DIANA: Brenton, you’ve been making jewellery for some 40 years now, how has your approach to design and construction changed in that time?
BRENTON: To me the creative process is always aligned with solving a problem, from the initial drawings to the final execution of the piece.
I like to experiment with different metals and stones and ways of putting them together, I believe that the outcome should always reflect the hand of the maker.
You opened your first store in Melbourne in the 70s, how has Melbourne changed in the past few decades? Was it always the fashion mecca that it is now?
When I opened my first store in Crossley Street other designers soon followed, it was a creative hub for fashion designers and architects, surrounded by the Melbourne institutions Pellegrini’s and the Paperback Bookshop.
My wife worked at Georges, while studying art history at university and developed an enduring love of fashion, Georges carried the French and Italian brands and had wonderful parades. Joe Saba brought the Japanese designers to Melbourne in the 1980s, it was an exciting time. Melbourne has always attracted young designers, but we have many more international labels these days, it’s much harder for independent retailers who are doing something exciting to survive.
Can you tell us more about your love of the Russian Constructivists and how that influences your work?
The idea for my necklaces and brooches came from the constructivists’ fascination with the modern industrial world.
Vladimir Tatlin was influenced by Pablo Picasso’s cubist constructions which he saw in Picasso’s studio in Paris in 1913. These were three-dimensional still-lifes made of scrap materials. Tatlin began to make his own but they were completely abstract and made of industrial materials. That’s why I think stainless steel is the perfect medium for these pieces. I love the idea of using diamonds with stainless steel.
Each of the barrettes is a unique shape, can you tell us about this process of construction?
I wanted each piece to be an individual work, so the wearer can have something beautiful to wear in her hair, rather than the mass-produced hair clips around today.
Most of the barrettes are crafted from Aluminium, why do you choose to work with this material as opposed to another material such as brass?
Aluminium was considered more rare and precious than gold or silver through most of the 19th century. It has a warmth and lightness and can be anodised any colour.
How long have you been working with fibreglass and neon installations, and what drew you to work with these mediums?
After years of working on small scale objects I enjoyed the challenge of working on a different scale. I wanted to create free-standing objects not limited by the body and how we wear it. I started using fibreglass after seeing Isamu Noguchi’s organic forms.
I helped a friend work with neon on her RMIT thesis and became drawn by the fluidity and intense colour. I won a commission to make a neon arch that resembled pick-up-sticks which crossed Flinders Street Station for Melbourne’s 150th Birthday.
How would you describe the woman that you design for?
I have always designed for women who love fashion and design, who enjoy mixing precious pieces with more sculptural pieces, who treasure ‘design over diamonds’.
Do you see your jewellery as a smaller scale of your sculpture work?
Each piece is, of course a sculptural entity in itself, but also becomes part of the personality and story of the wearer. Often with my bespoke jewellery the creative process becomes a collaboration, from the initial drawing to the selection of the materials, right through to the final outcome.
Can you talk us through the process of making the aluminium bangles?
As a child I loved the coloured aluminium tumblers that were kept in the glove box of the family car.
One of the first things I made in the 1970s were coloured anodised aluminium bangles. I made over 4,000 in my parents’ suburban back yard. I sold them at Sportsgirl, which was a very different store in the 1970s, much more cutting edge.
My wife started to wear her original bangles again and people loved them, so I decided to reimagine them for now, doing black, gold and beaten ones.
Selected pieces from Brenton Angel Design are now available online with additional styles in store.