Telling the backstory to his 2023 collection, Liam Winter reminisces on past experiences when he saw nature’s reclamation of our towns and cities first-hand – proving to be quite inspirational. Taking influence from many aspects of life, it seems that his main inspiration behind the collection was his desire to create wearable artwork, accessible to all, that isn’t just looked at and moved on from, but rather long-lasting and recognisable. Enter, The Winter House.
Not always knowing that jewellery design was his vocation, Winter has used his love of sculpture to create accessories that reflect the flowing beauty of nature, whilst incorporating the harshness of precious metals. As Winter has said, the collection “is more about the roots than the flowers”, finding beauty in what is overlooked or rejected. Winter wants to give his buyers the experience of life, and what’s a better feeling than wearing an item you know was created to turn you into a walking masterpiece?
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Can you tell me a bit about the role of art and design throughout your life? What were your main inspirations?
Art and design have been my primary fixation since I was very young. Over the years, I’ve had a go at most mediums, be it fashion, film, ceramics, or graphic design. But above all, sculpture is my first love. Bernini’s Rape Of Proserpina depicts the softness and warmth of the body with such fidelity in a material as hard and cold as marble, and it blows my mind. When I look at Rodin’s Gates of Hell it’s so immersive that I feel like I can fall into it, it’s honestly terrifying. And the work of contemporary sculptors such as Anish Kapoor, Xooang Choi, Nicola Samori, Aron Demetz, Ron Mueck (I could go on) resonate with me deeply.
It’s bewildering to me how moved people can be by clay, stone, and bronze. My only wish is that sculpture was more accessible. I love sculpture more than anything, however, I can count on one hand how many of my favourite artists work I have seen in real life. That’s probably why I went to film school. Film is a visual art form that most people can access and connect with. I see my favourite filmmakers such as David Lynch, Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze as artists just as skilled but their work is far easier to access. I guess jewellery is my way of engaging in sculpture in a way that more people can access.
Has jewellery always been something that you had a personal association with, or did your interest in this come after experimentation with different mediums?
No, not really – I’ve always worn pieces, but I didn’t grow up wanting to be a jewellery designer. I spent the year after graduating film school renting a studio in Seven Sisters attempting to create a series of sculptures. I would work nights at a bar to pay for the studio, and would spend the days in the studio designing pieces that I didn't have the funds to make. Covid was the nail in the coffin and I had to give the space up.
When I brought all of my maquettes (sort of sketches for sculptors) home, my housemate looked at my rough mockups for sculptures never realised, and seemed to connect to them despite the scale. That was the lightbulb moment to switch from clay to wax and my jewellery journey began.
You mentioned online that your jewellery and accessories tell a story. What made you take the route of wearable art? Did you always intend to take this path, or were you originally focused on creating either jewellery or art?
It’s an accessibility thing. I’ve definitely fantasised about making monumental sculptures that stand in vast galleries, but who really gets to see it? I don’t just want to produce work for people’s Pinterest boards, I want you to be able to put my work on, let it transform you, and in turn, give it a life and meaning that it would never have had without you. The beauty of wearable art is the dialogue between the wearer, the piece and the artist. It's not just one way.
When reading the collection notes, my thoughts instantly went to a dystopian land. Are there apocalyptic ideas incorporated in your recent collection? Your photos certainly paint an image of a dystopia when comparing the barren, grey surroundings to your futuristic metal jewellery.
I think dystopia implies some sort of imaginary suffering. My work is inspired by, and exists within a very real place. It’s certainly cold, and harsh at first glance, but I like to think that if you embrace the setting and lean in, there's a lot of beauty there. I want you to see the beautiful flowing veil of the Virgin Mary when you look at a dirty old t-shirt forgotten on a fence. In contrast, when you want to rest your eyes on something as sensual as a person's neck, I put thorns there to disrupt your gaze. I’d say it’s less about creating a fantasy and more about drawing your attention to the forgotten or rejected narratives around us here and now. 
What drew you to the theme of converging human-made with nature? Is that a prospect that has always interested you?
Where I live in North London, nature seems to be reclaiming its place. I like that it doesn't care that we attempt to banish it and restrict it. It pushes through the concrete and asserts itself as part of the story of this space. I like to think of my jewellery as equally determined.
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I noticed a lot of your pieces incorporate religious aspects. Do you have a personal connection with religion, or are you using religious symbols more in a creative or metaphorical sense without catering specifically to religious people?
Religion has been the narrative at the centre of art and culture for hundreds of years, so intuitively, it's so interesting to contrast this with narratives left in the margins. Comparing these sculptures of ubiquitous, harrowing, dramas to the struggle of a root pushing through concrete or a Tesco bag trying to free itself from a wire fence generates some interesting outcomes.
