For costume designer turned jewelry maker Anabel Campbell, it is what her jewelry means to people that matters the most. Inspired by ancient tribal wears combined with a modern disco feel, with the recent Navajo trend getting its day under the fashion sun, Anabel has never been busier.
So, from making necklaces for Russell Crowe to Japanese braiding techniques, we find out just what drives this exciting and colorful designer.
Hello Anabel – can you please just tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Suffolk, in a creative family. I had quite a liberal upbringing; we had no television and were encouraged to make our own entertainment, so my childhood was all about drawing and making things. I used to make puppets and put on plays with my sisters, and there was a lot of sunflower-seed-necklace making! It was all quite idyllic. I now live in North London where I try and encourage my own children to do the same – there’s an often lot of cut up bits of paper all over the floor, so I think they’re headed in the same direction!
After school I travelled for a bit, and then decided to go to Art school when I was 25. I studied costume at Wimbledon school of Art.
You used to work in the film industry, can you tell us a bit about this?
I used to work in the Costume department. Although I loved it, it was very demanding – it wasn’t uncommon to work 14 hours a day, six days a week. I was often away from home for long stretches of time so it didn’t really fit in with family life; jewelry making became a natural progression.
How did you discover your love for jewelry making?
One of my first jobs after art school was on Ridley Scott’s film ‘Gladiator.’ I made a lot of tribal jewelry, including a wolf tooth necklace for Russell Crowe. He insisted on wearing it all the time, on and off screen, (he even slept in it) to help him stay in character. I really loved the idea that a piece of jewelry could have that power for him – it was a bit of a defining moment!
What is it about jewelry that you love so much?
I think mostly I love the sentimentality of it. From the symbolism of a wedding ring to the superstition of never taking a piece off. I love the idea that I can make something that can mean so much to someone.
You have said that you are inspired by tribal costume – is there any reason in particular for this?
I’m not sure where it came from – perhaps from a childhood of flicking through National Geographic! I’m very inspired by the colors of tribal costume and textiles, but also by the symbolism. I love how body adornment in different cultures can signify so much; social standing, marital status, wealth. I was one of those backpackers constantly weighed down with beads and amulets and friendship bands – I loved the idea of the craftsmanship that went into them, and the belief in their protective powers. I still haven’t shaken that, and I think that look sneaks into my work now, but hopefully with a more sophisticated edge.
How would you describe your jewelry?
I think it has a slightly tribal / bohemian look about it, but with a touch of glamour. Someone once called my Navajo collection ‘disco beads’, which I quite like! I think my pieces have a duel personality, making them equally at home with a pair of jeans during the day or with a cocktail dress at night.
Can you describe your design process?
There’s no set pattern – sometimes I’ll start with the materials, playing around with colors and ideas until something works, and sometimes I’ll start with a quick sketch on the back of a napkin that grows into a whole collection. I often have more than one idea on the go at a time, hence the two completely different Navajo / Climbing rings collections.
Your pieces are all handmade, why is this process so important to you?
Well, it was the making process itself that made me want to design jewelry in the first place. I get immense satisfaction from crafting a piece from beginning to end, and I think a lot of people (including me) love wearing things that have had that much love and care put into them, and that they are not going to see on every other person on the High St. I also think it’s important to keep traditional crafts and techniques alive.
Your rings are very interesting and intricate – how did you get the inspiration for them?
I have a bit of a fascination with armor, and have always liked ‘armor rings’ with hinges like medieval gauntlets. I wanted to make a much more delicate, feminine and wearable version – so I set out to look for floral motifs. I found some beautiful designs on kimono silk, and based the ring designs around them.
Clearly the Navajo trend has had a huge impact on you, what are the next trends that you are channeling?
That was more lucky coincidence than anything else! Although I am very interested in fashion, I get more fixated on a technique than a trend – I happened to be doing a lot of bead weaving at the same time the fashion world was in love with Navajo. My next obsession is Kumihimo – a Japanese braiding technique. I’m working with some gorgeous colored silks and gold chains for spring and summer.
I love how Boticca nurtures small independent designers – and how it brings together designers from all over the world. I love that people who shop on Boticca are looking for something unique with a bit of a story behind it, and there’s no better feeling than receiving glowing feedback from a happy customer, it makes the whole process worthwhile. I also have a special fondness for Boticca, as it’s where I made my first sale, exactly a year ago!
How would you sum up your brand in 5 words?
Glamorous, Bohemian, Sophisticated, Tribal, Handmade.
For more from Anabel Campbell visit her shop.