Today we talk to jeweller Sofie Maceanruig, whose award-winning work has most recently been exhibited at International Jewellery London, and in “Handmade by Machines: Seized by the Means of Production”, Birmingham. Inspired by her love of medieval sport and armour, her pieces showcase a love of heraldry and historical detailing but are given a contemporary twist.
Image credit: Mark Griffiths
Your work has a medieval aesthetic; do you mainly focus on the historical or is it somewhat imbued with fantasy?
The core inspiration is medieval, but I do fantasise it a little – it’s not completely authentic. I consider it a more modern take on medieval designs. Most of it’s based on heraldry and the highly detailed filigree. I think I’ve always been interested in that kind of motif – I mean, at the jewellery school, my final collection was sixteen signet rings. I just love antiquated things with lots of embellishment and detail.
But it’s not just the jewellery of the period you love. There was an article in The Sun (the UK’s largest newspaper) about your work as a “female knight”.
I’m a fighter… or was. I do medieval sword fighting (the sport version, not re-enactment). I’m currently injured and waiting for an operation, which as you can imagine is quite difficult with everything going on.
But it means I’ve been able to focus on my work. I’m putting together a collection based on medieval sword fighting and I’ve taken on more custom commissions and bespoke work – it’s what I like to focus on.
Did you find over the past couple of years that it’s been difficult to balance your work and your passion for medieval sports?
To be honest it’s a constant struggle. I’m always trying to learn a healthy balance. Recently, it’s gotten a lot better – I’ve tried to simplify everything. In that respect, lockdown has helped enormously… no social life! But in all seriousness, I’m enjoying my work and I’m being productive, which wasn’t happening before.
During this whole palaver I had three weeks off at the beginning of last March, but I’ve worked through every lockdown since.
After those first three weeks they began phasing the jewellers back into the workshop. It’s been different, we wear masks obviously. Screens have been put up, but it’s been really difficult. The nature of jewellery is that it’s really small. To communicate with someone else and demonstrate you really have to be in their personal space. So it’s difficult. Of course it is. But there’s the hand sanitiser, masks, screens, and we have a temperature check every morning. We’re adapting.
Image credit: Josephine Maceanruig
So, at your current job you focus on micro-setting; has this informed your work as a designer?
That’s right, I work in both micro-setting and on private commissions, which are completely different. At a manufacturer’s I’m focused on one part of the process and we each have our own specialism. But, honestly, I’m loving it. I’m learning so much that I now incorporate into my own designs.
When I’m doing commissions it really is just me. I do every aspect of it: I design it; organise collaborations; sit down and work at the bench; chase money; do all the costing; and commission photographs.
When I’m designing, I usually start with creating the central emblem, which then informs all the other elements of the design: the dimensions; profile; and the shoulder detail. After I’ve sketched that all out, I use Matrix and 3D printing to cast the ring before cleaning it up at the bench. Then, finally, I send it off to be laser engraved with the heraldic emblem.
What’s your favourite aspect of that process?
I love being at the bench, physically – finishing a piece is so rewarding. And I love it when things are shiny. I’m a natural born magpie; it’s why I got drawn to this industry.
To see more of Sofie’s work, find her on Instagram, @maceanruig.designs.
– Interviewed by Ellen Charlesworth
Image credit: Josephine Maceanruig