Our new Patina collection of artisan cufflinks, earrings and rings combines art and science. The science comes from the technicality of the ancient patina process itself - layering specific chemical combinations (by hand) onto the brass bases of our jewellery before oxidising them in the atmosphere to create the deep colours of our finished collection. The art however comes from both the craft and skill behind this process and the artists themselves who are keeping the Patina techniques alive and using reactive finishes on their metal work.
Today we focus on the art, taking a deeper look at the inspiration behind our new collection and the story of Patina.
An Italian term, Patina (in its broadest sense) implies weathering, the effects of time and the changing states of metals as they are exposed to the elements. The art of patina however comes from celebrating the natural effects of this atmospheric exposure and embracing the changing colours and textures that occur. It’s about viewing discolouration and imperfection as a beautiful evolution of a material rather than a negative change .
Where ancient bronze statues were gilded to protect them from turning blue or green, in the Middle Ages sculptors are believed to have started using linseed oil and heat to bring on a brown coating on bronze or copper objects. Renaissance sculptors are also reported to have applied salted vinegar, wet straw and liquid varnish to certain areas of bronze statues to create different coloured details. By the time of the industrial revolution, air pollution and the high levels of sulphides in the air meant that green statues were the norm and that patina was an inevitable occurrence. It’s interesting to see how our attitudes to oxidisation have changed over time. Is patina something to be expected, something to be prevented or something to experiment with?
In the Alice Made This studio, we see patina as something to be experimented with, playing with how the raw brass base of a cufflink or an earring can be transformed into something vibrant, colourful and rich. By exploring the history of patina, as well as the ways that patina is used today in art, design, sculpture and architecture, we developed our own take on patina and combined it with the Alice Made This aesthetic of engineered simplicity.
We looked to contemporary patina art and metal finishing techniques - like the beautiful patinated surfaces of Koji Hatakeyama’s cast bronze boxes, representing landscapes and nature, and the dreamlike twists and spirals of Laurence Jenkell’s sculptures – taking inspiration from their experimentation with the patina process. We turned to Faye Toogood and her patina furniture, with her sculptural pieces and acute eye for design, as well as the large-scale patina art produced by London design studio Based Upon – seeing how they use scale, colour and texture to create their pieces. By researching the artists that we admire, we were able to enjoy surrounding ourselves with inspiration and refine the process through our new collection.
However, no patina artist was of greater inspiration to our design process than Derek Bayley. The London based patina artist layered each piece of our new collection with chemical combinations to create the beautiful surfaces you see throughout. No two pieces in our new Patina collection are the same, giving each accessory a unique character and quality of its own. We have been inspired by working with Derek and playing with the notion of imperfection.
As simple as it sounds, a large part of the inspiration behind our Patina jewellery also came from exploring our local area. We are lucky to work in south-east London, an area filled with creativity and vibrant thinking. Peckham Library for example was designed by Alsop and Störmer and is clad in pre-patinated copper. With steel pillars and random angles, the building won the Stirling Prize for Architecture in 2002. It’s amazing to keep your head up and find design stimulus on your door step.
To learn more about our patina process click here and head here to browse our full Patina collection of cufflinks, earrings and rings. For further insight into our inspirations, follow us on Instagram @alicemadethis.