 2018 awards, and receiving a Gold Award in the 2019 Goldsmiths' Craft and Design Awards. In a recent interview, we spoke to Daisy about the latest addition to her growing list of achievements - being one of eleven young makers chosen for Shine 2020, our digital talent showcase.
What first attracted you to a career as a maker, and how did you get started in the industry?
I’ve always absolutely loved the arts. I have artisan blacksmiths in my family so have always felt the desire to create. Whilst I was studying for my art foundation year, I did an evening class in jewellery, and I loved it, it made me realise that you could pursue jewellery making as a profession. The tutor suggested that I apply to Birmingham School of Jewellery, so I did, and they loved my enthusiasm and let me in.
I did a two-year HND course at Birmingham which taught me about design and traditional bench skills, and then I went on to work for a jewellery designer called Paul Spurgeon, who taught me how to wax carve. After that, I went back to university for my third year, which was a computer aided jewellery design for industry top up year. So I now use both traditional bench skills and modern technology to create my work. Alongside managing Daisy Grice Jewellery, I also work as a CAD designer for a jewellery brand in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter.
At what point in that learning process did you begin to develop a signature style?
Well, my style has always been gothic and edgy, it has just become more sculptural as I’ve learnt new techniques. What I love about jewellery is that it’s an extension of yourself, so having quite a gothic, dark style myself, it was quite easy to put that into my jewellery. I’ve always looked at jewellery and struggled to find pieces that I really liked, so initially I thought, right, I can’t see anything I want to wear, so I’m going to make what I want to wear, and I’ve built on my design style from there. I love making large-scale pieces, but obviously I’ve tried to make more commercial pieces too.
I’ve found that a lot of gothic pieces are often lower-end, or they’re quite literal, and personally I don’t like literal design. Often, I’ll take elements from nature like branches, bones or fangs, and change and adapt them so that they become something entirely new. So many people have a gothic or alternative style now, and it’s about showing them that there are designs for them that aren’t just say, a skull or a spider. It’s about taking literal forms like that and adapting them into something that becomes a really beautiful and unique design.
What can you tell us about the collection you'll be debuting at Shine?
So the collection I’m showcasing at Shine is actually my graduate collection, the Twisted Tales Collection. It’s inspired by the darkness of nature, the power of nature and the contrast between light and dark, life and death. Even when I was younger, I was always drawn to the darker side of stories, or to stories that had an edginess about them, and when I’m creating, I like to have a story or a character in mind.
So, the main piece in the collection is a neck piece that I designed for a kind of dark queen character. It’s a neck piece made of dark entwined branches with sterling silver thorns, with matte black nylon that contrasts with the highly polished thorns. Nylon is a synthetic material, which starts as powder which then gets fused together in layers by a laser, it is initially white, but can be dyed a variety of colours. Obviously, I went for black because I love black! For me, it was the perfect material, as it is extremely light weight so does not restrict the scale of a piece. If the neck piece was in silver for example, even though you could get it black rhodium plated, it would be extremely heavy and difficult to wear.
When creating the rest of the collection I took elements of the statement collar and the dark queen aesthetic but at the same time, when I design, I want every piece to work on its own and have its own identity, rather than just being the same thing in different sizes. I have a lot of people make comments about my work like, oh, that pendant looks like beetle fangs, or that pendant looks like horns, and I really like that, because I love hearing everyone’s views on my work. Going back to my earlier point, because they’re not literal designs, people can make up their own minds about what a piece looks like, and that’s something I really like.
What does being chosen for Shine 2020 mean to you - both on a professional level and a personal level?
I’ve previously taken part in some of the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s programmes, and I was extremely excited to be asked to take part in Shine, especially considering the current Covid situation, as it’s a time when emerging designers need this sort of support. During such an uncertain period, seeing the invitation email was a nice feeling.
So that was definitely a massive positive for me, but it’s also about taking the next step, because I did the Getting Started course in 2019, so this is like the next natural step from there. What I’ve learned already from the Shine programme has actually been really helpful, because obviously everything is geared more towards the online world now, and although I’ve already got my website, I’m learning a lot more about video-making and other digital skills. It’s something you put on the back burner because you have so many other things to be doing as a designer maker, so it’s really given me a chance to focus on that. Also, because it’s a selling event and it’s online, it will open up my work and the work of all the designers to a much larger audience.
What have you learned from the process of planning and creating your collection?
