Jewellery that has a story to tell

The Chinese Weekly Interview

NewsEmma René

Very excited to be featured in The Chinese Weekly magazine in the UK this October. The interview took place at our studio where we spoke about everything from our inspirations to plans for the future. Grab yourself a copy - but only if you can read Mandarin!

For everyone else, here's the article translated!

The British Independent Jewellery Brand, Narratorium
Wear your story

Those wonderful experiences in life, in what ways will you record these down? Text would be the usual practice, a more artsy way would be through drawings or song composing. Emma Rene, the designer of the British independent jewellery brand, Narratorium, chose to express those touching moments through handmade jewellery. She thinks: the story behind a piece of jewellery is exactly its soul, with the power to win people’s hearts.

On the day I visited the Narratorium studio, there were light showers, the moment I arrived I noticed Emma collected many unique exotic decorations, like the china doll wearing Qing Dynasty costume, Southeast Asian style buddist statues, Indian handicraft… Trust these different cultural elements have given Emma a lot of inspirations, so I can’t wait to hear about her story.

Narratorium was founded in early 2015, but early as four years ago, Emma started preparation work. “The initial idea was due to a trip to China, that led me realise richness that culture has. China has so many interesting cultural elements, that gave me such great visual impact!” After the trip, Emma then wants to use a special way of media to record it down the stories she saw and experienced during the journey. In the end she decided on jewellery design. 

Most of Emma’s inspiration comes from the things she see and hear during travelling. Every time she travels, she would take a lot of photos, write down her moments in her diary, and when she designs, she would recall her feelings based on these information, lastly to record them through shapes.

“The collections that are already for sale, are mostly inspired by Chinese cultural elements,” Emma says. She picked up a necklace she was wearing – “Lovelock”, and told me about its story: a few years ago, when she and her husband were hiking up the Sichuan Mount Emei, they saw many lovers would hang this kind of locks on the fences at the peak, and would throw away the keys once they are locked, signifies the eternity of love. “At the time we also locked one there, and we also saw the sunrise at the peak. I was so touched by that day’s experience, so memorable, and also gave me my initial inspirations.” Many experiences during travel would give Emma the urge to design. She would record these ideas in a sketch book, and take the time to think whether the form or the meaning of these would become her inspiration. 

The design of “Lovelock” is inspired by its form, whilst another best-selling piece “Lun Yu” is inspired by Confucius Philosophy. Emma has her own view on Confucius “Lun Yu” philosophy, “Confucius philosophy has its wisdom, at the same time simple. Many phrases in ‘Lun Yu’ seem simple, but after repeat thinking you’ll be inspired, these principles are great wisdom in daily life. That’s why in this collection, I use the most common silver-based material and basic geometric shapes.” The style of “Lun Yu” collection is all very simple, with highlight being the embossed words on the pendant. The two designs each took the quote from “Lun Yu”, “Wherever you go, go with all your heart” and “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Emma told me, this collection has the highest clickthroughs and is the best selling among her current designs. This surprised me, because as a piece of accessory, the style of it is really very simple. So what attracts the consumers must be the story behind the necklace, which is also ‘ the soul of jewellery’ that Emma persists on. 

Emma’s specialty is graphic design, before that she did not received any professional jewellery design qualification, but this is also what made Narratorium special, she said “my professional background is more towards creative design, such as innovation on graphics and textures, I can therefore think outside of ordinary jewellery design, and further pay attention to the relationship between the style of jewellery and the story behind." Apart from learning the design and making of jewellery, Emma also learnt about developing start ups for creative brands at the School for Creative Startups in London, which deepened her understanding in brand management.

"The focus of my designs is not on the incision and handcraft, I'm more concerned on developing the connection between the jewellery and its owner. Therefore I will usually use silver materials, silk or ceramics these recyclable materials," she said. In London, Emma would always enjoy lingering in the small shops, only to find those special moments. "You can always find unexpected discoveries in antique markets. Some of the special items, or even broken pieces, I will buy them, and trace their stories. If this story touches me, I will bring it to my design, giving it new form of energy." 

The "past life" of "Koi" comes from a vintage arts craft shop. This broken piece is originally part of an art piece. Emma brought it home and after doing some research, she found that this is a decoration of a mother of pearl game calculator imported from an East Indian company during 19th century, and "koi" often signals luck in most East Asian culture. She said, "I want to pass on this kind of ancient blessings, that's why I used it in my latest designs." In Emma's design philosophy, accessories are not simply for decoration, in some sense they allow you to devote your emotions. People will bring the piece of accessory home due to the story behind it, and will also create new stories with it, this is a truly amazing experience.

Even though Narratorium has only been established for about half a year, it has already gained a lot of attention. It was published in the British Vogue in March, and part of the collection was featured in the local British magazine, House of Coco. Narratorium as a brand is also gradually going on the right track, but Emma insists every piece is solely handmade, and is vey hands on from choosing the materials to packaging.  "When I first started the brand I just wanted to record my own stories, then I realise customers who like my brand are also touched by these stories. I hope to pass this sentiment on to everyone through my work," Emma said.