Amy Rodriguez would caution against adopting her approach to jewellery-making. “I have very battered, burned fingers,” she admits. London-based jewellery designer specialises in creating wearable art, meticulously hand-crafted through highly experimental, some might say hazardous, techniques with nautical esoterica as a recurring theme.
Born to a Spanish father and an English mother, Rodriguez grew up in a community in Madrid and moved to Cornwall, where she first delved into metalwork at the tender age of 13. She studied metalsmithing, sculpture, and fine art until she was 19, then enrolled in a jewellery school in Hatton Gardens. Here, she melded her metalworking and sculpting prowess with avant-garde ideas, aiming to create sculptural jewellery that not only adorns but also "amplifies and heightens the human form."
Anchored between the Iberian Mediterranean and the Cornish Atlantic, Rodriguez draws inspiration from the depths of the sea. Her artistic repertoire spans from rugged masculine maritime artefacts of utility to ethereal depictions of romantic sea creatures, reflecting the duality of her coastal upbringing.
The nostalgia of seaside memories materialises in a childlike playfulness in Rodriguez's work, where shapes and forms blur the line between the familiar and enigmatic. The surface of her earrings, chain bracelets and rings is almost imprinted with the residue of the sunbeams underwater, casting jagged yet meticulous shadows on the smooth surface of the silver, holding within themselves the traces of the undulating waves the way seashells hold the echoes of the ocean in their spiralled chambers. The harshness of the angular shapes that contour the wearer's features contrasts with the fluidity of the material. The outcome is guided by the process, the jeweller's profound bond with the metal, an "indescribably deep" relationship with silver.
With the rising influence of AI and digitalisation in art, the authenticity and tangible allure of Rodriguez's work resonate profoundly, emphasising the timeless, continuous allure of artisanal creations amidst the tide of automation. Below, Rodriguez tells METAL all about her boundary-pushing creations, the evolving landscape of jewellery, her daring artistic process, the legend of the lost city of Lyonesse and the YouTube seal watch.
Can you recall the very first piece of jewellery you ever made?
The first piece of jewellery I ever made was an attempt at a gothic-style ring, which ended up looking like a battered-up knuckleduster.
Can you share more about the evolution of your work, from sculptural pieces to wearable art? When did your passion for metalwork and sculpture lead you into the realm of jewellery-making?
My fascination with ancient Egyptian, Roman and Berber treasures led me to start evolving my sculptures into jewels. I found a lot of excitement in breaking the norms within traditional jewellery-making and would push myself to make intricate wearable art from designs I had created for larger sculptural forms.
Your jewellery exudes a sculptural essence of sorts, as beautifully showcased in Morrigan's striking still-life imagery. When envisioning your creations, do you imagine them adorning the body in a specific way, or do they exist in your mind as standalone pieces of art?
Originally, in my imagination, they existed as standalone pieces of art; the more I work with the body and see my work against the body, the more I'm inspired to amplify and heighten the human form. I find this an incredibly rewarding challenge—complimenting the silhouette with unconventional forms.
Fashion often draws from maritime themes, intertwining romantic visuals with existential narratives. For instance, Alexander McQueen's Plato's Atlantis and Iris Van Herpen's exploration of the human body alongside marine ecology in her Sensory Seas collection. How do you infuse romanticism and existential themes inspired by maritime stories into your designs while maintaining the playful essence of marine nature?
I aim to evoke the timeless romance of seafaring treasures through the intricate designs of my pieces, infusing my pieces with a playful sense of wonder.
How much does your work represent your own style and identity? Do you wear your own jewellery?
For years, I have weighed my ears down with hunks of silver, I wouldn't leave the house without earrings; I would feel like I had lost my identity completely if I were to see myself unjewelled. As my ear holes started splitting, I decided to un-bedraggle myself and wear more face-forming and contouring, simple yet still very me pieces. This is a short era - I will return to the mayhem of sinking in jewels.