I sometimes struggle when it comes to deciding when a piece is finished. I’m a massive perfectionist when it comes to my work, which is great, but it can also be a slight hindrance, because I continue working on a piece until it is the very best it can be. That can be a very lengthy process of trial and error, and my jewellery is very personal to me, so I am my worst critic - I almost feel I need someone else to tell me when a design is ready. Equally, having said that, because I’m perfectionist, I make sure that every single piece that I design is perfect in terms of aesthetics and functionality.
It’s an interesting thing to try to make something look different, but also make it work in terms of wearability and durability. There’s a lot of jewellery around at the moment that’s obviously kind of throw away, and I’m very against fast fashion, I want my pieces to last a lifetime.
What do you enjoy most about being a maker - for example, is the joy in the making itself, or in sharing the finished pieces with the world?
Well that's quite a hard one, because I actually really like the whole process. For me, I would say I love making, but actually it’s the design side that I find most interesting, because that creativity is different for every person, and once you’ve designed a piece, someone might design something similar, but that piece will always be unique to you. I get the most amazing buzz when I create something new, I don’t know how to describe it, but I just know when I’m on the path to a perfect piece. I love when I’ve made something for the first time, it’s taken ages and lots of testing, and it just looks great. For example, with the nylon neck piece, I literally had one shot at making it and printing it in two parts, and the deadline was approaching so I had to send it to print, and I was freaking out the whole time, and then when it actually came back I couldn’t believe it, it was such a great feeling.
So there’s that, and also there’s so many nice people out there, just today a lady messaged me and said I wouldn’t even be able to choose a piece, I love them all, and it’s incredible hearing stuff like that. When you send a piece out and get a nice email back that saying they’re in love with your work, then you know that what you’re doing, even for yourself, has helped someone else and made them feel good as well, so that’s definitely a positive. Obviously I do some bespoke stuff as well, so it’s always nice to combine your ideas and the client’s ideas, and come up with something that myself as a designer might not have necessarily thought of without going through the bespoke process.
What kind of person do you think will be most attracted to your collection, and to your design style in general - do you have a target audience in mind?
When I’m designing, I’m often thinking of what I like, to be honest, because I feel that as a designer, I want to make what I want, which I know a lot of makers wouldn’t do, or wouldn’t say. However, by doing something that I actually want to wear myself, makes it personal and I think that shows in the work. I think my work is me, everyone always says that I look like the style of my jewellery, and I really like that.
In terms of my actual target market, I never design for a particular gender or age of person but more for their style, my jewellery is gender fluid. I’ve had quite a few different kinds of people, obviously a lot of alternative people really like my work and find it interesting, because they haven’t seen much jewellery that is gothic but also contemporary. I often have customers who are artists or designers themselves in other fields, so they are people who really appreciate strong design and craftsmanship themselves.
What are you most looking forward to about participating in Shine 2020?
I am really looking forward to meeting the other designers. I always really love that about shows and programmes at the Goldsmiths’ Centre, because it’s such a great community. As a designer-maker, you can feel quite alone in your workshop, so learning about how other makers are doing and where they are in the industry is important. Especially as we’re all emerging designers, so it’s really nice to find out how others are doing, and it can be reassuring to see others are in a similar place. Obviously, the mentoring is a huge bonus and will be really helpful.
What's next - what are your creative and career goals for the next two years?
Within the next two years I plan to launch a new collection, or probably two collections. I’m currently working on one at the minute which definitely has traits from my current Twisted Tales collection, but it’s a level up, so to speak. I want it to have articulate elements, and as a designer that’s something that’s really hard to work out, as you have to test a lot of different connections, and I want it to sit almost like the connection is invisible, so it’s all part of one piece. That’s definitely something I’ve wanted to do for a while.
I’d also love to create more fine jewellery pieces, so in gold and diamonds, because although silver jewellery is amazing for everyday wear, being able to create fine pieces is like creating treasure. I absolutely love fine jewellery myself and I think injecting my dark aesthetic into that would be really interesting, especially if I combined it with nylon. 18 carat yellow gold for example, it wouldn’t just contrast in texture and colour with nylon, but it would be two materials with completely different value, so to put them together would be a cool and unique combination.
Along with the fine jewellery I would love to create some really futuristic, gothic engagement rings, and in terms of actual career goals, I would like to apply for the Goldsmiths’ Fair. It’s such a grand show and it is home to the industry’s top designer makers, so I would absolutely love to be part of it.