29 September 2014
Rowena Murray is a jewelry designer and gemologist who lives and works in London, UK. Rowena's practice draws on the stories and histories she has encountered across the world, having been born in England, growing up in Ireland, studying in Ireland, interning in Switzerland, and designing in France.
Rowena has collaborated with SMP in the creation of the Montana Sapphire Gravel Washing Kit which, inspired by the story of Yogo Creek Sapphires, celebrates the magic of material discovery experienced by early gold prospectors.
How would you describe what you do?
I design jewellery, mainly with precious materials, and at the moment I specialise in bespoke pieces.
Do you have a favorite material and is there a tool you couldn't do without?
I've been lucky in that I've been able to explore many different materials in my work and that is something which is always the central focus of my designs. From plastics, pearls and tattoo paper to the precious metals and gems that I'm focused on at the moment, I try to identify their special character and what I can communicate about it through designing or making. For that reason I find it impossible to name a favourite!
The tool I couldn't do without is in fact my hands, whether I'm drawing the minute detail of a design or carving a door into a nut the thing I rely on most is being able to control this process and the degree of precision required, with a subtlety not really possible from a machine. Which is funny as my mum always jokes that when I was little I never liked getting my hands dirty!
Can you remember the first thing you made?
Yes I can actually! They were a set of tiny gel stickers I had in different colours and shapes, like stars, squares and circles, with foiled backs. I must have been about 7 or 8 at the time and I remember arranging them in a row across my striped T-shirt in a brooch-like design. I even have a photograph of me proudly displaying my efforts!
What do you feel the role of makers and designers is today?
I feel the role of any creative person is to absorb the world around them and recreate it in an abstract way. The best designs or works of art I think are the ones that help others to see things little differently or look at the world a little bit closer. It's about showing a better or more perfect reality than actually exists, which ideally can also act as a motivating force for good.
Can you tell us what you're presenting with SMP at LDF?
I'm presenting a collaboration with The Saturday Market Project, which is a gemstone panning kit containing sapphire gems from Montana. We've sourced these directly from the area along with dirt from the basin of the Missouri river itself!
Why should people come and get involved?
It's a chance to discover more about something which is usually kept hidden from view in the mysterious world of the gem trade. To learn about the giant forces at work behind the smallest of objects. And of course you can walk away with a precious gem!
As well as presenting the Montana Sapphire Gravel Washing Kit at our LDF shop, Rowena is also giving, 'Gem Formations Explained', a talk which explores the fascinating science involved in the creation of these precious materials. Booking is now open via Eventbrite and full details can be found on our LDF website.
Images courtesy of Rowena Murray