Alex Monroe Wild Beauty Q&a
Posted by TEAM WILD BEAUTY
Bees have become synonymous with Alex Monroe Jewellery. His iconic bumblebee pendant is loved by fans worldwide. Inspired by nature, this sustainably minded eponymous brand, has recreated some of the most delicate flowers and insects in beautiful detail in precious metals. We are delighted that Alex is a Friend of Wild Beauty, sharing our love of the countryside and, of course, bees!
Alex has kindly taken time to tell us about how growing up in the countryside inspired him and how the original bumblebee design came about.
ALEX, YOU GREW UP IN THE COUNTRYSIDE – BEING SURROUNDED BY NATURE THERE HAS CLEARLY HAD AN IMPACT ON YOUR DESIGNS. WHAT IS IT THAT YOU LOVE SO MUCH IN NATURE?
Nature is key to it all. I was bought up in the Suffolk countryside, but have lived in the city for ages so I miss it. I try to use nature a metaphor for the ideas I’m exploring. For me, if I’m designing I tend to go out into the countryside, or have an explore. I usually find the key to what I’m looking for in nature, whether that’s out in the wilds, or from a lovely afternoon in Chelsea Physic Gardens. You can see anything there is to see in nature, it’s just a matter of looking.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR LOVE OF THE COUNTRYSIDE WITH LIVING IN LONDON?
I live and work in London, although my heart is in Suffolk. I need the rush of being in the thick of it in the city, and I’ve been in London for ages now. But I also need that absolute peace and quiet that you only get in the countryside – so I’m very lucky that I have a cottage in the middle of nowhere in Suffolk that I can escape to, to get away from it all.
YOU ARE WELL KNOWN FOR YOUR ICONIC BUMBLEBEE PENDANT – HOW DID THIS DESIGN COME ABOUT AND WHAT IS IT DO YOU THINK THAT GIVES IT SUCH AN ENDURING APPEAL?
Our Bumblebee has very humble beginnings, as it all came about when my daughters found a poorly Bee in our garden, and despite our best efforts, he didn’t make it. I had been thinking about a collection around the theme of ‘Original Sin’ – so a bee buzzing around the Garden of Eden seemed like a great place to start. The girls had carefully laid the bee to rest in an old matchbox, and I sat at my workbench and studied the bee, and started recreating it from silver.
Of course, at that point, none of us could have imagined for a second that twelve years on, it would still be our most popular piece!
I always loved the idea that a creature could have a power and fragility to it’s beauty – it could sting you, but then it would die. I think bees symbolise strength and resilience to many people, and that is definitely part of it’s longevity and appeal.
AS THE BUMBLEBEE HAS INFLUENCED SO MUCH OF THE BRAND, AT HOME, IS YOUR GARDEN A HAVEN FOR BEES?
Absolutely! Gardening is very much a passion, and there’s nothing better than hearing the gentle buzz of a bee while you are pottering about outside in the sunshine. In Suffolk we have dozens of wild, rambling roses and endless foxgloves – which the bees especially love.
AS A BRAND INSPIRED BY NATURE, YOU HAVE TALKED ABOUT YOUR COMMITMENT TO MAKING SURE YOUR WORK HAS LITTLE IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND ITS PEOPLE. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT HOW YOU DO THIS?
As a company, we have always tried to be as green as possible – when companies first started talking about working with recycled silver and gold, I couldn’t quite understand it – as silver and gold have probably been recycled since people first started making jewellery! We love what we do, but realise that many of the materials used to make jewellery often have roots in horrible environmental practises, and a deep history of abusing human rights. It can be hard to trace everything back, and the task often seems daunting, but we are taking small steps to do what we can. We have just been licensed by Fairmined, so eventually all of our gold-plated jewellery will use gold from empowered, small-scale mining organisations who meet world standards for responsible practices.
Our fine jewellery collections heavily feature Sapphires, from supplier Wennick-Lefèvre who mine their stones in both an ethically and environmentally conscious manner. We have seen such a huge increase in demand for our sapphire pieces, that we have a Wennick-Lefèvre pop-up event at our Covent Garden store in June. We think this is proof that small companies can really make change in such a huge industry!
YOUR NEW ALICE IN WONDERLAND COLLECTION IS A COLLABORATION WITH THE V&A. HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT?
We have sold to the V&A shop on and off over the years, and were really excited when our buyers asked us if we would like to make some pieces for their up-coming exhibition. This was back in 2019, so the pandemic obviously slowed things down a bit! But it has been a wonderful opportunity, and the pieces have ended up offering a lovely bit of escapism during the last stretch of lockdown!
ALL YOUR JEWELLERY IS MADE IN THE UK – WHY IS THAT SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I can’t imagine doing it any other way. The UK has a brilliant history of manufacturing jewellery, there is so much knowledge, skill and history here, that it is unthinkable not to use and support this. Keeping our production in-house means that we retain control of design, finish and quality. We can scale things up and down as we need to, and quickly respond to demand. It also means our supply chain is a lot easier to trace of course. Alongside our brilliant in-house team, we work very closely with a handful of super family-run businesses, from casters, finishers to platers – and we couldn’t do what we do without them.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR THE BRAND?
The biggest thing for us this year is just getting back on track after the pandemic – as it will be for so many businesses all over the world. We have really missed seeing and chatting to customers, so hopefully that will all be a lot easier soon.
I guess my big ambition is always to keep doing what I’m doing. I don’t want to loose focus. I’m a bloke from Suffolk who makes jewellery. I’m a maker. I say that, but I actually really enjoy turning my hand to other projects too!
We launched a podcast in February, ‘This is a Token’ – which has been so much fun. It’s all about people’s favourite pieces of jewellery, and the stories and meanings behind them – to me, what jewellery is all about. We are already lining up guests for a second series, and then I’m designing playing cards at the moment…we always have a million exciting projects up ahead!
WHERE IS YOUR WILD BEAUTY ESCAPE?
It will always be Suffolk I’m afraid! My house there is in the middle of a forest, so you can’t get much wilder than that! But we are near the river too, which is great for a dip in the summer, and then there are the endless fields, where you might just catch a glimpse of dashing deer as the sun goes down.