Glass interviews British jewellery designer Liv Luttrell
THERE is this spoken link between art and fashion, where one can’t exist without the other. A physical manifestation of that relationship is apparent in British designer Liv Luttrell’s jewellery.
Inspired by architecture, art and the human form, her instinctive design approach has led her to create instantly recognisable shapes made to empower the wearer.
Focusing on hand-craftsmanship is a strong value Luttrell holds with her wearable sculptures, so upon an invite to her east London studio she walked me through her pieces and we spoke about how this all came about and her exciting new launch of silver rings.
Was there a specific piece of jewellery, or memory of jewellery that struck a chord in you that led you down the path of becoming a designer? I was always really obsessed with design. When I was at art school, I started making jewellery pieces, but I wasn’t studying jewellery, I was studying graphic design. But, you go on these meandering conceptual brief-led journeys, and just a variety of mine turned into pieces of jewellery. Before that I had thought about studying geology. So, at that point I was like I want to go and focus on that more.
Though I think the V&A was probably the place that I first discovered, and got really obsessed, by jewellery. I always liked the older, more Byzantine pieces that are very heavy gold. I’ve got a brass ring from the V&A that I bought when I was about 14. I remember calling my mom being like “please can I buy this like replica” and she was really bemused by my taking to this quite abstract ring.
You spent time training at the bench of a goldsmith – what was the most valuable skill you learnt? I think probably the most useful thing was learning about how things are made. Firstly, just understanding construction. So, when we speak about how they’re going to make the piece, I can understand the different options.
Whereas I think it would be really frustrating if you didn’t have an understanding of how they were going to construct the piece. And also finish. I think when you’ve done something yourself a lot, even if you wouldn’t be able to finish to the standard that they can you can appraise to a different degree.
What made you decide to launch your own label? I always knew that I wanted to start my own business so it never really felt like a decision. I sort of launched straight after I had finished my goldsmithing. I made this emerald ring, and I had started designing it the year I was studying and made it after I left.
I just immediately launched and didn’t ever question it. And looking back now I think it’s kind of a mad thing to do when you are 22 or 23. I was not experienced in the world of business, but it just felt like the right thing and now I am where I am.
Your jewellery is never collectivised but rather stands alone. Can you tell me why you have decided to do this? My focus has always been making stuff that’s at the higher end from a quality perspective. And I suppose it’s easier to do stuff in that you tend to sell more one of a kind pieces or they sell in a slightly different manner, you don’t need to do a kind of continual, big launch of lots of pieces that look quite similar. You can do it in a slightly slower, more organic manner.
There’s a thread that pulls all of my pieces together but I wouldn’t ever describe the designs I’m doing as a collection because I feel like if I were designing a collection there’d be a temptation to kind of fill out pieces with perhaps weaker designs. I don’t particularly want to be cornered by the idea that you’ve chosen a collection theme and then you have to stick with that.
Do you think that because you work so closely with your clients that you would like to give them something unique? Something that makes them keep coming back? Yeah, definitely. I think a lot of my clients are repeat customers. And I get to know them really well and work with them over a long period. So it would be important as well that they have something different.
Working in bespoke – do you have a particular project that has been your favourite? Not sure you’re allowed to have favourites [laughs], but I think one of the most dramatic pieces that I loved working on was a pair of diamond and tsavorite garnet earrings.
They were made for a client who I do know really well and absolutely love which feeds into my love for the earrings – she wore them for her wedding day.
Your new project are rings, which you have created your own waxwork for. What made you decide to do this and can you explain the process? Wax carving is really traditional ancient technique where you carve the shape out of wax and then essentially, there is a bit more to the process but what happens is the molten metal is poured in and then wax melts out and you end up with the shape.
It’s called cire perdue. I have done quite a lot a bit over the years, but I’ve never really developed my own series of work in the kind of style that I’m doing now.
So over lockdown, I was doing a little wax carving and starting with this block and then considering different angles and just organically turning it into a shape.
How do you want people to feel when wearing your jewellery? I think I want people to feel quite like powerful. A lot of the time I’m working with women who are shopping for themselves.
It’s kind of powerful statement of independence, I guess. I want you to feel bold.