Competition and interview with RockLove jewellery designer Allison Hourcade.
RockLove is the place to go for “vintage meets rock n roll glam” jewellery, and RockLove pieces have been worn by a host of celebrities. Polly Noble spoke to owner, designer and jeweller Allison Hourcade.
What made you want to become a jewellery designer?
When I was a little girl, I always toyed with beads - made the most hideous jewellery for my mum out of neon plastic Lisa Frank kits and rubber string. Throughout the 90's I would craft gaudy colourful creations from seed bead loom weaving and glitter resins, to paper rolling projects and lanyards. I even made bracelets by deconstructing plastic toothbrush handles which I heated and shaped into cuffs. Never did I consider it a career path until on a whim in college I decided to study abroad in Italy as a jewellery apprentice. Came as quite a shock to my family since I originally went to university as a violin performance major!
"Jewellery is like a chameleon... Edgy, flirty, innocent, sexy, sophisticated - it all depends on how you make it your own."
Can you tell us about your training to become a jewellery designer?
I always wanted to be an artist, but wasn't really good enough at any medium. I could draw, but not well enough to be an illustrator. I liked pottery but wasn't good enough to be a sculptor. Preferring functionality, I would get quite frustrated with my classmates, whose crazy existential pieces never seemed to make sense. In college when I started toying with the idea of crafting jewellery, they would say "Why not make a Bjork styled headpiece out of paper? Then you could wear it in the rain and as it disintegrates off your naked body you can dance around while videotaping the performance." Appalled by these types of suggestions and the lack of jewellery program at my school, I fled to Florence, Italy where I worked full time in a little studio as an apprentice.
All of your metal pieces are cast in silver. What attracts you to this material?
Silver has been my favourite material since the beginning - its heavy and grounding, affordable, malleable, and best of all... SHINY! Plus I have a terrible allergy to base metals and even react to mass produced silver made overseas. No matter how cute it looked, about five minutes into wearing a cheap piece of jewellery, my skin would boil and peel like a leper. This was one of the greatest reasons I started making my own silver pieces - to help ensure the quality of the metal so that I wouldn't look like Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Do you find it limiting using only one type of metal, or can you create different finishes and looks using silver?
I do work in vermeil and gold, but typically the RockLove collections are in hand cast sterling silver. My style includes frequently oxidizing and re-polishing the silver in various gradients of tones from bright, gunmetal, all the way to black - this increases the contrast and depth of colour. I’m currently working on a new top secret collection which will be sold in silver and 14K accented by semi-precious gemstones.
"Two artists who find each other mutually inspiring can be considered "rock loves"."
What is the story behind the name RockLove?
My family is part Russian and Romanian, so I was raised as a bit of a gypsy. Violin, belly dance, fire eating, juggling... and in the performance community, two artists who find each other mutually inspiring can be considered "rock loves". That creative respect is what coined RockLove since not only do I make my own collections but collaborate with many inspiring bands, movies, authors and organizations to craft their own signature merchandise.
What inspires your designs?
Eras of history tend to inspire various collections, fused with my own rocker style... though I do prefer to be abstract and feminine with the designs.
You are one of the creators of the official merchandise for Repo! The Genetic Opera. How did that come about?
Before the movie was even released, I was contacted by Darren and Terrance, the creators of Repo, to make them a custom piece of official jewellery merchandise. Thrilled to purchase a special limited edition collectors item, fans could show support for their favourite film while the proceeds helped to fund the Repo Road Tours. I hand crafted 1000 numbered Repo Scalpel Necklaces which sold out immediately - and now after about a year of desperate requests from die-hards, I am finally about to release a brand new Zydrate Gun pendant.
Do you have a certain type of person in mind when you design your jewellery? If so, can you describe them?
Each piece is something I myself would wear. I feel that as long as I'm true to my own sense of "vintage meets rock n roll glam" style, the creations will be a sincere expression of RockLove.
"Being alternative means that though you don't just follow what magazines say is in style - you think for yourself."
Your alternative lifestyle and your jewellery seem to be very much entwined. What do you think makes someone truly alternative?
Being alternative means that though you are aware of the current fashion trends, you wear what expresses your own unique personality. You don't just follow what magazines say is in style - you think for yourself.
Your designs have been worn by many celebrities. Can you drop a few names? And who is your favourite celebrity to have worn your jewellery?
My personal favourite celeb wearing RockLove is tattoo artist and photographer Kat Von D - she has a Rufina Onyx Rosary, among others. A perfect example of the term "RockLove" since she is a fellow artist whom I find inspiring, talented, and eloquent. Some other A-listers who have popped up in my work range from Courtney Love and Lindsey Lohan, to bands like Skinny Puppy, The Creepshow, and Ministry.
Do you think jewellery is a good way for people to express more subverted aspects of their personalities? For example, Miley Cyrus, who generally has a very squeaky clean image, recently wore some of your designs, hinting at a darker side.
Miley has worn RockLove everywhere - The Today Show, her music video "Party in the USA"... even just to get a Starbucks coffee. Jewellery is like a chameleon - one necklace can present a different attitude depending on how it's worn. Edgy, flirty, innocent, sexy, sophisticated - it all depends on how you make it your own.
Finally, what plans do you have for the future with RockLove?
Looking forward to more collaborations in addition to this new RockLove collection in gold and gemstones. I've also just finished a new catalogue, so my jewellery will be expanding into many more stores internationally. Direct purchases can still be made online at RockLove.com with new pieces, sales, and discounts updated frequently. Keep an eye out for new magazine press and photo shoots too!
You can find out more about Allison and RockLove, and pick up some jewellery from RockLove.com.