It’s only natural to “ooh” and “aah” over Alex Monroe’s handmade jewelry, which is inspired by beautiful botanicals, woodland animals, and beloved everyday objects. He has the craftsmanship to shape precious metals into delicate designs through traditional jewelry-making techniques and the keen artist’s sixth sense to capture the smallest intricacy. Through Alex’s eyes, no detail goes unnoticed. What’s really magical, from the engagement rings showcasing whimsical twig bands to watering can necklaces with sapphire droplets dripping from their spouts, is that a different story can unfold from each of Alex’s designs depending on the individual wearing them.
Upon entering Alex’s London-based shop, I was pleasantly surprised to be standing in a room that mimicked The Jungle Book. Lush trees and green plant decor covered the walls and pineapples seemed to float against the windows — yet signs of old-school civilization like binoculars, globes, and magnifying glasses peeked out on top of the jewelry displays and handmade wooden cabinets. One glance around the shop and it’s obvious that the natural world and useful objects are ongoing themes in Alex’s designs.
After visiting his shop, I had the opportunity to stop by the charming Victorian cobbled yard in south London where he first started making his own jewelry in 1986. Today, he has a team of skilled jewelers recreating his designs in that very same studio.
See inside this whimsical world and learn more about Alex’s journey as a world-renowned jewelry designer who has worked to perfect his aesthetic over the past 30 years.
What are your most essential tools?
Over the years it’s become more apparent that my piercing saw is my most essential tool. It allows me to cut through the silver and create all the wonder shapes that can be seen in my lace lockets and loops.
Where do you find inspiration within this space?
At my bench I keep myself surrounded with all sorts of little trinkets and sketches that I’ve come to collect and draw over the weeks and months.
Where does downtime fit into a day in the studio?
Believe it or not, the studio is my downtime! As a designer I would love to be constantly making and creating but sometimes the business side of things can take up way more time that I would want it to. The studio is somewhere I can relax and create–that’s downtime to me!
What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
I would say the toughest lesson I’ve learned is once you have success you have to keep going with it. I always think about it, as riding a speed boat. You’re going so fast forward and creating a huge wave behind you that you have to avoid. If the boat stops too soon the wave will take you with it.
How did you come up with the concept of your product?
I’ve never had a concept to my style or products, they are just very much me and what I’ve always loved and enjoyed. I got to know what my designs were as I grew up and studied. I was also around like minded people and made jewelry for them that were wearable and accessible.
What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Do it for yourself. When you have a business make sure the business is working for you rather than you working for it. The business itself is not the most important thing in my life, my family is and I work primarily for them.
How do you set goals for yourself?
I’m always looking up the hill and thinking how I can use a situation to my advantage. It’s a bit of a fault really as I never stop to look at what I or the business has achieved, I’m always looking to do better and for the business to become stronger.
How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
See [the previous question]! I never end up celebrating victories as I’m too busy focusing on the next challenge.
What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“When a things done it’s done and if it’s not done right, do it differently next time.” I like this, it keeps me going and means I don’t beat myself up when things don’t work out.
What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I’ve always been between jewelry and textile, so I’m looking to create some textile designs that we can use as a brand. In jewelry I’m trying to perfect the PUK welding which uses gas to weld. Before I mostly soldered but with PUKing you can direct the piece to a specified area with out melting the rest of the piece as soldering would do.
How do you recharge your creativity?
I need to recharge my batteries but never my creativity. [Creativity is] all around me every day and my eyes are always open to it.
Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
The collaborations themselves are always great fun but they never influence my craft. Everything we collaborate on is always done in the Alex Monroe style but can lead to some exciting design meetings. The one we just finished is for Buckingham Palace, it was great fun, I got to design a carriage and a corgi!
What is your favorite piece that you’ve ever designed?
I’ve never made a piece of jewelry that I haven’t loved but my favorite piece is always the next one!
In what way does the American customer differ from the British customer?
They are very different when it comes to selling. I find the American customer really likes to be sold to and enjoys the story and particularly the meaning of a piece. British customers are a little more reserved and like to come to you if they have any questions.