You spoke to 10 Magazine about the movement in the jewellery world that is "ripping away all narrow-minded ideas of beauty, gender, style and wealth.” How do you see this movement influencing the future of jewellery design both on a small scale and in the mainstream?
This shift represents a seismic change in the industry's landscape. This change empowers designers to explore and push boundaries, making a great impact on the way we can all freely represent our individualism by wearing jewellery. Our jewellery becomes not a symbol of status or wealth but a means of self-expression and empowerment.
Sterling silver is the predominant material used in your designs. Could you tell us a bit about the sourcing processes of the material? And why sterling silver?
I source my silver in Hatton Garden. I work mostly with silver grain and form my pieces from scratch using different heating, rolling, and texturing methods. To me, sterling silver is the most malleable, gentle and responsive metal. My relationship with silver is almost indescribably deep. The way silver requires gently being fed heat and the way the form can be pulled in a certain way only when you know it's at the exact temperature it needs is fascinating; it's based on a bond and understanding of the metal. Once you've spent enough time working with your hands pulling, heating and forming silver, you will start to understand how to create shapes that are completely unique and unforgeable.
How much does the process guide the final outcome?
With my technique, the process 100% guides the final outcome. I understand how the metal wants to move, so I have to work with the metal patiently—feeding it heat to allow it to move and form into the shapes I desire.
Can you tell us more about the advanced techniques you developed after graduating?
I made an unconscious but very true-to-me experimental effort to not follow the traditional rules of silversmithing. Once I understood the basic rules, I combined everything I knew about metal and my impulsive risk-taking and started heavily experimenting. I doubt many—if any—jewellers work the way I do. Maybe I am a bit too risky, and it wouldn't be advised to work the way I work. I have very battered, burned fingers.
Your jewellery was born out of downsizing the large-scale sculptural pieces you were making while studying silversmithing. Do you think there will come a time when you will go back to creating larger-scale pieces?
I am actually currently designing larger, more unwearable mixed metal designs; I would love to create installations that would be used in stage design.
You have created custom pieces for Christina Aguilera, Caroline Polachek, and Yves Tumour, to name but a few. How does recognition within the industry translate into commercial success for your brand? And how do you navigate commercial art spaces?
Having my work featured in music videos and magazines with high-profile artists has opened up a market of customers who are influenced and excited by smaller designers like me. People seek bespoke individualistic style, and we all take references and style inspiration from those artists and people we admire. I am super grateful and fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with musicians and artists that I have. We all inspire, motivate, and support each other.
Since your work is inspired by nautical esoterica, can you share the most esoteric nautical fact you know?
The legend of the lost city of Lyonesse, a mythical land located off the coast of Cornwall, said to have been swallowed by the sea in a great cataclysmic event.
When describing your childhood, spent next to the sea, you have said that: "I was usually in a dreamland fantasy, transfixed with nature's forms as a way of escaping reality." Speaking of the fantastical dreamland, what is your favourite aquatic creature?
I find seals incredibly soothing; I would watch them basking in the coves every time it was seal season. I YouTube seal watch a lot also.
Along with romantic sea creatures, your work is inspired by masculine artefacts of utility. What is the most influential object you have encountered on the seaside?
Growing up, I have two distinct memories of objects that I formed deep bonds with; I feel forever influenced by both of them: a 10ft long-leaning cactus that ultimately impaled me due to my innocent, fearless need to explore, scramble and connect with it, and a German cargo shipwreck on a local Cornish beach that I would visit regularly. The rusty, eroded metal with the chipped paint and the surface wounds of having been smashed up on the rocks fascinated me. Although the shipwreck wasn't ancient, the battered body of the ship ignited my imagination; the metal shell held fantastical stories.
You work and reside in London, away from the sea. How do you maintain that connection to the primary source of your inspiration in the city?
Inspiration has been locked in eternally since my childhood, and I find new inspirations daily as I connect within the city.
How do you see your work evolving in the future, particularly in terms of pushing the boundaries of silversmithing and jewellery design even further?
I hope to work even more on creating new silhouettes. I want my work to not just sit on the body but to become a feature within the body and the face.