The precise beauty of Clarice Price Thomas
The daughter of a watch and clock maker, Clarice Price Thomas grew up in Norfolk, surrounded by the traditional machines her father used for his work.
Hours spent rifling through the drawers in his workshop and dismantling old watches ignited in Clarice a fascination with the mechanics of design, something that became central to her visual philosophy when she launched her own jewellery label in 2012. Her debut collection was a direct homage to her childhood: tiny, precise cogs and gears referred to the inner workings of timepieces.
Price Thomas is both artisan and designer, with creativity often guided by the machinery she uses. It is this fusion of traditional jeweller's techniques and machine processes that informs a markedly architectural aesthetic, which showed through in her second collection, Metropolis, inspired by cityscapes.
Clean lines and repeated geometric shapes are signature motifs, as are razor sharp edges and highly polished surfaces. Every piece is imagined, made and finished in Clarice's studio, an old chocolate factory in Hackney Wick. Outsourcing stays in the area: for metal casting, Price Thomas works with local artisans in Islington, stones are set and pieces engraved in Clerkenwell. The meticulous care applied to the creation of each piece belies Clarice's intention: that every ring, necklace and pair of earrings is intended to be worn, loved and passed on to future generations. http://claricepricethomas.com/
Bel: How did your father’s work influence your jewellery? Clarice: It had a really huge influence, not only in terms of the design and but also the making. My first collection was inspired by watch pieces and using milling machines and lathes allowed me to recreate the little cogs exactly as they are in real watches. This then ignited a fascination with using those machines to create jewellery.
Bel: Your debut collection was a homage to timepieces ... Clarice: I love the intricacy and precision inside timepieces - the way the tiny components fit together so beautifully and work so well in unison. I always found it odd that such amazing little constructions were hidden away inside cases and I wanted to show how they can be appreciated as they are. The scale has also always impressed me; it’s definitely why I always strive to create detailed pieces with so much precision. Being able to translate that into jewellery from this mechanical and engineered world - strong, bold pieces that still retain delicacy - is something I love.
Bel: Traditional watchmaking techniques are important to you.
Clarice: It's a mixture of things - mostly because of the precision and accuracy I can achieve using those machines. Also, because the machines themselves and what they can create really pushes my designs forward …. I have an endless list in my head of different shapes and patterns waiting to be created! It's also an important part of where I come from and I think that, as a designer, it's really rewarding to have a backstory and give your designs meaning.
Bel: Describe your emotional connection to your jewellery. CPT: With the jewellery I create, the emotional connection is very much there in the design and the making of the collections. The most enjoyable part of what I do is sitting at my bench and make jewellery. I love every process involved in creating the work and I hope that that shines through. I always strive to create pieces of the highest quality and obsess over every detail. There's nothing more satisfying than making a piece from start to finish and posting it off to a happy customer. Recently, I have begun to work on more bespoke projects for engagement and wedding rings, meeting with clients and designing something unique for them. Creating these pieces always makes me happy; not only do I get to do what I love but I know the pieces will be cherished forever. The true emotional connection comes when a client receives their piece of jewellery. Then it's no longer mine; it's theirs to impart their story onto and that is so special. I guess that's exactly how I feel with the jewellery I wear; it's got its own meanings, right down to the scratches and marks that have appeared over time.
Bel: Who and what inspires you? Clarice: First and foremost, I'm really inspired by the machines and processes I use. The different shapes and patterns I can achieve using the milling machines and lathes help form the premise for a whole collection. For this reason, I find mechanical and industrial designs fascinating. Once I have an idea for a certain shape, I obsess over it; reinventing it a hundred times over until I find a form that works for a piece of jewellery. Instead of designing per se with endless sketches and drawings, I prefer to get straight into making to see what can be done. I'm really inspired by clean lines, symmetry, precise forms and repeated patterns so I love architecture - the work of Le Corbusier, for example. Carlo Scarpa and Robert Smithson are other favourites of mine, especially for their use of repeated linear shapes.
Bel: Which other jewellers do you respect and admire? Clarice: London is a hub of young jewellery designers who are all creating exciting work and it's so great to be a part of that! Among my favourites are Jessie Harris who I'm lucky to share my studio with. If you want to see a great selection of London-based jewellery designers, visit Parlä in Shoreditch. Looking back, I love the work of Jean Desprès and his fellow Art Deco jewellers, who really pushed the boundaries in terms of design and scale. Ettore Sottsass also made some amazing pieces of jewellery!