Self-taught jewellery designer Georgia Kemball hand-makes ethereal pieces using ancient techniques, and has collaborated with Dilara Findikoglu on her shows
- Who is it? Georgia Kemball, RCA graduate and GUT Magazine co-founder, who launched her eponymous jewellery brand three years ago
- Why do I want it? Mystical, handmade pieces crafted using ancient techniques
- Where can I find it? Matches Fashion and MACHINE-A, as well as her own online store
Who is it? In September of last year, Dilara Findikoglu staged her Spring/Summer 2020 show in London, which represented an immersion into the designer’s magical world. Complimenting the dark and fantastical looks were intricate pieces of jewellery: brass neck chokers, Turkish goddess pins, and pearl-adorned necklaces with 15th-century letter Ds. “The lettering was taken from the Macclesfield Alphabet,” Georgia Kemball, the self-taught jewellery designer who collaborated with Findikoglu on the pieces, says over the phone. “It’s this beautiful, hand-drawn alphabet with people and animals making the letters.”
Findikoglu and Kemball are a well-matched pair – like Findikoglu, Kemball’s approach to jewellery design takes mystical motifs and incorporates them into one-of-a-kind pieces. The first item of jewellery she ever made was a small gargoyle face she gave to her friend for his 30th birthday while studying textiles at the RCA. “The idea was that they were gargoyle buttons, so they’re protective,” she says of the dragon-like creatures, which historically glare out from Medieval edifices, but date back as far as Ancient Egypt. Such narratives are woven into Kemball’s namesake brand, her pieces defined by a personal, DIY aesthetic – not so dissimilar to that of art magazine GUT, which Kemball and her friend Ami Evelyn Hughes also founded that year.
Made in opposition to mass-produced glossies, GUT’s rebellious appeal lies in its “instinctual, clumsy and raw” take on fashion and culture. “We just wanted to make something that was different, that we hadn’t seen before and wanted to be very hands on. We wanted it to feel raw, moving away from a polished age that felt quite tired and boring,” Kemball says. That involves drawing inspiration from magic and mythology: transporting themes that are also present in Kemball’s own designs. Now, those designs – which often incorporate goblins and gargoyles – have gathered a small cult following, and are, as of last year, stocked on Matches Fashion and in independent concept store MACHINE-A.
Why do I want it? Bringing together Medieval pomp, sex, magic and myths with DIY grunge stylings reminiscent, in places, to the jewellery created by Judy Blame and Vivienne Westwood, Kemball’s pieces feel special for the way they meld old stories and techniques with new ideas. “I like to start by doing quite a bit of research, collecting images and trying to look at things that are from a mixture of times, from 80s punk to ancient jewellery,” she says. Alongside this melting pot of references, the appeal of Kemball’s pieces can be attributed to her awareness of jewellery’s unique sentimental pull. “I like how when people buy jewellery it means a lot to them,” she says. “I think everyone has that feeling that jewellery means something special. In the past, if people have lost a ring I’ve made, it doesn’t quite work replacing it because that original ring was the one that was special, and means more somehow.”
Titled Look After Yourself, Kemball’s new collection features her signature goblins, delicately crafted cupids, spherical egg charms and miniature orgy scenes – a playful style that sees entangled lovers wrap around a finger forming a ring, or congregate in amorous hoops to form earrings. Elsewhere, delicate “slub” chains are hand-crafted with large and small chain hoops and safety pins. The collection’s name taps into the designer’s interest in jewellery’s talismanic and protective properties, though it originated from somewhere much more down-to-earth. “I’d sourced all the costumes for the lookbook back in the costume house, and we used a few badges and there was a pin badge with ‘Look After Yourself’ written on it, that’s where the name came from,” she says. “I liked the idea of buying jewellery for yourself, it being special and kind of a protection in a way.”
Kemball’s pieces are all handmade using an age-old wax-casting technique, a painstaking process that requires carving tiny wax sculptures before being cast in sterling silver and gold. Kemball tells me that the process dates back to Ancient Greece, and is even mentioned in the fable of Icarus: “His dad, Daedalus,” she says, “made things out of wax to be cast”. These wax carvings are then cast either on the Holloway Road or in Hatton Garden. “It’s quite an amazing place in London,” she tells me of the storied jewellery district, “it feels like a time warp”. The result is offbeat pieces crafted in silver and gold, each beautifully imperfect and imbued with the same care that Kemball’s early pieces for her friends were made with. On friends, Kemball says: “I think the support from my friends is what has kept me going with it all, when it felt crazy to be making my stuff and being broke and not having a proper job just trying to push through that; friends encouraging me and supporting me that helped me most.”