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Art Works: Alexa Milne

19 September 15 words: Art Works
A local jewellery designer and maker lets us in on her artistic process in the name of ethical production and beautiful objects
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The Avocado Skin Ring

My work is inspired by the contrast between industrial environments and patterns in nature. Even the cracks in the concrete can be beautiful. My jewellery consists of minimal shapes and forms combined with complex textures. I use as much eco and recycled silver in my work as I can, to be responsible and ethical in an industry that’s rife with corruption in so many areas.

Jewellery is about forming a connection with something precious that usually exists only in a temporary state. I want to give memories a physicality, to capture something you can interact with. I’ve always had an obsession with collecting skins, shells and small objects, and preserving their qualities. The texture of The Avocado Skin Ring is from the skin of an avocado.

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Alexandra doing the making

I just love avocados – they bring joy to my life. Who doesn’t love giving them a little rub before cracking them open? They’re the best. It was originally made as part of my final degree collection, Tactile Nostalgia, last year, but it has inspired other collections based around texture and minimalism, and the same technique has been replicated for individual commissions.

The skin is pressed into a moulding compound, then hot wax poured into the impression. Then the wax is cast in sterling silver, polished and oxidised. Transferring skin imprints into silver fascinates me too. I commissioned a ring for a woman with the handprint of her little boy embedded into it. You can see every crease and wrinkle of his hand.

My course in decorative arts gave me a whole year of material experimentation to find the right medium. Metal just happened to be mine, although I’ve also used wood, plastic, resin, concrete, hair and animal bone to make jewellery too.

People say my choice of detail is unusual: the etching of strange textures into a sterling silver surface, the use of white horse hair in pendants, oxidising the silver for a matt black finish. Jewellery should be about presenting something beautifully made in an unexpected way. I hate the idea of mass production; things coming out perfectly identical is so boring.

I share a studio in Sneinton with two other jewellers and work part-time in a vintage shop. I’m saving to undertake a research trip to Asia and South America, so I can write a book about fair trade jewellery aimed at designers and students, and give lectures about ethical and sustainable material sourcing. I want to make a difference to general attitudes to jewellery, to help change the world for the better, and to keep making beautiful things, sustainably.

Alexa Milne Jewellery can be found in Cavology in Cobden Chambers, as well as Handmade Nottingham on St James’s Street.

Alexa Milne website

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