Christopher Thompson-Royds’ Natural Alchemy - Auverture
This English designer is inspired by what he calls the “overlooked” appeal of wildflowers. His Against Nature collection, composed of 18k yellow gold sculptures of wildflowers that can be taken apart and worn as jewellery, is intended to “celebrate those wildflowers that sort of exist in the margins,” says Christopher, noting that he found inspiration in the flowers that grow in Amsterdam’s industrial suburbs, during the time he lived in the city. “They were these really hardy little flowers that shoved their valiant heads up between paving stones,” he remembers.
Christopher, who studied metalwork and jewellery at London’s Royal College of Art, says he crafts his pieces to capture the “romance” of wildflowers. “It’s like picking the flower and you put it behind your ear, or on a chain,” he says. Here, we chat to Christopher about his inspirations, ideas, and meticulous jewellery-making process.
What led you to create pieces that span sculpture and jewellery?
My background is I graduated in 2010 from the Royal College of Art, where I did jewellery and metalwork. It was a very conceptual course, so very much about jewellery as art object. Not just something pretty to wear, it was very much about the narrative behind pieces. You think of those amazing Greek tiaras, Thracian diadems - I’ve always been obsessed by those. In a way, my jewellery is my modern interpretations of those. These are heirloom pieces, they should be passed from mother to daughter. And as they’re passed on, the stories are passed on. Jewellery is living, it’s being worn, it’s moving forward. Hopefully these pieces continue the story a little bit. But they should be fun as well. They should be worn as these beautiful, fun things, but there are all these stories behind each of the pieces. And people can buy the Against Nature pieces as just the jewellery elements - you can buy a nice pair of pretty, flowery earrings or you can own the object.
What is it about wildflowers that inspires you?
Part of the beauty of a flower is its ephemeral nature – the moment you pick it, it’s dying, it doesn’t last forever. And yet there you are in jewellery making it in a material that lasts for eons. So it’s trying to make a link between these opposing sides. I always work with wildflowers, not domestic ones. Because these are the flowers that normally could be overlooked. The Against Nature series is a conscious decision to celebrate those wildflowers that exist in the margins. These are the overlooked plants that are becoming increasingly rare. And with global warming, these are the flowers that are beginning to suffer, these are the flowers that feed the bees. In a way, recreating them in gold, these unworthy flowers – they’re not your orchids, they’re not your roses – you’re celebrating them by using this very expensive material – gold - to immortalise them.
Can you talk about how you craft your designs?
All the pieces are hand-made by me. With the Against Nature pieces...it’s using wire, it’s using sheet, it’s drawing it up, making it into these forms. Sculpting with sheet rather than modelling in wax and then recasting. It’s more constructed, and I can use much thinner metal. So they’re really fine, which you wouldn’t get if you cast [from wax]. You’re not going to get that level of detail. For the Natura Morta series, I pick the wildflowers, press them, then I trace around them onto the gold. So each one is from a real plant. And then I handsaw the shape out and paint the flowers. Then I bind them all together with thin gold wire, because in your garden you tie up your roses, you don’t solder them together.
What do you think is the perennial appeal of flowers and nature, especially in these uncertain times?
In times of worry and uncertainty, I think there’s something really beautiful and strong about just looking again at what’s around us. That each spring, forget-me-nots come back up and flower again. There is uncertainty, but at the same time there are these cycles that carry on. I remember I was in New York in the spring, and I walked through Central Park to go from one meeting to another. And in the middle of New York I came across this little grove of wild violets. Just seeing something so quintessentially wild and flowering in the middle of this mega metropolis, it made you think, ages ago, this was just wilderness and nature. And potentially, it might be again. But at the same time, these violets will carry on flowering.