Perceptions of Time
"I had to make a dress, which quite frankly was terrible. However, I spent a lot of time on the collar and that was definitely the best bit. I was advised to try jewellery making and I found that I loved it"
The art of being a jeweller is much more than simply a steady hand and good eyesight. The modern jewellery maker has to be a designer, a model maker, an artist and a marketing expert all rolled into one. Learning her art at the world famous St Martins University of Art, local Oxford model and designer Chloe Mellen has already been through quite a long learning process to launch her own collection of bespoke pieces. She took time out of her busy workshop to chat to OX about what it takes to design jewellery as characterful as hers.
So when did it all start? Was fashion and design something present in your earlier years?
My mum is a hairdresser and she owns two salons in Oxford and she does a lot of very avant garde and fashionable hair. I worked at my Mum’s salon on a Saturday and as a Wednesday shampoo girl as well and obviously I was constantly having my hair done too! I started modelling for her at a very early age which got me into the industry and I’ve then modelled for other people’s fashion and jewellery since then, so I’ve always been around the fashion and design industry I guess.
So was jewellery the specific part of the industry you were aiming for when you left school?
It was always my dream to go to St Martin’s. When I started, I intended to go into women’s fashion. But before you start your BA, you have to do a foundation course where you try everything, like graphic design and all sorts of other things. When it came to the ladies fashion part, I had to make a dress, which quite frankly was terrible. However, I spent a lot of time on the collar and that was definitely the best bit. I was advised to try jewellery making and I found that I loved it.
So now that you have left college and have started your own business, is there a clear design element that is notable in your work? Could we tell a Chloe Mellen design just by looking at it?
Well obviously when you are at university, the projects are very constrained. But I am most inspired by things close to me and important in my life. Other people at university were able to be political in their work and make things that relate to events happening a long way away in other countries. But I find I work best when I am inspired by my own life and the things happening around me, like my Time collection, which is very much about my own perception of time passing and where I am now after university. My work definitely has elements of steam punk in it. That sort of started quite naturally and it is definitely a direction I want to take my work in.
The image of a jeweller that comes to mind is somebody with a very steady hand and a lot of patience. Is this a true image do you think?
It depends on the item you are making. Some are very quick but others can take a long time and lot of patience. I am still perfecting my work of course but I actually quite like the less uniform parts of my designs. If there are squiggly lines in something, then I actually quite like that. My aim is to find the right audience for my work and to sell pieces that please them.
Top Image - Perceptions of Time Monocles
Middle Image - From the afro hair collection Chloe styled for hairdresser Anne Veck
Bottom Image - Perceptions of Time Rings