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Metronome Sessions

Silver Linings: Bone Arrow's Clare Gregory on Crystals, Workshops and Life in Sneinton Market

16 November 20 interview: Emily Thursfield

They say that if you treat the universe with the respect it deserves, it’ll treat you right back. That couldn't be more clear than in the case of Clare Gregory of Bone Arrow – after years of working full-time as an MUA, she went on to launch her first collection of silver, gothic-inspired jewellery. The business has gone from strength to strength, and at the beginning of 2020 she opened her first physical store in Sneinton Market. Our Assistant Editor caught up with her about all things C, bad vibes and divine intervention… 

Tell me how Bone Arrow began... 
After my A levels, I went to college in Mansfield to study 3-Dimensional Design. Along with product design and interiors, we tried jewellery and metal work and I just loved it. My teacher encouraged me to apply to the best jewellery schools in the country, so I went to study jewellery and silversmithing at university in Birmingham, in the jewellery quarter. 

Because I wasn’t particularly studious or academic, my degree took me around five years to complete, so I never really felt like I was particularly good at it, or at anything. I also didn't feel like I fit in in the jewellery industry because all of the stuff that was commercial I thought was horrible. It didn’t really occur to me that if I made the stuff that I liked, other people might like it as well. So I tried other jobs – I became a makeup artist, working during London Fashion Week and on films, but I kept making jewellery for myself and for friends. About five years ago I decided to properly start a jewellery business.

You make every piece of jewellery yourself. Where do you look for your inspiration?
A lot of the time, it comes from the stones. I don’t like fussy designs or settings, I want the stones to speak for themselves, so I make them the star of the show. With my other silver jewellery, I get a lot of inspiration from mythology and literature. I’m obsessed with Greek mythology – my collection called Queen of the Underworld was based on Persephone, and I’m working on one inspired by Ophelia, the Shakespeare character. I’m just inspired by a sense of melancholy, with death entwined too. I like oxidising silver to make it black, and I don't do perfect or highly polished. I like everything to look like it's been worn; a lived-in and loved style. 

A lot of your pieces use crystals. Have you always been interested in their powers?
When I was a teenager, there was this hippy-gothy shop in Mansfield that I was obsessed with – anything to be able to dress like Lydia Deetz. I bought some spherical crystals from there and carried them with me everywhere. I didn’t have any idea about them on a wider scale, I was just really drawn to them. Now, having done the research, I just think it’s fascinating that everything on earth and all the planets in the solar system were created from a star explosion, and that these different crystals have formed in the earth over millions of years.

When you pick up a crystal, you can feel its energy. That’s why I think we like to wear jewellery, because it’s a connection back to the earth. You know when you forget to put it on and it’s like there’s a piece of you missing? I feel they do become a part of you because you’re made from the same stuff. 

Why is it important to you to use recycled silver and ethically sourced stones for your jewellery?
The less that’s coming out of the earth the better. Wherever I can, I like to know where a crystal has come from because they carry energy. For my collection launching at the end of the year, it was really important to me that the diamonds were ethically sourced – I mean, we’ve all seen Blood Diamond and you don’t want the stones you are wearing to carry that kind of energy, so they have l come from a mine in Botswana that has won awards for green mining practices. I know that they're not carrying the energy of... awfulness. 

Do you believe that jewellery should only be bought to commemorate a memory, or would you buy a piece just because you think it’s pretty?
Personally I think that jewellery takes on its own meaning. One of my favourite quotes from Gabriel García Márquez is: “Things have a life of their own, it's simply a matter of waking up their souls.” When I create a piece of jewellery, I’m combining silver that’s had a previous life with a stone formed in a volcano or whatever, and the act of putting them together is a bit like waking it up. I think that all jewellery can be for some special occasion, whether it's a landmark or just because you thought you deserved a treat because you need cheering up. Life is a special occasion. 

What's your favourite piece you’ve made?
I made myself a giant smokey quartz pendant when my dad was really ill, just before he died. He was discharged from hospital right in the middle of the March lockdown and my mum had COVID symptoms, so I moved back home to quarantine mum in one room and disinfect everything in the other for dad, who had just finished having chemotherapy. I took a little workbench with me and through those couple of months, this necklace became a bit of a pillar of strength. Smokey quartz is really good for grounding and stress release, so whenever I was feeling things were getting a bit much I felt myself holding onto it, like an anchor back to the earth. 

So, we’re neighbours now! Where were you working before your move to Sneinton Market?
I had a little workshop just around the corner at Fishergate Point, but I would walk through Sneinton Market on my way home every day and look at the units thinking that this would be my absolute dream. One eventually became available which I ummed and ahhhed about, but I worked out that if I did classes as well as selling online, then I could cover the rent. So I moved in in January. And I love it! Everyone that comes in says it has a really nice energy and it really does, the whole market does. 

What does the future look like for Bone Arrow?
I'm super excited about my engagement ring collection – there’s going to be five designs using black diamonds and white gold that people can order and I’ll make bespoke for them. I also release a new collection every couple of months using specific stone, like the onyx pieces that I released in September. These drops are one of a kind and limited edition pieces and usually sell out quite quickly. I reckon the new collection will probably happen in the new year, and I’ve already got a lot of new ideas on the go. 

I’m excited to start classes back up again too – I love running them. It's so exciting watching people who are a bit scared and think that they can't do it – but they're adventurous, which is why they come to the workshop in the first place. People always think they will be the one that messes it up, but at the end of the class they’ll walk away with something that they’re so proud of. It’s awesome to watch. 

I don't do perfect or highly polished. I like everything to look like it's been worn; a lived-in and loved style.

Emily attended stacking ring workshop… 

Held in the mezzanine of her gorgeous, gothic unit, I attended the class alongside three other jewellery newbies, where the goal was to make three, detailed silver rings under Clare’s watchful eye. Taking place in a post-COVID world, we were all masked up and given our own workbench, tools and hand sanitizer to ensure we felt safe and happy. 

Clare began by giving us a quick demonstration of the process, putting me totally at ease with the foregin objects surrounding me, and we soon got stuck into creating our first ring. Made from pieces of silver wire – either plain or textured with a pattern – we went through the entire process start to finish: sawing, moulding, soldering, and a list of other tasks I haven’t thought about since secondary school DT lessons. 

I was definitely one of those wimps Clare referred to in her interview, refusing to do anything drastic or foreign without her giving me approval, but it surprised me how quickly I became inspired, full of ideas for my new accessories. Let me tell you, the sense of accomplishment that comes with successfully using a tiny blowtorch is overwhelming. 

After spending all day typing at my desk, it felt extremely therapeutic to be bashing bits of metal around with a tiny hammer to make grooves and patterns on my rings. It was a kind of creativity I’d never explored before, but one I’m certain I’ll return to again. 

I wasn’t the only one to be a silversmithing convert – it was so heartwarming to see every face light up each time they picked their ring up out of the acid bath and realised they’d made something beautiful with their own hands. COVID has taught a lot of us to take joy in the little things, and now I have a permanent reminder of this uplifting evening sitting proudly on my pointers. 

Bone Arrow, Unit 35, Avenue C, Sneinton Market, NG1 1DW

Bone Arrow website

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