Whether it is by ‘Big Magic’ or by a big coincidence, Emer Roberts will launch her debut collection this April, alongside her sister Sinéad (designer, sculptor and artist). Those fond and familiar with this piece of literature by Elizabeth Gilbert, could easily surmise that Gilbert’s words are gospel. How else could two sisters possibly feel that finally, after years of working in other industries, that they could both be ready to design and create their debut collections at the very same time?
Well it could be good genes. Or perhaps there is something in the water in Roberts’ household. After all, not only are both sisters incredibly gifted in terms of creativity, but the Roberts’ family as a whole, is one which is immersed in the arts. Whatever your opinions on the subject are, one thing is certain, when it comes to the designs of both Emer and Sinéad Roberts, their work is big, BIG magic.
Where did this magic start? Well, for Emer it was with mammals. “I’ve been doing sculpture for twenty years and mammals have always been where it is at for me. I love looking at the similarities between species, looking at their ideas and how they are institutionalised.”
Through taxidermy and sculpture, Emer’s interest in mammals grew and lead her to rats. A species whom the designer has made her muse, rats are a consistent theme across Emer’s works as both a sculptor and a jewellery designer. Unfazed by popular perceptions of the rodent, she simply laughed: “People always think I’m mad, but it makes me smile when people are disgusted. They are always like, ‘Aw you’re the person with rats’. But I don’t know, I just have a fascination.”
Making small sculptures of the animal out of resin and actual rat hair, Emer’s intrigue continued and her craft evolved. “I was making them purely for sculptural reasons. But when I dropped them the paws would often smash. That’s when I started to think about metal, which then lead me to jewellery. That was my eureka moment.” Holding in her hand one of these small, feline-fearing figures, Emer recounts her initial idea for the collection. “I wanted it to be wearable biology,” explains the designer. “But then I thought, okay that is a really niche market.”
Niche? Certainly. But not completely nonsensical. Still, the bio angle wasn’t quite there yet and neither was Emer. “I started to study metal. And as I did, my love of sculpture and architect came out.” This love is seen clearly across the entire collection. Using silver and gold, Emer has conceived an art-deco style of design. Beautifully blurring the lines of edge and elegance, The Collection is a stunning array of stark and angular pieces.
Having worked on the collection over the last 2-3 years, Emer feels as though it has been a slow build. But with the upcoming launch and being crowned the Jewellery Brand of the Year at 2017’s Showcase Ireland, things are about to speed up for the designer. “Since Showcase I’ve gotten a lot of confidence. But it is still difficult creating with a product.” Tackling the idea of making in the name of currency as opposed to creativity, Emer sees as herself as a purist when it comes to art, so the step into commercial designer didn’t always feel natural.
“Thinking of something like a product was actually quite painful, especially from a technical point of view. It was all about repetition, which was hard, but I’m kind of over it now. After all, I made the decision to go into business, so I had to ark the idea of fine art and concentrate on the full task. Once I did that it all came back into place. You have to take the pros and cons [with business], otherwise you’ll get nowhere fast.”
Though on the right track in terms of business, Emer’s sense of art is in no way lost in the collection. Though its opulence shines through both creatively and commercially, it is in the finer details, that the true artist emerges. Etched expertly into each piece of the collection is Emer’s main muse – the rat. An intricate ode to where it all started is embedded in her work and offers wearers yet another snapshot of Emer’s persona as a designer – a mesh or quirkiness and curiosity.
And that’s exactly how her work presents itself. And how she intends on presenting it at the launch, as an artist would. “I really want to make it a cultural, exhibition type launch. I don’t want to make just jewellery. Well, I don’t mean just jewellery but I want to bring my background as an artist into it too.”
With her structural designs to be laid out by the side of her sister’s theatrical threads, there is little doubt she will accomplish this.
Words: Sinéad O’Reilly
The collection launches on April 6th in the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery
For more see: emerroberts.com