I recently had the honour of interviewing one of the rising stars of the international jewellery scene, designer extraordinare Linnie Mclarty. This award-winning designer stands out from the crowd, not only because of her unique and beautiful aesthetic but also due to her commitment to ethical processes. Linnie utilises 100% recycled silver and gold that is officially certified as fairtrade and fairmined.
Q. How did you start down this path of ethical jewellery design?
I wouldn’t want to do anything other than design and make jewellery, I absolutely love it, but I know that the fashion and jewellery industry needs to go a long way to address its environmental and ethical policies, and I think it’s my responsibility as a designer-maker to work in the most ethical and responsible way I can. I aim to work with the most responsibly and ethically sourced materials I can find – using 100% recycled silver, fairly traded gemstones with a clear and transparent chain of custody. I am also one of only 20 businesses world-wide licensed to use certified Fairtrade, Fairmined gold. I would be a hypocrite if I said that everything I do as a jeweller is as green or as sound as it could be, but I’m making changes wherever and whenever I can. When you find out something that doesn’t sit well with you, it’s impossible to ‘unknow’ it, and if you can’t change it, then you can only try not contribute to it.
Q. If you had to choose another career for yourself, what would that be?
I came to jewellery by accident. My mother was a painter, and I assumed I’d follow a similar path. I considered theatre design, but instead studied fine art, began as a painter, ended up doing film, mixed media and installation. If I were to choose a career other than the one I have then it would most likely be something along those lines. I’d need to do something creative without doubt. I’d love to be involved in film in some way.
Q. In 10 words or less, how would you sum up your design aesthetic?
Q. In your opinion, what is the most pressing environmental issue facing the world today?
Global warming is obviously pretty high on the list. The rate of the deforestation of the rain Forest is truly horrific. I have 2 young children, and I wonder how their children will be affected. As a parent you can’t help worrying about your children’s future.
Q. You are one of only 20 licensees for certified Fairtrade Fairmined Ecological gold in world. Tell us a little bit about what this means.
Globally, there are over 100 million people who depend directly or indirectly on artisanal and small-scale mining and who are trapped in unfair supply chains, struggling to get a fair price for the gold they mine. Fairtrade gold is a way to slowly start to change this. I pay an additional 10% of the London Fix bullion price which goes directly to the miners, ensuring they have a consistently fair wage, and also enabling them – as a co-operative – to buy machinery and to implement proper health & safety precautions. As I’m a licensee for Fairtrade, Fairmined, Ecological gold, I also pay an additional 5% premium, which ensures that no chemicals (mercury or cyanide) are used in the extraction of the metal, and that restoration is undertaken as the land is worked. The gold is mined alluvially, by panning, and using water, rather than open cast mines.
I am proud to be involved in the early stages of these improvements.
Q. What advice would you give to designers who are interested in becoming more sustainable?
I think that a lot of designers are aware that they are working in an industry which needs to do a lot to address its environmental policies. Often the sheer scale of what needs to be done can be so daunting that it actually prevents people from doing anything at all. My advice would be to not feel that it has to be all or nothing. Every small change you make has value. Start by changing something you can do straight away. It could be using energy saving bulbs, getting in to the habit of turning off equipment or machinery when it’s not in use. Then you can begin to look at your business with a more critical eye. We need to take a bit more responsibility about the products and materials we use in our work. Ask your suppliers where they source their goods, who makes them. As creative and imaginative people we shouldn’t find it too difficult to find alternatives to some of the less lovely products and materials we use in our work. If something is ridiculously cheap and you can’t work out how they manage to make it for that price you need to question how it is actually possible. Anyone who has internet access can find out a hundred ways to improve their business practice.
Q. What is one of the most personally rewarding pieces you’ve ever produced?
Oh that’s tough. I think whatever I’m working on at the time is most rewarding. Especially if I’m working on a commission. When I’ve finished a commission there’s always a moment when I think ‘what if they don’t like it?’ Once the client has opened the box and responded positively to the piece I can finally relax! I suppose that’s when the rewarding part really kicks in!
Q. Your pieces are so refreshingly distinctive & eye-catching, what kind of things inspire you when you’re designing?
Thank you. Actually, I think it’s my approach to designing that is the key. Years of art history and art theory have informed my practice as a designer, and it’s not what I look at, but how I look at it. I can be inspired by absolutely anything and everything, but I think you could abstract and extrapolate a single idea almost indefinitely, if you know how to. I also think you should be open to change. I draw all the time, but I hardly ever work to a drawing, I use it as a starting point, and the physically work with the metal until the piece feels right. I only ever make jewellery I personally like to wear. I think if the work has integrity then it shows. It may not be for everyone, but that’s not what’s important.
Q. What does the future hold for Linnie Mclarty Jewellery?
Immediate future – My next exhibition is in Tokyo, and I’m also looking forward to exhibiting at Sieraad in Amsterdam in November, plus -I’ve one or two collaborations in the pipeline. I think it’s important to be open to things outside your usual frame of reference. It keeps you on your toes.
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