Monday, November 9, 2009

STEPHEN WEBSTER

White Gold Jeweline Ring with
Red Coral Stone and Black Sapphires
With its famed Glass Pavilions and grounds spanning 19 acres, the Sheffield Botanical Gardens in England has gained the unsurprising reputation of being a natural sanctuary away from the world.

Built over a century ago, the fixture houses Sarccocca, Diervilla, and Weigela plant collections. England is also the home of featured jewelry designer Stephen Webster.

One look at his slightly unkempt, thick tousle of wavy hair and tattoos, there is no mistaking Webster's sense of individuality and edge.

While browsing photos of his collections on his website I initially expected to find a type of crossbones-and-skull theme running throughout.

There is an element of that with his shark tooth pendants, and vampire and wolfman cufflinks there is also a sweeping elegance to many of his pieces.

His multi-faceted design approach is reminiscent of fellow designer, and Englishman, Theo Fennell. Webster's intriguing aesthetic is a study of contrasts: elegant and edgy, refined and rough, shadowy and ethereal.

Webster the man is also a study of contrasts.  During his childhood he endured numerous altercations with neighborhood kids while being raised in a home helmed by a dockyard draftsman father, and artistically gifted mother.

"My mother took everything she did to an amazing place," he says. "She was a housewife and didn’t' have many outlets for self-expression, but my birthday cakes were the best in the neighborhood."

Webster answered the call of jewelry design at the age of 16 attending the Medway College of Design, and training under Tony Shepherd, a former Prime Warden of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. "It was so fantastic," he says. "I loved it immediately. I couldn't believe that jewelry design could be a career."
Skyfall Character Poster feat. Berenice Marlohe wearing
Bamboo Earrings and Pendant Necklace; and Queen Cobra and Love Knot Rings
Intense and driven, at the prompting of a Canadian gemologist he moved to Alberta, Canada and for three years created jewelry for the "affluent skiing crowd." His bold design aesthetic was an instant hit, but his strict work ethic cost him his health and marriage.

"My personality changed. I was homesick and became an insane workaholic working until 11 p.m. without any breaks. I drove myself into depression and stopped eating," he recalls. Once he relocated to California with the gemologist, he readjusted his work ethic and slowly built up his confidence after divorcing his wife.


Little-by-little his reputation as an innovative, avant-garde designer began to spread and within time.  He began creating jewelry for Goldie Hawn and Elizabeth Taylor.

Webster made no apologies for pushing the limits with his jewelry. "So many people in the industry were telling me to play it safe," he remembers. "That's bollocks! If people are accustomed to statement making jewelry they won't suddenly go minimalistic."

Although he was thrilled about his acceptance in the United States, he wanted to continue building his brand in London where, surprisingly, he was not well-known. Once he returned to London, Brian Message--a friend of Webster's and manager for the band Radiohead--convinced him to play up his tough guy, rebellious looks.

A punk, rock-n-roll type of persona was ultimately created to match Webster's flamboyant jewelry. The persona worked and by 1999, his clientele grew to include Kate Beckinsale, Kate Moss, Elton John, and Ozzy Osbourne.

His jewelry will not suit everyone's taste, but there is something to be said for those designers who go against convention.

His animal-inspired pieces, namely a lobster, scorpion, and mosquito, are definitely not of the warm and fuzzy sort.  But the items are such vivid replications fashioned from brown and black diamonds, opals, and coral that you still find yourself drawn in by the contrasts of a type of monstrous beauty. It is not so much that he creates daring jewelry but rather in doing so, he is being true to himself.

His powerful trinkets have garnered him awards including Jewelry Designer of the Year three times, the Diamond Jeweler of the Year twice, and the British Luxury Jeweler of the Year three times.

Coral and Black Onyx
Shark Tooth Pendants on Sterling Silver Chain
In late 2008, while also running his own brand, Webster became the Creative Director for one of London's most revered jewelry brands, Garrard.

He hopes to revive the company after several years of changing management returning it to its glory days when the company once made regalia.

Keep your eyes peeled.  In November 2012, Webster's distinctive jewelry style--a collaboration with Swarovski--will be showcased in the new James Bond film Skyfall as worn by actor Berenice Marlohe.

To view more of Webster's intriguing and varied design approach watch the promo video below for Webster by Bacilio Mendez, former Senior Associate Editor of JCK.


Note: Some Links and Photos Redirect To Alternative Items At ShopStyle Collective
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