Since launching in 1986, Alex Monroe’s intricately crafted, whimsical pieces have been seen on everyone, everywhere, from Dalston to Hollywood. Here he talks to TWENTY6 about his work, his inspirations, and why you shouldn’t do the lottery.
WHAT WERE YOUR AMBITIONS AND ASPIRATIONS AT THE AGE OF 26?
I think I was excited to be the best jewellery designer in the world. I wanted to change things and I wanted fashion jewellery to be taken seriously. And I had been chucked by a girl who I spent years pining for…If I knew then what I know now I would have had more self confidence with girls - and a lot more fun!
PICK A WORD BEGINNING WITH 'A' THAT BEST SUMS YOU UP...
ANNOYING. I can be really annoying. But I don’t mind. I think I’m OK - I’m just a bit of a posh enthusiastic twit sometimes.
FOR EACH LETTER OF THE ALPHABET PICK A WORD FOLLOWED BY A SENTENCE THAT TELLS US A STORY...
It’s my name but it’s also the brand. It’s weird talking about my name in the third person. I’ll never really get used to it.
Ah the Bee of course. My signature piece.
I love to work with other people, like the V&A or Coco de Mer. Who’d have thought I’d be testing eye-watering springs for nipple clamps, then off for Tea at Fortnum’s to discuss spoon designs?
Always have a dog. A border Collie preferably. Good exercise.
When I get into an idea or project I get so enthusiastic I will work non-stop and produce loads of good stuff. Without that enthusiasm it’s like wading through treacle.
We rush from project to project - the fear of failure gives me wings.
There’s nothing like a bit of graft, working up a sweat and earning your supper. If you won the lottery you wouldn’t need to graft and that would not be a good thing. Don’t do the lottery.
‘I just want to be happy’ is a stupid thing to say. There’s much more to life than happiness. What about honour and duty and responsibility? What about our environment and people worse off than yourself? It’s not long ago that people would have aspired to being honourable, honest, hard working and good. Life is full of sorrow so I’m all for embracing the whole kit and caboodle. I have been happy and I have been sad, and I wouldn’t change that.
My jewellery is quite intimate and personal. It’s not brash and show-offy. I like a bit of introversion.
Doing stuff is a bit like swimming in the Lido. If you think too hard about it, or try to use the ladder, one toe at a time, it’s painful, prolonged and boring. Just jump straight in. Do it, what’s the worst that can happen?
I’m really lucky because I have three amazing kids and I work with a bunch of wonderful young people. I love being my age (47) but it’s my kids and the youngies who make me laugh. I make me laugh when I’m a complete idiot or incredibly stupid. Which I manage often enough.
I live and work in London although my heart is in Suffolk. But I can’t live there because I need the rush of being in the thick of it. I’ve been in London for ages now.
I’m only where I am because I was too stupid to give up. I’m not more talented or anything, I just stuck at it for longer than most.
I’m a nature jeweller and there’s no getting away from it. You can see anything there is to see in Nature; it’s just a matter of looking.
I made a 50th Anniversary piece for a couple that had spent their life watching the owls in a barn by their home. A pair of wise old owls in a heart shaped filigree locket. What a lovely job this is sometimes.
It’s a trick. Everything is a paradox.
Q - NOPE!
Nothing to say about Q. I hate to get this letter in Scrabble, but come to think about it I’m not too keen on Scrabble anyway.
I used to get quite a lot of inspiration from religion, but now I guess nature is my religion. It’s more believable and inspiring and mind blowing.
Every so often I do something so horribly stupid that I totally embarrass myself and go bright red and even my hair hurts. Can’t give examples but suffice to say it’s often bad. My mouth opens long before my brain starts to work and I hear this absolute idiot talking. I hope this doesn’t stop. I like to really feel myself go through total embarrassment.
It’s a team effort. The gang here at AMHQ are fantastic. It just happens to be my name on the box.
I don’t like unpleasantness. Much better to be nice and polite and kind.
Constance and Liberty. My three little angels.
I’m trying to write a book! Yikes, scary. But I want to explore the making process. Why do I love this more than say working in the City or something?
I always wanted these as a boy. Besides, nothing else starts with X.
You only get out of life what you put in. Unbreakable Rule
I don’t hold with them. I draw all over the place but I don’t like seeing animals in captivity, not ones that should be free anyway. I don’t mind too much about snakes and fish and insects etc, but definitely not birds or dolphins or lions.
PHOTOGRAPHY / Will Morgan
INTERVIEW / Isabella Bruce
for stockists and to buy online www.alexmonroe.com
Also available exclusively from the website this spring is Alex’s necklace for the British Beekeepers’ Association. Designed to raise awareness of the plight of the British honeybee, the necklace retails at £165. £30 from each purchase will go direct to the Association to help fund their work.