Every month we introduce you to one of our consignment artists. There is no salt and pepper, we reveal the rawest story on our artists' creative journey. How they met and fell in love with jewellery? What inspired them and how? What was the making process like? What are the tips on being a successfully established jewellery artist? Visit our Facebook and Instagram pages to stay up to date on our latest collections. Go to INTERVIEW ARCHIVE to read more stories.

Artist of the Month (14): Meredith Robb

March 28, 2018

What is your origin story?

I am fortunate to come from a family that is very supportive of the arts, and has always nudged me in that direction. First I did a philosophy degree at Mount Allison University, which also has a fine arts program. My grandmother attended the same university when she was younger, and as she was always encouraging me as an artist, asked if I could take any art courses while I was there. She told me about how she had taken a jewellery class there, and about making a silver ring with a bloodstone set in it. She said she didn't know what happened to it, but wished she still had it. That stuck in my head. I wished she still had it too… what an amazing keepsake it would have made. The more I thought about her story, the more I came to appreciate what a singularly sentimental media jewellery could be. Not that you can't be attached to a painting, vase, or textile...etc., but jewellery is inherently symbolic. A beautifully designed wedding ring is a nexus of material, artistic and sentimental value. I knew from the moment I applied to NSCAD that it was jewellery or bust for me.

Slight Twist Ring - 18k yellow gold, black ceramic ball bearing

What makes your collection unique in the industry?

Hard question, because I don't know that unique is something any of us can really achieve; we are all steeped in the same zeitgeist. But I do think I work with materials differently than many artists. I also know that you can follow the thread of my work all the way back to my school days with amazing consistency. It all evolves from the same concepts. My work has always been an exploration of aesthetics versus functionality, as well as how we define beauty and assign value to things. It has always been about finding beauty in unexpected places, and the transformation that takes place in redefining an objects purpose. Sometimes those ideas are more subtlety transcribed in the work, but they are always there.

The "Scribble" collection in progress!

Where do you gather inspiration?

I am very materials-based. I have always found the most inspiration from stuff you find in bins at hardware stores. Nuts, bolts, ball bearings and washers: these things are endlessly fascinating to me. I love nothing more than finding an interestingly shaped piece of hardware for which the intended use is a complete mystery.

Scribble Necklace - 18k yellow gold, pink + white sapphire ball bearings.

What is your work process like? What materials and techniques do you favor?

I always start with the materials, and those materials are always some iteration of machine parts and precious metal. This contrast is the source of nearly all my inspiration. In recent years, I have been mostly devoted to industrial gemstones, specifically ball bearings made from synthetic sapphire, ruby and spinel. These are actual machine parts - used for their optical properties (like in lasers), their chemical properties (resistant to corrosion in strongly acidic or basic environments) or their old fashioned durability and heat resistance (high friction situations). When a watch says it is a 19 jewel movement, pop open the back and you will see tiny synthetic ruby radial bearings ticking away back there. When I first learned of them, I thought they were incredible. I started looking at ways I could incorporate them into my work, which at that time revolved around stainless steel hardware.

Gold Washer Pendant - 18k yellow gold, diamonds

But how do you set a sphere? I have set them into stainless steel washers. I have set them in gold. I actually once set a ruby sphere into a sapphire radial bearing. I am all about trial and error... I don't really plan ahead. I hate sketching, and find it somewhat impressive that others have that sort of patience and discipline to think through a piece on paper. I might roll an idea around in my head, but it only crystallizes when I am making it. I repeated things I like and scrap what I don't.

Slight Twist Studs - 18k yellow gold, white sapphire, ruby + black ceramic ball bearings

What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from working in the industry?

Nothing comes easy. The most successful people I have had the privilege of working with or for are also some of the most stressed out. Also, it is as much about personality as it is raw talent. Or rather, there are talents beyond the ability to design or manufacture jewellery that are as important to success. Confidence, salesmanship, risk-taking, focus, persistence...etc. Those are skills on which people build lasting careers.

What tips do you have for aspiring designers?

Like any career in the arts, it is really about hustle, momentum, and compromise. To be frank, there are way more people being trained then there is space in the market. Most will not see the five year mark. If you want to keep with it, then you need to capitalize on every opportunity. Your full time job is keeping it going, and that means at least as much time spent on the business end of things as the creative end of things. Also, it might be one particular skill that ends up paying the bills, so embrace that. You will likely be financing the work you love with work you don't. It is romantic to think that being in the arts means being free from the daily grind of other careers, but that is severely misguided.

Meredith enjoying a precious family moment.

A big thank you to Meredith for inspiring us with your design journey! For more examples of Meredith's work click here.

18Karat Studio+GalleryARTIST OF THE MONTH-ROBB