Q&A: Designer Stuart McGrath on how sculpting informs jewellery design

Zultanite Spike ring in gold

Stuart Mcgrath enjoyed a successful career as a master sculptor, restoring historical architecture and designing monuments incorporating ornamentation, typography and symbolism.

Following a serious accident, McGrath could no longer work on a large scale with stone, and he decided to follow his true passion, designing fine contemporary jewellery based on the principals and craftsmanship learnt through sculpture.

Professional Jeweller finds out more about his design process and future plans for his brand, Armoura Designs.

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How does your background in sculpting inform your jewellery design process? 

For the most part, the tools and process of sculptor are very similar to jewellery, whether casting, mould making, modelling in wax, the scale is just reduced.

I spent many years designing and carving stone as my primary career, and jewellery design has been an evolution of this training. During my time sculpting stone and clay I learnt a lot about form, process and detail which act as a foundation and starting point in each project I undertake.

Where do you source your materials? 

I source my materials from all over, many from UK suppliers due to the high quality, some from Thailand, Germany, USA and other places around the globe. I’m always looking for new and interesting stones and materials as they can often suggest a design for a new piece. Sometimes it’s an exotic cut of the stone or else it could be an interesting texture or stone colour that reveals a whole new perspective and unfolds a whole series of possibilities and stories start to be visually written and designs take shape.

I’m always very excited to go to shows as I’ll usually find something new and unusual to take me on a journey of discovery, whether it’s a rare one of pearl or stone from a lapidary or Swarovski’s latest crystal shape; I’ll start thinking of ideas of how and where it could be used and how it could speak to the wearer.

What are your business plans for growing Armoura Designs?

It has always been my aim to create conversation-starting jewellery; tactile pieces that people can’t take their eyes off of. I’m considering a move back to London from Dublin, as I have received such a large amount of sales from here, both for my own designs as well as collaborations, as well as range design commissions from brands which is great. I’ve always enjoyed the pace, energy and vibrancy of London as well as the large amount of cultural resources such as museums, galleries and institutes around the UK.

Where does the name come from? 

The name Armoura comes from the word ‘Armour’, and the idea of protection. It also signifies the talisman effect that jewellery has when worn, it gives the wearer a confidence and strength like a traditional suit of armour.

 

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