The son of an artist and an inventor, William Llewellyn Griffiths is a self-taught manipulator of precious metals. He began his career in the jewellery workshops of London’s Hatton Garden over 30 years ago, and his works have since been sold and exhibited throughout Europe, Japan, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. His designs are a potent cocktail of stones, metals and gems hand-worked into intricate pieces that have an allure of danger, romance and unholy reverence. William recently generously took a few minutes away from his workbench to answer some questions for me about his craft.
When did you know you wanted to be a jewellery artist?
I started off in the jewellery trade making very traditional jewellery, then someone commissioned me to make them a skull ring. After I’d made one skull ring, other people wanted one too… That made me realise I could take my jewellery making skills and go off and do my own thing.
Your jewellery is highly conceptual and magnificently sculptural. How long does it take you to design and create a new work?
Sometimes a couple of days, sometimes a couple of months… sometimes the idea sits in my head for years before I do anything!
You use a lot of precious gems and metals in your pieces – what is your favourite material to work with?
I love sourcing unusual cut gemstones and rough diamonds. I like the contrast between oxidised silver and the bright yellow of 18ct gold both in the same piece.
Where many artists prefer to conceal their creative process, the WLG workshop in Fitzroy is famously open to the public. What lead you to this decision?
My passion is making jewellery, I would go out of my mind if I had to sit in a shop all day being a sales person so putting a bench in the shop gives me the option to make jewellery when there are no customers. I’m not concerned about people seeing my creative process in fact I teach classes on my techniques; and besides I feel it is good in this day and age when so much is imported to see someone making what they sell.
You’ve collaborated with fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. What are your feelings on the relationship with fashion and fine jewellery?
I think this is where the difference between jewellery – especially costume jewellery and fine jewellery – really stands out. Costume jewellery or cheaper/mass produced jewellery has a lot more to do with fashion trends. A costume piece can be worn one season and it’s cheap… it’s not made well… you throw it away and get a new style next season. Fine jewellery is more about your personal style, you invest more money and thought into something that you are going to cherish and wear for a long time, maybe even pass on to your children. That also where bespoke jewellery is important, I don’t want to buy something that everyone else has I want to invest in a unique piece that says something about me.
What’s coming for Metal Couture in the next 6 months?
I’ve been so inspired lately not by films or books, just life and wanting to get my ideas out so I can move onto the next idea. I have so many ideas! I’ve got some exciting engagement rings designs, and extravegant cocktails rings.
Recommend one book, film or album that’s inspiring your work right now.
I recently bought Tresors D’argent – a book about the work of a French goldsmith called François-Désiré Froment-Meurice.
You can visit the Metal Couture website to view more of William’s impressive work and find out where to buy his creations.