#IMAGELocal is our new series spotlighting Irish makers. First up, we chat to Clare Grennan and Laura Caffrey about NAMES, the jewellery brand they launched this year.
Clare Grennan and Laura Caffrey founded the Irish Design Shop in 2008 and have become beloved for the champioining of Irish craft and design. (If you’re in a rush to nail down the Christmas gift list, a visit to their Drury Street shop will cure all that ails you and your to-do list. And if you’re in the mood to make the entire yuletide haul of Irish origin check out the Craft Council of Ireland’s Give Irish Craft campaign for more ideas.)
However, Clare and Laura were jewellers originally, and in the past year they returned to this passion while the shop goes from strength to strength. They launched NAMES earlier this year with a 16 piece collection. All the items – we’ve got lusty eyes on the geometric studdy hoops – are hand formed in brass and plated in 18ct rose or yellow gold. Each product is named after a woman in their families, including their mothers and great grandmothers We chat to them about this new spin-off and how they came together to create yet more Irish design magic.
You’ve already set up a shop, was Names always on the cards?
Our background is in metal work and we have always had a studio alongside the shop, we just hadn’t utilised it until this year, apart from the odd weekend jewellery workshop. At the beginning of 2015, we decided to cut back on outside projects and focus on our Drury street premises as it was doing so well. It was at this time that we got back into our own work in the studio. Immediately, we noticed strong similarities in what we were both producing, as in forming similar shapes in a similar style. So it was really a light bulb moment, let’s produce a line of jewellery together. It made total sense as the work we produce is so time-consuming, it seemed more possible if there were two of us making it. We began prototyping immediately with an Autumn launch in mind. Producing a strong identity for the brand was hugely important also, so we began discussions with David in Workgroup at our prototyping stage. Thankfully it all went to plan.
How did you start jewellery designing?
We both studied metal work in NCAD. Following graduation, we set up a basic studio together along with a couple of other friends, and funded the purchasing of machinery, equipment and materials through selling our jewellery on weekend markets. This gave us our first taste of retail.
Do you both design an item? Or do you each focus on a piece?
Having worked together for the last seven years, we have developed a very diplomatic working relationship. One of us might be drawn to a shape initially, and the other will suggest introducing certain angles. A discussion will take place on what sort of chain, length and finish will be used, and where the all important logo will be stamped. Every single element of each piece has been highly considered, and thankfully it has worked that each of us has had equal input. Maybe this will all change with the next collection, but it has been a real surprise to us how easily this joint venture has worked out.
Jewellery is such a subjective thing. What kind of influences have led you to establishing such an effortless aesthetic?
Our aim with creating a jewellery line was to produce affordable pieces which had a really strong modern aesthetic but which also focused on traditional jewellery making skills. We have been longstanding fans of a diverse range of jewellery brands such as Dutch company The Boyscouts, Danish based maker Maria Black, and Scottish brand Tom Pigeon. We are also drawn to art jewellers such as Yurina Kira & Marina Stanimirovic based on skill and design. Our own designs come from prototyping, we might be drawn to a particular material or finish, we like to have a very simple starting point and see where it takes us.
Was there any lessons you learned from setting up the shop that helped with Names?
Lots! In particular with regards branding. We see the importance and affect a strong identity has with pursuading customers to invest in an item. Also, translating the story behind the product through branding is vital. Our first collection ‘Mothers & Daughters’ is such a personal one, that we decided to name each item in the 16 piece collection after the women in our families going back to our great grandmothers. Our customers have responded so positively to this, and love the short bios on each which are on the site. It gives our jewellery a personality.