Trinkets and Townhouses with Jewellery Designer Jessica McCormack
Jewellery designer Jessica McCormack set up shop at 7 Carlos Place in London's Mayfair in 2008. Her townhouse here serves as a design studio, workshop and retail space - and with its museum-worthy collection of art, it could well be a gallery too.
11 March, 2019
Sotheby's-trained Jessica McCormack is a disconcerting storyteller. Fickle and feverishly passionate about art, history and, of course, jewellery, she has a townhouse at 7 Carlos Place that serves as a retail space, design studio and workshop - and is a composition of her evolving and changeable interests.
Her debut jewellery collection, "Messenger of the Gods" was inspired by Greek mythology: "I just love historical references or anything with a story." Signature motifs include birds and stars, wings and hearts; McCormack is a romantic dreamer in the first degree.
While her bricks-and-mortar set up in Mayfair is the first port of call for most shoppers, McCormack's not shying away from other revenue streams such as online and Instagram. Still though, slowing down the process of getting from A to B is important to McCormack - whether that's in reference to jewellery selection or a long-winded adventure by train from Venice to London.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
A total mash-up of late-19th-century elegance, 90s grunge and contemporary. I'm influenced by anything and everything from mid-century architecture to modern art.
Talk us through your design process. You begin with a series of hand drawn sketches...
I design in different ways, sometimes it comes from an idea and I fit diamonds into the design, and sometimes I am inspired by a special diamond and the creation is centred around that stone. I draw everything by hand, and we make everything by hand in the workshop at the townhouse. I love the intense human element to everything we do.
At 7 Carlos Place your workshop, studio and client space all reside together. What was the thinking behind this?
Combining retail offerings, a design studio and workshop creates a very dynamic space fitted with a revolving collection of contemporary art, an overstuffed library, unusual found objects and family photos. It's a collector's space, constantly evolving; I love the idea of an ever changing home that grows with you.
Is it important to operate both in bricks and clicks?
I think jewellery should be sold in a relaxed environment; you need to be able to handle a jewel, feel the weight in your hand and see how it works with the body. Jewellery is an emotional purchase and in such a fast-paced world, our clients love that they can pop in and take their time building their jewellery wardrobe. We also need to be able to service our global clientele via the website, Instagram and WhatsApp, but we ensure our online experience is still a very personal one.
Talk us through the inspiration for three of your favourite pieces...
I am fickle and change my mind all the time. I am particularly excited about our new collections: one inspired by botanicals, one by clouds and one by matchsticks. We also have a new high jewellery offering which, for any designer, is the dream as it allows you to play in the fantasy arena and work with extraordinary stones to bring the pieces to life. All collections are very different but the narrative behind each is important to me.
How has your Sotheby's training impacted your work?
It was hugely influential. I was exposed to Russian crown jewels, 20s Cartier and Lalique… jewellery I had never heard of, let alone handled in New Zealand. It inspired me to use the traditional Georgian and Victorian techniques I learned about; I've taken the essence of these forgotten eras and made new jewellery for a modern woman.
We've heard about the four Cs but you define them differently...
I have an unconventional set of four C's. They are craft, collect, curate and cult. These are for me the four pillars of our business. I address them and ensure they can all be acknowledged and contributed too when designing or looking at a business decision.
What are some of your key influences?
There can hardly be an artist who has tackled the issues of what it is to be a woman and a mother with more power than Louise Bourgeois - I don't think I could have appreciated this when I was younger. I'm lucky to have two Bourgeois works at Carlos Place; including one of her Personages. She created these works as companions to combat her loneliness and carry the weight of her sadness.
Where are you from and how has that shaped or inspired you?
I am proud and humbled to be from New Zealand. It's such a beautiful country. It's my home and everything I do is deeply rooted in that. Being a New Zealander sculpts my entire life, ethos, creative process, style and family.
Where's your next adventure?
I am taking the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train from Venice to London - so excited. I love the idea of slowing down the process of getting from A to B and being able to absorb both the culture and the journey en route.
Does travel inform your work?
Being curious and exploring inspires me all the time.
What's your take on souvenirs?
I have a collector's possession obsession, so I love buying souvenirs, mementos, trinkets and keepsakes wherever I go.
What are you reading at the moment?
If I have a spare minute, I am reading. It's my escapism and meditation rolled into one. I have just finished Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and recently finished (and loved) A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.
One piece of travel advice...
Don't travel with three children under three!
And finally, what's in your SUITCASE?
Always my Kindle and my Dr Barbara Sturm skincare products. Anything else I can buy on the way.