Clare Grennan and Laura Caffrey have been serving the good people of Dublin the coolest curation of Irish craft and design since 2008. Now, going back to their roots in jewellery design, they bring us Names a beautifully balanced collection of covetable yet affordable jewellery.
You both have a background in jewellery design but you own the Irish Design Shop on Drury St – why did you decide to begin with the store?
Clare: We started up the shop firstly as an online shop, with the intention of continuing to work in our studios on our jewellery and that was when we were in La Catederal Studios, but the shop was so busy that it became clear that we needed a physical shop.
Laura: So we were looking for a space that had the capacity to hold our workshops and the shop in the same building. We had the idea that the shop could be open and we would be working away in the studio, getting loads of jewellery made, but that didn’t really work out because the shop takes lots of work!
C: When we moved in here *[to Drury Street]* the shop was so busy that the studios were totally abandoned, so it’s really only this year that we’ve had the time to really dedicate to the jewellery. We’ve cut off all other distractions, we’ve no other projects on. It’s something that we have wanted to do for years. We had been making bits and pieces here and there ourselves, and we started to notice a similarity of styles and shapes that the two of us were interested in. So we thought, maybe we should do something together as we thought that we would have more of a chance to get it done that way than on our own. As well as that, we really couldn’t find the kind of jewellery that we wanted to sell, that was made in Ireland, and so we thought that we would just do it ourselves.
You’ve just launched your collaborative jewellery label Names, could you tell us a bit about the concept for it and inspirations for the collection?
L: We started out by playing about with shapes, mostly geometric, we went to the brass suppliers as we wanted to make it all in brass because we wanted it to be affordable. We found different shapes of bar and tubing.
C: We were playing about with the materials for a couple of months really, we wanted it to be very geometric and simple shapes whilst really utilising handmade techniques and traditional jewellery skills. It was a time of experimentation, we ended up with a long list of designs and we really could have kept going but we decided to minimise to 16 pieces.
L: Yes, 16 pieces altogether; earrings, necklaces, a few bangles, and they all work well together.
Why did you call the line Names?
C: Well it was such a personal project, and so long in the pipeline, and it came from when we were discussing with David Wall who was doing our branding.
L: We told him how we wanted to release a collection every year so the idea of having each collection named after a collection of people is where it came from.
C: But we decided to be as personal as it gets and name the pieces after ourselves and our mothers and family members. They were all pretty ordinary women as well, we could have gone about naming the pieces after designers we like or something like that, but we thought it was more interesting maybe to go down this route instead, and people love it. Customers really like it, just the normal stories of these women, or maybe finding their own name.
How is each piece made?
C: Firstly we cut the brass bar with piercing studs, then we get these really heavy hand files…
L: This is a round bar or hexagonal bar, the other is rectangular, so we cut that up with a saw, and then we start filing the angles into it and then there’s a lot of sanding involved. Sanding really takes ages, and then we have the contrasts between the matte areas and the polished areas. So, we focus on just getting the finish perfect and exactly how we want it before we send it to the platers. A guy called Damien plates the jewellery in 18 karat gold for us then in Naas.
C: And there’s soldering on the earrings. There’s also a nice little finish on each piece, we stamp it with a steel stamp, which has the logo. It’s nice to give it that bit of personality as well, and again customers really appreciate those little details. The catches on say the shorter necklaces, they’re a pain to make because they’re all handmade as well, every piece of the necklace is to be considered.
L: We have these little details which will then carry on into the next collection.
C: Yes, we have the next collection planned for mid-next year. We’ve really been taken aback from the response from customers so far and it’s only been a month, so we’re going to keep the head down and keep working away!
Names starts from €58 to €140, sold exclusively at the Irish Design Shop, 41 Drury Street, Dublin 2. www.irishdesignshop.com
Words: Honor Fitzsimons