Joe Spurgeon of The Horrors Is Designing Imperfect, Brutalist Jewellery

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Cinder by Joe Spurgeon
CinderCourtesy of Joe Spurgeon

As he launches his first collection, the drummer of the British rock band talks about embracing imperfection in his rugged jewellery designs

  1. Who is it? The eponymous jewellery design studio from The Horrors’ drummer Joe Spurgeon
  2. Why do I want it? Handmade sculptural pieces that are an ode to the beauty of life’s imperfections 
  3. Where can I find it?

Who is it? After 14 years as the drummer for rock band The Horrors, Joe Spurgeon was looking for a creative outlet other than music, which still involved working with his hands. Intimately tactile in both process and design, jewellery spoke to the designer as the organic solution. “I like the tactility,” he says. “I mean, I’m a drummer, so I guess there’s this same sense with jewellery of being in control with your hands.” Earlier this year, after three years spent mastering the craft, Spurgeon launched his eponymous jewellery design studio.  

Jewellery design wasn’t an entirely foreign foray for Spurgeon; in 2005, he started a BA in Fashion at Kingston School of Art in London, where he first discovered the fine craft. Around the same time, however, the designer joined The Horrors – and with the band’s rapid rise to success, his studies had to be put on hold. “It was one or the other really. And the band was probably more appealing at that point,” he says, with a laugh. But in 2019, Spurgeon decided to dust off his interest in design and undertook a course in jewellery and wax carving at Central Saint Martins. 

During the consecutive lockdowns of the pandemic, the jewellery project quickly became a meditative practice – an escape from reality with a grounding finality: the satisfaction of having crafted a “wearable form of art”. In this sense, music and jewellery exist as two separate creative realms for Spurgeon. “Music for me feels slightly endless. It’s something that you could keep on going with forever,” he explains. “With jewellery, I can close the book. When it’s done, it’s done. And I can move on.” 

The designer’s first collection Cinder is the mesmerising result of both these years spent experimenting with technique and his patient observation of his seaside surroundings on his daily walks from home to studio. Using the evolutionary process of coastal erosion as a conceptual base, he artfully toys with jewellery’s relationship with time. Instead of a polished timelessness that is typical of jewellery design, Spurgeon’s creations emphasise the beauty in imperfection and encourage the wearer to let the piece bear the marks of a life lived. 

Why do I want it? Balancing the textured intricacies of his designs with brutalist-informed hard edges, Spurgeon crafts sculptural pieces of an otherworldly beauty that are designed to become an extension of the wearer. Each creation down to the O-rings is handmade using the 5,000-year-old technique of lost wax carving; the pieces are cast in solid metal from a hand-carved wax mould. “They are designed so that you know you’re wearing them,” says the designer of his pieces’ distinct weightiness that draws the wearer’s attention to the interplay of skin, jewellery, and their surroundings. 

Although the designer works with silver and gold, bronze is Spurgeon’s material of choice as its composition lends itself so perfectly to the idea of finding beauty in timely imperfection. “Generally, when I make the jewellery, I present it in a clean and shiny form, and I let the person know that over time that will change,” explains the designer. “But I find that it is quite romantic that it changes over time depending on what you’re doing. Life isn’t perfect in any way and bronze reflects that.” 

Just as his designs are visually suggestive of craggy rock surfaces worn at by ocean tides, Spurgeon embraces erosion in his technical process. The designer polishes the outside of the jewellery but doesn’t touch the deep, textured parts. With time, a contrast develops between the two as the inner surfaces “become really dark and the bits on the outside that you’re rubbing against your trousers accidentally stay a bit shinier and be more susceptible to oxidation.”

For his next collection, Spurgeon is working on setting stones within the current designs. “It’s going to be like a journey,” says the designer. “This is the start, and the next bit will be adapting the designs and adding a few new pieces.” Given his unique alchemical and sculptural approach to jewellery, Spurgeon’s journey will certainly be one to watch as he continues his ode to the beauty of life with all its imperfections.

Where can I find it?