Q&A with Georgie Brooks
Georgie Brooks’ work masterfully intertwines the old and the new. Inspired by Saxon hoards and mythological love stories, her pieces are brought to life with ancient and contemporary techniques and design adroit. Georgie’s work continues to push boundaries so we asked her to share her process and inspirations with us …
Many of your pieces are titled ‘Textura,’ what drew you to this name? And how does language tie into your inspirations?
My first collection was called Terrain as the texture of these pieces drew upon miniature landscapes. To mark a point of difference with my more recent collection Textura, I still wanted it to have a relatable reference to my old collection. For me, developing new collections is about weaving in a narrative as to how these pieces connect, giving them a name is the starting point of the story. Textura came about because it read like a name or a title rather than a description but drew reference to the texture of the pieces.
I feel like stories and jewellery are so intertwined. I like to imagine someone wearing one of my pieces hopefully for a lifetime as that is the story the individual wearer creates. There is also the history of a piece and the memory that a piece generates as it is worn over time.
I like to weave a bit of a story into all of the pieces in my collection as I feel it helps attract the right home. Recently I have been interested in imagined histories and how they can shape us. My heritage is from Cornwall, so a lot of the names I have given my rings are ancient names from that area. I started with the mythological love story of Tristan and Isolde and have kept researching names from there. They all conjure up very romantic meanings which I feel ties into the magic of finding a piece that is worn for a lifetime. Especially engagement rings or pieces that mark a special moment in someone’s life.
You’ve spoken before about your fascination with Viking and Saxon hoards. What is it about them that inspires your work?
An example is an amazing Anglo Saxon hoard found by an amateur archaeologist Basil Brown just before World War II in the UK called Sutton Hoo. It was found on a hunch and it unearthed one of the most incredible finds. A long boat preserved in the ground and a booty of treasure from a suspected King. No one really knows who this man was, but the collection of objects gives many clues.
Buried hoards such as this have always fascinated me for many reasons. There are so many golden objects that even with our technology would be difficult to make. Some filigree for example is so fine, that when it has been attempted to be remade today, a microscope is needed. The advanced technology and skills of people from the past fascinates me. There are so many skills that have been forgotten in time and somehow remembered or relearned. Alongside this, I am very drawn to how fluid and naturally made a lot of those pieces were. There were so many unsymmetrical, naturally formed compositions offset with formed deliberate geometries.
Aside from this, I think it’s the mystery of an imagined life adorned with those objects that always draws me in. They were worn for so many symbolic reasons, not always as symbols of status. The pieces were then buried with the wearer so they became a part of that person for eternity.
Your pieces marry ancient and contemporary processes, how does this unique tension play into your creative process?
I really enjoy exploring what technology is out there to evolve in new directions. I also think it’s very interesting to see if a method or technique applied in a different field can be used in my work somehow.
The new technologies allow me to make things that would be very difficult to produce otherwise. Having said that I think a piece becomes very tactile when it has been worked by hand. For me, merging the two gives me so many endless ways to work and explore. I’m hoping that by being inquisitive my work will always evolve and grow.
When creating a piece for e.g.etal, what are some of your considerations?
There are a lot of considerations, I always try to mix up my collection a bit with new pieces that contrast each other. I try to push myself so that each piece evolves from the next so there is evidence of growth and skill development. I do have a few pieces that are reproduced, but for me I feel like each piece should be different and if it is slightly similar it has evolved somehow. Working like this keeps me stay challenged and inspired.
I am always on the hunt for new and interesting stones and sometimes they pop up in the strangest of places. For example, I was trying to find another Torrington Emerald and managed to make contact with a retired miner from the area who had a collection of stones stored in an old Milo tin from many years ago. I really enjoy making connections like this, it’s amazing what crops up and it means my collection has a lot of very unique stones.
There are also practical considerations. My rings are very comfortable to wear so they can be worn constantly for a lifetime. I also like to have my collection accessible so I try to ensure that there is enough variation to create a bit of diversity.
Your ‘Duo-Bezel’ rings have become an iconic part of your collection, how did this innovative design come about?
It was a bit of a deviation really. I wanted to create an almost geometric window that was inspired by modernist stained glass windows. There is an incredible one in the UK by Marc Chagall, it has so much depth and form and of course there is the famous ceiling at the NGV. The next challenge is to try to make one set with three or four stones.
We’re constantly inspired by the incredible stones you work with, what makes a precious gemstone stand out to you? And how do you take it from discovery to a finished piece?
I am always on the lookout for interesting stones. My collection consists of many different stones but Australian Sapphires are really amazing as each one is unique, almost like a fingerprint.
I mostly draw up a design and organise for one of the gem cutters I work with to cut the stone to my drawings. Alternatively, I get the stone cut so it is influenced by the rough gemstone itself. There are so many talented people in Australia hand cutting stones and as a gemstone symbolises so many things for the wearer, I feel that it’s very important that this collaboration happens. It does take a lot of time to work this way, but it means that I have a collection of many one off pieces. Sometimes though, a finished stone stands out to me and I just have to make it into something.
A lot of my work includes “Free-form” stones. I am trying to reconsider how these stones can be cut so that it isn’t just about their shape. A recent stone I worked with was cut in a way so that the free-form was also in the volume of the stone as they are usually faceted in a traditional way. This stone also had facets that followed the free-form so it created a completely unique stone that had some particularly interesting refractions and three dimensional form. I will definitely be exploring this more.
I really enjoy trying to work with only Australian stones for so many reasons, but mainly because I know exactly where the stone has come from and I get to collaborate with the person who is cutting it for me.
As an exhibition designer for many years before becoming a contemporary jeweller, I have always seen how much better a project is when you collaborate with the experts and get them involved in the collaborative process early. It’s a fantastic way to learn about how far an idea can be pushed. I’ve developed a wealth of information about the world of gemstones by collaborating like this and I wouldn’t work any other way.
Free-form sapphire (shown from various angles) before being set
Sapphire set in the ‘Endellion Ring’
What does the year ahead look like for you, and do you have anything in the works?
The year ahead is busy and I would love to develop some exhibition ideas with a friend who is also a contemporary jeweller. Aside from that I am slowly developing new pieces for e.g.etal. It is always a big juggling act for me with two young kids, but to get into the studio and develop a special one off piece for an imagined new wearer is a really amazing thing to do. I also really love working with clients who commission me to make a bespoke one off piece. I am always helping them commemorate something, usually a positive life changing event but even if it’s to mark a sad memory, it is still a very uplifting experience for everyone.
Finally, do you have any pieces in e.g.etal’s collection that you would love for yourself?
I would love a pair of ‘Textura Free-form Earrings’ and after my exhibition launch I did end up having to take my ‘Aquamarine White Gold Ring’ as a present to myself. It’s an incredible 3ct stone from Harts Ranges in the NT. My mum wore a beautiful Aquamarine ring for her entire life and it makes me think of her. She wore it for so many years that the stone is now like a tumbled worn pebble.
You can see more about Georgie and her collection here.