Cork-based Goldsmith Alex Thiel creates the most beautiful works of art using ethically sourced precious metals, stunning gemstones and pearls. She started her career in Poland as a wedding cake maker, then after moving to Ireland in 2008, she started working with a Goldsmith in Cork which started her journey to owning her own brand. She creates bespoke jewellery for life’s precious moments
The uniqueness of her patterns especially in the Dimples collection really makes her pieces stand out, and one of the reasons why I am such a fan of her work. We are delighted to be featuring her on Floralesque today.
Were you always a creative person growing up in Poland?
I think yes, as a small girl I was making little trees of fortune from copper wire and glass beads, which I was mounting on nice rocks and stones founded by the stream. Later, as a young teenager, I developed an interest in fashion design and sewing thanks to inheriting my great aunt’s sewing machine. At this same time, I was practising ballroom dancing for a few years which I believe was another way of expressing my creative soul.
I believe that you first trained as a cake decorator, that drew you into that profession?
I got that job by an accident, a friend of a friend told me about it and after my first day, I stayed there for a couple of years. My goal and responsibility were to make cakes pretty, special to customer’s occasion. My specialization was roses made from marzipan and they were very popular among local bakery shops. I really enjoyed this job, maybe apart from very early working hours. At that time I was in college, Academy of Physical Education in Cracow city, and become a fitness instructor. Cake decorating was at first only to support me during college but it triggered layers of creativity inside of me. The longer I was working there I started to feel that I want something more, that I want my creations to last, which draw my interest into metal work. It is funny how at first you can think that some things are for you and then by a total accident you discover your new passion.
Moving career from cake decorator to Goldsmith is quite the change, what pushed you to make move into the world of jewellery design?
As I mentioned earlier I had interest in fashion design and I was admiring beautiful collections haute couture on the fashion tv. I was really drawn to how the whole look can be finished with that extra something, last touch, shoes, bags and of course original jewellery. So when I started my training in metal work, first in Cork city at Don O’Mahony’s engraving and jewellery workshop, very fast have I realized what I want to do in my life. After training at his studio I moved to Kilkenny to study at The Design and Crafts Council of Ireland, Goldsmithing Skills and Jewellery Design Course. And that was it. I felt this is the one and only path for me.
Where does the inspiration for your pieces come from?
There is no one simple answer to this question, it depends on what currently I am working on. If it is a commissioned piece of jewellery, first I am trying to get to know the person I am designing for. Hers/his favourite colours, shapes, style, also I am asking what’s the occasion, the reason behind this special order. Usually, then all is falling into right places from that moment. When I am working on a new collection then inspiration can come from a random object, a shape I saw somewhere, a pattern on a fabric. Often I like to browse images with architectural and furniture designs, usually, they are a great source of an inspiration. Sometimes even a word or a character can trigger for me a creative process of the design.
What is your favourite metal to work with?
My favourite metals to work with are 18-carat yellow gold and palladium (metal from platinum family in light silver-grey colour). For me working with them is just a pure pleasure. They can easily be shaped and polishing/finishing them is much easier than silver for example. I really like their colours too.
I love your pieces with the empty half circle designs, can you please tell us more about their inception?
The collection you are talking about is called Dimples. Designs are based on small hemispheres decorated with precious gemstones or pearls. The inspiration for it came to me a long time ago, while I was still in college. During classes we had an exercise of precise drilling holes in silver for diamond pave setting. The second step was to countersink the hole to make a space for stones to sit them flush in metal. Visually they were creating small concaves which stayed in my head and then I saw in the different patterns. From that moment I knew that I want to develop the jeweller collection based on those small concaves.
When you were launching your brand; what was the most challenging part?
I think making the decision itself to start my own brand and gathering the courage to do the first step. To believe enough in my designs because I knew there is very big competition on the market. There is much more involved in running your own business than only designing and making. Most of the time you are your own accountant, photographer, receptionist, work planner, manager and more, so good time keeping and prioritising is a must.
Would you have any tips for those hoping to start a career in jewellery making- something that someone had said to you when you were starting out?
From my personal experience, I want to say to everyone who is thinking of starting a career in jewellery making I want to advise to think your brand message well through before you start. To make a market research and define your unique selling point. Also, I would advise to go and talk to your Local Enterprise Office, as they are running courses and provide mentoring support for new small businesses.
I understand that all of the precious stones, pearls and metals that you use are ethically sourced. How important is it to you and brand that you source ethically sourced materials?
I am a very strong believer in and a supporter of a fair trade. I buy exclusively and only from respected and trusted suppliers all my metals, precious stones, diamonds and pearls. I want to be treated and paid fair for my work and if I did not source my materials ethically I would just a hypocrite. It is definitely one of my priorities and the way I want to run my business.
Although I am sure hard to choose, what has been your proudest brand moment to date?
Yes, you are right it is a difficult choice so maybe I will focus only on the last year. I was feeling very proud and happy when I was shortlisted for two major national competitions. First was RDS Craft Awards in a category established jewellery maker and second was Irish Made Awards by Irish Country Magazine. It felt amazing that my work has been noticed and that my work could be seen by a large public.
Where would you like to see the brand going in the next five to ten years?
In next five years, I would love to have my own shop and with a workshop where I can meet my customers and where they can see the process of the design and making. Also, I would like to expand and sell my jewellery abroad, which would allow me hopefully to create some new workplaces. Ireland has been inspiring and good to me in the last decade and I would love to give back the love I have received. In coming years I am going to focus on that goal and on conveying my brand message which is standing strong for the quality, fair trade, good design, affordable luxury, the commemoration of my customers important moments in life, building trust and appreciation for Irish made jewellery.
And lastly a very important question… Lyons or Barry’s tea? And favourite dipping biscuit?
Because I live in Cork for a long time I have to say Barry’s tea 😉 and my favourite dipping biscuit would be ginger and oat flavour to go with it.
A massive thank you to Alex for doing the interview, her work is just beautiful so it was great to learn more about her interesting journey and inspiration behind her pieces. If you are looking for a beautiful gift for someone (or for you!), then I would highly recommend that you check out her work on her website as she has some beautiful pieces on display. You can also follow her on her creative journey on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
All images kindly provided for use, and all Image Credits to Monika Grabowska Photography.
If you enjoyed this interview in the ‘Floralesque Meets’ Series, then you can click here to read more exciting interviews with designers, creators, artists, photographers, entrepreneurs and more – enjoy meeting the makers!