Religion was my introduction to art in the first place. Caribbean parents usually equate to a religious upbringing, so I went to church a fair bit as a kid. In even the most domestic, lacklustre community churches, there were always these beautiful sculptures. I always felt moved by the veiled depictions of Mary, or the pained face of Jesus on his cross. In fact, I was first introduced to low-relief sculpture by the “stations of the cross” hung around the periphery of most churches. Whilst I wouldn’t describe myself as religious now. I can’t deny its influence on me, and other artists and designers.
Coming from Scotland, I loved your incorporation of the thistle. What is it about this plant, in particular, that made you want to create a piece of jewellery around it?
I had a lot of them growing between the paving slabs in front of my house. The Landlord preferred I remove them, and they didn’t go without a fight. They’re definitely my kind of flower. I like nature that fights for itself. And I hope people who wear my work carry that energy.
The idea of duality is present in your work. Was it your goal to create versatile, androgynous pieces that could be transferred between wearers, or did it just happen naturally? Is it, perhaps, even part of the theme in which nature has no gender and is fluid?
Honestly, it never occurred to me to impose gender on it. The work certainly feels alive to me, but it doesn't feel gendered. It rejects the controlling, defining gaze of others.
What makes your brand different from all the other jewellery brands out there?
It's the stories we choose to tell. When discussing ideas with my business partner (who also went to film school) we often talk about “shifting the lens”. What we mean is, by turning the camera away from what other film makers would shoot, to something often overlooked, we tell stories that haven't been told. The Winter House is more about the roots than the flowers - the flowers have been well documented already.
What is it about your jewellery (e.g., the materials, its sustainability, the craftsmanship) that makes it more on the expensive side?
Simply put, I work in precious metals, and make everything in house in London. If you are holding a piece of The Winter House, you can guarantee that it was designed by me, cast in silver by AA Fine casting (A family style metal casters in North London), and hand finished by me (and my team as we grow.) My hands are calloused and scarred from this craft that I love. You are paying for the intimacy of an artist. You know who’s made it for you, when they made it, and why.
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Are you aiming to be a big designer label, or will you try to keep your image close-knit, exclusive, and independent?
I want to take time with my work, and really indulge in the poetry of it. I think this lends itself to a more exclusive, independent brand. I would consider expanding into garments, or even furniture and sculpture, if it strengthened, rather than diluted the world I am building. We’ll see, bigger doesn’t mean better by any means, and I’m perfectly happy making things I care about for people who care about it.
As many of us know, fast fashion has been on the rise for the past decades, and companies like Shein are ripping off independent designers’ work. Has your brand experienced something similar, or, if not, do you fear this is an issue that will occur?
The reward for making truly honest work is that it’s so closely connected to the world and experiences that inspire it that if a fast fashion brand copied any of it, it would look pretty out of place. You can copy the aesthetics, but without authenticity the result is vacuous, and forced and everyone knows it. If Shein moves its headquarters to Bounds Green, and gets big into weeds, roots and thorns, then I’m in trouble.
In your opinion, what is your favourite article of jewellery ––is it rings, bracelets, necklaces? What is a staple piece of jewellery you think everyone should have and no outfit should be without?
I love pendants. Whilst it's really fun designing earrings and big statement necklaces that change a person’s silhouette, there's something so intimate and personal about a pendant. It can be worn without anyone seeing it, like a secret piece just for you. That said, I love how earrings can elevate a person. Our new Thistle Drop earrings, for example, can bring so much drama to the simplest outfits.
Is there a piece of jewellery you own that has a lot of meaning to you? Something, perhaps, you inherited, were given, or purchased during a memorable event?
I don’t really have any heirlooms. My parents moved to the UK from Trinidad in 1995, and I’m uncertain that many objects of meaning and history really came with them. It’s rare that I ever really feel like my family are immigrants but I guess we are, and with that I do feel a physical disconnect to our history. A couple years ago I made a pendant that I wear everywhere I go. I like to imagine my grandchild fishing it out of a box one day and calling it theirs. Perhaps this is racial, or perhaps not, but I feel a responsibility to make objects that can be passed down the generations.
After exploring boundaries and the idea of margins in your first collection, what other themes do you have in mind for your future collections? if you don’t mind sharing that with us.
The Winter House is a place, and the narrative isn’t linear. Therefore, I think it's better to consider new collections as me grabbing your hand and walking you deeper into this place. It’s like an iceberg - each collection is a peak visible above the water, and you know for sure that the mass beneath is vast and deep.
Since you’ve just presented your brand at London Fashion Week, it is clear you are on the way to becoming a notable label in the jewellery industry. What were you feeling after your brand launch at one of the world’s biggest fashion events? And what are your next steps as a designer after taking on what you have learned at LFW?
Very proud. My mum attended and it felt really special seeing her feel the world that I’ve been creating. A challenge now is to further discover and develop my voice as a designer, and concentrate my identity into work that people can find themselves in as well. There are big things on the horizon for The Winter House for sure.
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