Having worked in the fashion industry as a ready-to-wear designer for the likes of Burberry, Tom Ford and Versace, Sophie McKay launched Bar Jewellery in October 2016. Her minimalist sculptural designs take inspiration from architecture, contemporary art and vintage jewellery. Through her label, McKay champions a sustainable and open approach: the pieces begin life in her East London and the majority are made from recycled silver here in the capital.

We spoke to the designer about her newest collection which is influenced by the work of mid-century French ceramicist Robert Deblander.

Why did you decide to move away from fashion and into jewellery?

The idea to start Bar Jewellery came in 2015. I always imagined I would set up a brand of some kind, I was consulting as a designer and developed the brand on my days off. I had a strong vision for the mood and aesthetic that I wanted to create and an obsession with vintage jewellery. I also love that there is so much emotion attached to jewellery.

Photography by Thu Thuy Pham

What do you think the differences are between designing fashion and jewellery? 

Both are very hands on, which I love. But with jewellery I work more with the materials rather than sketching, it's almost like creating sculpture. Creating a beautiful polished product out of a piece of raw metal is a really satisfying process that never gets boring! When I am designing I often work on my own in the evenings and weekends, as I find working with metal a really relaxing and meditative thing to do.

The name of your label, Bar Jewellery, comes from "the idea of being stripped back to basics." What does this mean to you?

The idea behind the brand came from how I was feeling at the time I started it. My head was full of noise and I felt uninspired, so getting back to basics was really important to me. The industry and the world in general is so busy, I wanted to create pieces that had a purity of form, that were inspiring to look at and had a sense of calm.

Photography by Thu Thuy Pham

You ensure that your pieces are made in the most ethical and sustainable ways possible. Why is this important to you?  

I think if you are putting something new into the world then there is a responsibility to make it as positive as possible. By making small and positive choices along the way we hope to make a difference as the business grows. We try to consider our impact in everything we do and are constantly talking about ways we can improve. This even comes down to the way we interact with staff and anyone we come into contact with in our supply chain. It is really important to me to create a positive work environment and treat people with respect. 

How do you find inspiration for your work?

I always start by collecting images of artist’s work, vintage jewellery and other interesting forms. Then we all talk about new ideas in the studio, draw rough sketches to put together an idea of what the collection could look like. From there I normally play with wire and wax to develop the ideas into real pieces. Most of all, I find inspiration in the making process, as that's when the most exciting and unexpected ideas come to me.

Photography by Thu Thuy Pham

Your most recent collection for SS20 was influenced by the mid-twentieth century French ceramicist Robert Deblander. What drew you to his work?

The angled edges and slightly awkward shapes are what drew me to his work. I think there is far more magic in oddness and imperfection than a technically perfect or traditionally beautiful piece of art.

How have you translated Deblander’s pottery into wearable pieces? 

I normally work back from traditional pieces of jewellery, for example the classic hoop, to ground the pieces and make sure that there is an element of familiarity to them. We imagined the earrings would be worn in a similar way to a classic hoop, so carved various odd, angled shapes into wax and tapered the edges to create pieces that captured the feeling of awkward, perfect imperfection that also exists in Deblander’s work.

Shop the collection here.

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