Meet The Maker:

Alec Doherty Jewellery

The Dalston-based illustrator and jewellery designer sits down to talk 1990s nostalgia, how jewellery design is a lot like therapy, and why we’re all magpies in search of the next shiny thing.

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Not to state the obvious, but your choice of jewellery – what you pick to adorn yourself with day in and day out ­­– is an intensely personal one. Arguably, even more so than your wardrobe. Dalston-based jewellery designer and illustrator Alec Doherty is on the same page, too. “It’s not interchangeable like a pair of trousers. People wear it every day, their entire lives ideally. It becomes a core piece,” he says. “That’s why it’s such a privilege to make something and have someone wear it. It’s an honour.”

Now available at Paul Smith, Alec’s jewellery designs are some of the most unique pieces we’ve come across in recent years. Based on his own illustrations, his naïve, childlike expressive faces forged on pendants and signet rings are largely references to emotions and experiences he had in his youth. “Sometimes when you’re craving inspiration, you sometimes fall back to a time when you felt most inspired,” he explains. “For me, that was when I was in my teens.” Growing up in the North of England 1990s and on the cusp of the millennium, in post-Thatcher Britain when the internet was becoming a commodity and Tony Blair’s campaign track ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ by D:Ream was blaring, he says, was a dizzying, hopeful and joyful time.

For a lot of us, our awkward teenage years are something we’d rather forget. But while his pieces might be representations of something ostensibly negative – a Hangover, for example, as one design is called ­– there are hints of optimism in his work. Reflecting on the past isn’t always just about remembering the good times, he explains. “Some experiences you have when you’re young – being bullied for your clothes or having a big nose – they're character-building moments. Reflecting on that stuff is positive, I think you learn from it,” he adds. Then there are pieces like the Good Day Bad Day pendant, which Alec designed specifically to remind him that while one day may not be going so well, tomorrow would be different – better even.

The fact that we, as a species and on an evolutionary level, are naturally drawn to shiny things taps into that concept for Alec, too. “Invariably, around the world, humans love precious materials,” he explains. “We are all magpies. There’s something about gold and silver and gemstones that has innate mass appeal.”

Designed in his Dalston studio in East London but crafted in small batches in Hatton Garden, his pieces are truly modern heirlooms. But as a small business, he doesn’t spend all day sketching or dreaming up new ideas. “It's different day to day in the studio, some days we'll be working on jewellery, packing orders, trying different designs or talking about ideas. Other days I might be here on my own, painting or working on drawing commissions. There is always music playing and we have lots of visitors which I really love. I feel lucky to have the variety in the day to day,” he says.

When he’s not at the studio, he has been involved with the Paul Smith Foundation, and recently held a workshop at our London HQ for young creatives. ‘It’s very important to me to feed this next generation with something that’s very tangible,” he explains. “Ensuring this knowledge is passed on to people.”

As part of the launch, Alec has also dreamed up a few custom creations for us, using exclusive gemstones, including pieces with watermelon tourmalines, a gem with a natural two-tone hue, which serves a nod to Paul’s signature use of stripes. We hope you like them as much as we do.

The Alec Doherty collection has now sold out.

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Published: 04.23

Words: Molly Isabella Smith