London’s jewellery scene is full of innovative talent. Emerging designers are everywhere you look. Rachel Entwistle is certainly at the forefront. Inspired by different cultures and her travels to Mexico, Guatemala and India, Rachel’s philosophy is deeply rooted in her love of anthropology, symbolism and mysticism. Twin caught up with the East London jeweller to talk Thor & Wistle, primitive man and what it’s like to win two awards at once…
What started off your passion for jewellery design?
As a teenager I was always into clothing and jewellery and often up-cycled pieces I found in charity shops and made my own things. It was in Mexico though that my passion really took off – there are so many jewellery artisans there, great silversmiths and access to gemstones precious metals and jewellery materials made it an easy place to get inspired and start making. I began making with artisans in a very low key fashion and loved hanging out in their workshops. I then went on to study in Taxco which is the silver capital of Mexico and it all went from there.
When did you decide to start your own label?
I didn’t really decide, it was just what I was doing and loved doing. It evolved naturally. I was living and travelling in Mexico and then stayed to study jewellery manufacture. I started to approach galleries and boutiques with my first pieces in Mexico and then continued when I came back to the UK. I was working from my bedroom in Hackney to start with and very quickly outgrew it and moved into my first studio by London Fields.
What inspires your designs most?
I have a background studying Cultural Studies and have always loved travelling – my interest in culture, symbolism, anthropology are the roots of my inspiration - I love to explore the hidden meaning of objects and cultural stories behind forms. For me jewellery needs to have a significance and a narrative that connects the design, the designer and the wearer.
Tell us a little about Thor & Wistle, how did the store come about?
Thor & Wistle was a natural progression for myself and Kamilla Thorsen who I co-own the store with. We had been sharing a studio for a while and renting out various pop-up spaces when we had a very successful stint on Columbia Road with a pop-up for the Christmas period of 2011. It was a great opportunity for us to manage a space and really get to know our customers and the people who really get our designs plus a chance to think about display. As the lease came to a close in Jan 2012 we realised we were ready to take on our own space. Bizarrely the Thor & Wistle premises was the first place we looked at and we signed the lease that day. We have our store, offices and studio on site and the space is perfect for us. Kind of felt like it was meant to be really!
What was it about primitive man that sparked your interest for AW14?
I am really drawn to tribal and primitive jewellery and love the thought that man has always adorned himself with a purpose – amulets and talismans that protect or manifest. I travelled to Indonesia last year and the jewellery and body adornment from Papua New Guinea really inspired my thought process and I began to explore the idea of primitive man and how ancient symbols can be translated into a modern context but still maintain that essence of strength and meaning. I like my jewellery to have a raw, primal and organic feeling but also an urban edge.
What was it like to win both Jewellery Designer of the Year and Boutique Retailer of the Year at the Retail Jewellery Awards 2014?
Unbelievable! It is such an honour to receive two awards at once. And such a surprise. To receive the ultimate recognition of Designer of the Year is incredible as I was up against some really great designers. I feel really happy to be recognised. We had just celebrated our second birthday at Thor & Wistle the week before the awards and so to receive the award for Boutique Retailer at the same time was really exciting and a great achievement considering we have only been established for such short space of time.