designer spotlight: lady grey

Sabine Le Guyader and Jill Martinelli are taking the jewelry market by storm with their handmade line, Lady Grey. Their moody, geometrical patterns have won them major accolades and even a spot on Teen Vogue's list of eight indie jewelry designers to watch. They've just landed on the site, so here's a behind the scenes introduction of the girls.

-Where did you get the name for your line?

Lady Jane Grey, “The Nine Day Queen” has a quite fascinating story. The mood that her name and the story of her life evoke really worked well with the vision we had for our line.

-Where or who do you draw your inspiration from?

Overall, we are inspired by the basic idea and history of adornment, questioning it as well as embracing it. We have always really been into symbolic imagery such as crosses, crystals, bones and pendulums. Our current collection "Sacred Geometry" breaks down naturally occurring geometric forms (geodes, crystals, molecular structures) and reconfigures them into abstracted pieces of jewelry.

-How did you establish your line and start growing as a brand?

We moved to New York together after studying Metalsmithing at Massachusetts College of Art. After setting up a full jewelry studio in our loft in Brooklyn, we designed and produced our first collection. That collection was immediately picked up by some really amazing boutiques in New York and London, so we figured we were on to something…

-Your collection is called "Sacred Geometry," what gives you both such a commitment to structure in your designs?

We wanted to create a collection that felt both historical and futuristic. In previous collections we had worked in a very raw and organic nature, “Sacred Geometry” was a personal challenge to us. We wanted to see how well we could completely hand make structures that were precise and geometric- never using any prefabricated parts or materials. We metalsmiths get off on meticulous work and craftsmanship.

-You also styled your own look book, which other aspects of your line are of a do-it-yourself nature?

We are total creative control-freaks, so we basically design and create everything involved with Lady Grey that your eyes will ever see. We have our blog, Lady Grey Lair, where we share a lot of behind the scenes, inspirations, and just plain wacky stuff we’re into.

-Getting a Gen Art award was a major achievement for your young line; how do you think their shuttering will affect young designers?

Gen Art was amazingly supportive of us and we were so sad to hear of them closing down. It is extremely difficult to start up and sustain a young brand, especially without funding, so young designers need all the support they can get. Gen Art provided all sorts of opportunities, we just hope another organization will surface that will be able fill that void.

-How do you keep yourselves entertained in the studio?

We perform elementary science experiments, for example: “Hey Sabine, what do you think will happen to your sister’s first communion pearls if we soak them in this bottle of hydrochloric acid?”. Once we forgot about one of our “experiments” and months later found it under our bench, it had overgrown into turquoise and yellow crystals. We also have a lot of friends coming in and out of the studio - which is always fun - but usually we make them grab a piece of sandpaper or polishing cloth and help us work! If not, they might get kicked out.

-Making everything by hand is one of your brand signatures. Have you ever faced any injuries or impossible deadlines in construction?

When we really get into the zone and are intensely focused on our work, sometimes we become a bit careless and forget about the existence of our hands. We end up sawing into our fingers, burning our eyebrows off, or some bloody disaster. At some point you barely notice it. Sometimes we photograph our injuries, we take pride in them, they are battle wounds!

-Is your musical taste as dark as your design aesthetic? What are you into?

We listen to a lot of dark, moody, psychedelic music, but sometimes we totally girly-out to The Cranberries or something. Our favorites to listen to while working are Washed Out, The Cramps, Severed Heads, Sebastien Tellier, and lots and lots of Phil Collins.

-Both of you worked with prosthetic dentistry and orthodontics... any stories?

We learned a lot of what we know working in the dental field at a very young age. The techniques are very similar with jewelry and dentistry, believe it or not, so we use a lot of dental tools, materials and tricks while working.

We use this metal in our jewelry called Chrome Cobalt, which is a type of surgical steel that turns into oil-slick iridescent colors when torched, but it is usually used in prosthetic dentistry for partial dentures and implants. It is quite difficult to work with for jewelers, since it has such a melting temperature and requires completely different tools and equipment, but luckily we are able to take trips to Sabine’s father’s office to make all of our Chrome Cobalt jewels-- while he’s making the framework for dentures!

Shop the Lady Grey collection here

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