Meet the Designer: an interview with Christopher Thompson Royds

6 MIN READ | by Cecily Motley on Sep 9, 2019
6 MIN READ | by Cecily Motley on Sep 9, 2019

Let’s start at the very beginning. How and why did you come to jewellery design?

It started early. I grew up in Oxfordshire in the heart of the Cotswolds. It was an idyllic upbringing; I was basically feral, disappearing off into the countryside constantly building dams, making dens, from dawn to dusk, until I was sent to boarding school. My secondary school had a Silversmithing and Jewellery Workshop, so from the age of twelve, my earlier dam building and den making skills were channelled into this. I loved it; what small boy doesn’t like playing with fire, melting things, bashing things? It captivated me. 

In addition to this practical start, jewellery had always played a part in family stories. My maternal grandmother’s inheritance had been family jewellery. Its theft, allegedly by Christine Keeler, turned her hair white overnight. My mother had jewellery stolen on the first day of her honeymoon in Italy. So perhaps it would be more accurate to say my childhood was spent surrounded by an absence of jewellery, but their ghosts still haunted. 

After school and several years working for a contemporary art gallery in London, I returned to a more formal study of jewellery. This ended in 2010 with the completion of my MA in Goldsmithing and Jewellery at the Royal College of Art, London, and I have been making ever since. Oh and I’ve always loved shiny things.

Christopher Thompson Royds

You are an artist jeweller with work in the V and A. What is the difference between Art and jewellery?

One you put on your walls, and the other on yourself – your choice obviously.

Are you more Artist or Jeweller?

Definitely Jeweller. If people consider it art, wonderful, but the pieces I make are always in response to the person and the various narratives connected with that. I want it to be worn AND in museums. 

You were based in Amsterdam until recently. Do you think living in a foreign country has changed your work?

I’m not sure if it does directly, I mean I haven’t lived in the countryside for years and yet make nature-inspired jewels. But then again Amsterdam is where I developed my new Flower Pieces – all those Golden Age Old Masters and their still life paintings, the heightened reality they achieved, the Dutch landscape – entirely manmade – must have fed in somehow. 

Tell us about your process. Where do ideas come from (do they start as a walk, metal or a pen)

I’m not particularly conscious of my process, luckily ideas just come, usually when I’m thinking about something else or trying to get to sleep. Normally I first see the finished pieces in my mind’s eye, then either sketch the idea out usually in metal or sometimes on paper. It takes a while to match what is in my head to what is in front of me. 

Tell us about Hey Boy and Hey Girl.

I remembered getting one of those toys with a printed face and chain for the nose that you shook to create fantastical snouts; I think originally they were Victorian, but mine was plastic and came in a cracker when I was young. 

I had the idea of a Charm necklace that when you are not wearing you can similarly make into a caricature – this time a person. Hey Girl, Hey Boy are playful, you are meant to create stories, little animations in idle moments and they are always more fun if you have two!!!  Two Girls, Two Boys, a Girl and a Boy, layer away. We need to add a dog, they need a pet. 

Motley x Christopher Thompson Royds
Motley x Christopher Thompson Royds, Hey Boy and Hey Girl 

What topics do you rant about?

Education; turning universities and art schools into money-making machines, shutting down creative courses because they are not cost-effective, closing evening classes (I got back into jewellery because of a Westminster Adult Education course), basically removing peoples opportunities. If my school hadn’t have had a Silversmithing workshop I wouldn’t have ended up a jeweller, a rarefied niche, but if you are not exposed to differing (and unexpected) experiences your opportunities are limited. 

Similarly Instagram algorithms – I don’t want a computer telling me what I’m interested in; inspiration comes from chance encounters. Although Henry Moore’s studio assistants did use to find oddly-shaped flints and place them beside the path of Moore’s morning walk for him to find and ‘get inspiration from’. Perhaps I would just prefer my filtered feed to come from another human. 

The toughest moment of your career to date?

Every time I look at the gold price at the moment!!!

You only have time to save one object in a fire: what do you save?

Myself, I’m irreplaceable.

If you could sit next to anyone from any time in history at dinner, who would it be?

I’ve just been to the Lee Krasner at the Barbican, she’s my current art crush.  The documentary interviewing her is brilliant. She was force to be reckoned with: ‘I don’t care whose toes I step on, and I stepped on a lot of toes and I know it.’ in a difficult position (being the widow of Pollock) but straight forward and disarmingly down to earth. I think you’d have a great time. In a month it’ll probably be someone different.

Motley x Christopher Thompson Royds, What a Handful Drop Earrings in Sterling Silver, £70

Is there a book, picture or play that changed your life?

At the moment I’m having an epiphany; it is amazing how your childhood influences future creativity and inspiration. Hey Girl Hey Boy as I have already said came from a childhood Christmas Cracker toy! So with that in mind, I have always always loved ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen’ – a story championing imagination over reason. If you can imagine it, it just might happen! 

Best advice you’ve ever had?

‘We are not saving lives’ – my old boss, when I was working for an art gallery, used to say this frequently when there was a perceived crisis. It was always true, we weren’t saving lives, and calm would rapidly descend again. I still use it. 

Worst?

‘Have one for the road’- IT IS NEVER JUST ONE!!!!! At this point I have a long list of friends I would like to cite but won’t – you know who you are!!!!

What keeps you going on a rainy day?

The promise of a sunny one to come 

What makes you want to burn it all to the ground?

Although I normally cycle to avoid this, being stuck on a London bus with a dawdling driver, I have no tolerance of this; I like to think I have places to go!!!

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