Alison Macleod: Jewelry Inspired by Antique Treasures
Alison Macleod jewelry is inspired by heirlooms and antique treasures. She hopes that her brand carries a story that passes down through generations. From the mine to the jewelry box, her production process is focused on sustainable and ethical sourcing.
You have mentioned your fascination for old jewelry pieces that have hidden stories with them. How are you able to tell your story through your pieces?
For me it is all about subtleties, designing pieces with a suggestion of times past and the associations that that brings. The real stories come when the pieces find an owner, that’s when the intrinsic value is surpassed by sentimental value.
Have you ever had a design or jewelry mentor? How did they inspire you?
I have been lucky to have many mentors throughout my career so far, helping with both the creative and business sides of my practice. The contemporary craft community is so friendly and open to share experiences, it is a great sector to work in.
I really believe in the power of mentoring as a way of supporting people to reach their fullest potential, and have taken on a couple of mentoring positions myself locally.
With custom creations, how are you able to create something that tells the client’s story, while still incorporating your own passions and inspirations into the design?
I love working with clients on commissions. I have a consistent aesthetic so people come to me who like my style already. I encourage them to pick out pieces from my collection as a starting point, and we discuss the reasons they are drawn to them. We discuss stones and metal, and then I make a mock up for them on Photoshop, which gives them a good idea of how the finished piece will look. We make adjustments until we are both happy before I start the making process. The client’s creative input often takes my design in directions I would never have taken on my own; it is a true collaboration.
Tell us a bit more about your creative process. Do you design the jewelry already wondering about the history the piece will carry in a couple of years?
When I’m working on a new collection, I design pieces that I would like to wear myself. I think about outfits and scenarios, then problem solve around what would work both aesthetically and practically. At Art College I was an avid sketchbooker, and although I dip in and out of it now and again, I generally now design pieces in my head. I can quite accurately envisage a new design and change the proportions of elements mentally before starting work at the bench.
I find the story of a piece so interesting. A design is so intimately mine when I am making it but as soon as it finds its owner it is entirely theirs, gaining the layers of meaning that will stay with it forever. Perhaps it is gifted to mark a big occasion but through its daily wear it also plays a part in the little intimate moments of life. I remember as a little girl, playing with the necklace my Mum used to wear, to me it was as much a part of her as her hands or her hair. To have my jewelry be part of these moments, big and small, is such an honor.
Sustainability and ethics seem to be an essential aspect of your brand, from the mining all the way to the final product. Do you think it is important for other jewelry companies to adapt this holistic approach? Tell us a bit about your mantra here.
Being a small business makes it easier to make environmentally and socially conscious choices over profit driven ones. Our early decision to change to Fairtrade gold felt like a big leap at the time, but it’s one I’m so proud of. We still have lots of areas to look at, there will always be room for improvement.
Were you ever able to find out the history behind any of the vintage pieces that you own? Is there a story that stuck with you?
My own jewelry means so much to me, there are lots of little stories there. I often re-model client’s unworn heirlooms, giving them new life and love hearing the stories behind each piece. I’ve even been known to talk customers out of a re-modeling pieces because they mean so much to them.
On the topic of pieces that carry history, we see that there has been an increased effort to shop vintage and secondhand, especially in the fashion industry. Do you think that has affected the jewelry industry as well?
I love buying second hand clothes, it is such a great way to find interesting pieces. The antique jewelry market seems to be thriving, I’m following lots of dealers on Instagram and get so inspired by their posts.
How have you been getting inspiration during the pandemic? How has it affected you and your brand?
Living in the Scottish countryside I feel really lucky having the freedom to escape into nature. At the moment our schools are closed, so I am sharing the homeschooling of our boys with my husband, so work time is precious. My studio is just down the street, and although I’m only managing to get there a couple of days a week, at the moment it is my sanctuary!
What do you want Alison Macleod Jewellery to be known for?
My aim is always to create pieces with understated elegance, pieces which never shout but have a quiet presence.
Finally, what historical time period or aesthetic do you find your inspiration from?
I love the sentiment of Victorian jewelry, the sensibility of Arts & Crafts, and the elegance of Art Deco.
To learn about Alison Macleod, visit https://www.alisonmacleod.com and follow her Instagram @alisonmacleodjewellery