Q+A: Bernice Kelly of Macha Jewelry

March 5, 2010
A lot of descriptions on the “About” page (or equivalent) of brand websites are so often lacklustre and hopelessly generic. Not so for Macha Jewelry, which prides itself on its aesthetic of “quiet rebellion”. Isn’t that kind of great? I think that’s what I aspire to; a sartorial combination of the subtle and yet interesting and unexpected. Founded by Irishwoman and former fashion designer, Bernice Kelly, and now based in London, the brand proffers rough-around-the-edges but undeniably beautiful pieces for men and women. We talked Barbour, lost-wax casting and bespoke.
Who and what is Macha Jewelry?
Macha was set up as a reaction against the corporate fashion world I used
to work in. I created and own the brand, and aside from some amazing
interns, do pretty much everything myself. It’s a ‘back to basics’ Fine
Jewellery brand, influenced by the rawness and humility of home (Macha
comes from the Irish name for Armagh) with the emphasis on modernising
classic pieces.
Describe the Macha aesthetic…
I guess Macha pieces have a kind of rugged elegance, and a sense of
nonchalance, for both men and women. I love that they revive some kind of
distant memory in people when they wear them, and inspire new connotations
after some time. A journalist recently wrote that ‘Macha emphasises
rawness over polish and flash for previously worn appearance’, that pretty
much hit the nail on the head.
You’ve used blackened finishes and wax casting. Tell us a bit more
about the techniques you employ to create your men’s collection…
Pieces are hand crafted in a traditional way using a hand saw, a series
of files, and a soldering torch.
When I find the time, and inspiration, I carve intricate pieces from wax
and have them cast into the appropriate metal. This type of ‘Lost-wax casting’ is an ancient art, widespread in the 18th century, only very
small amounts are made at a time, and everything is touched by hand. It’s
great to be able to bring handmade back into the marketplace.
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What one item of jewelry is key for men/should men wear?
The ‘Keith’ bracelet is a classic essential. Hand woven over a full day at
the Macha studio. Oh, and the Exile ring is a magnificient reminder of
history, inspired by an 19th century carving knife.
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Tell us a bit about the bespoke service you’ve recently launched…
After many years designing for clothing brands where styles are dictated
to the people by the brand, it felt natural to be open to ideas (and to
keep sane in an often solitary business).
It’s so nice to make something that’s not totally about you, and to have
these opportunities to produce a collaborative style.
The idea is that anyone can go to the Macha store online, and find an idea
thats interesting for them as an individual. They can ask a question
about any bespoke product to start the discussion with me. After settling
on a piece they would like to purchase, I create a listing in the
Bespoke section that they can buy online. Each customer is then helping
to drive the brand forward in some small way.
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Who/What inspires your design?
Actually, there’s nothing better than a classic for me, a western film,
Star Wars, a practical old chair, brands like Barbour and Savile Row
tailoring, Southern American blues, odd places and events I visit like
Marfa in Texas, the Twinsburg festival in Ohio, some good old fashioned
entertainment! And of course all of the people that cross my path.
Info on stockists here. Photos by Dan McMahon.