Every Thursday during the pandemic, we’re checking in on members of the jewelry trade in an attempt glean shareable tips and tricks for doing business—and living as well as possible—during the COVID-19 crisis.
Today we hear from British jewelry designer Liv Luttrell, who specializes in bespoke, sculptural fine and high jewelry for her 4-year-old namesake brand.
JCK: Hi, Liv! Where are you based right now?
Liv Luttrell: I’m based in North London, where I have been for the majority of lockdown, and am now feeling my way into this new way of living. I initially felt nervous about staying in such a large city, as lockdown rules came into place and supermarket shelves emptied. But in reality my experience of being here has been pretty good.
As I write this I am aware that I speak as a very lucky Londoner who has outdoor space—which occupied a huge amount of my time during the sunny days of summer. I know that many other central London residents were deprived of outdoor space throughout lockdown, so for this and many other reasons my “pretty good” analysis feels like a great privilege.
The atmosphere in my neighborhood has been friendlier than usual (typically, Londoners are famously lacking in interest for their neighbors). The streets in the neighborhood around my home are busier again and bustling with people trying to get back to some normality while maintaining distance. This is a stark difference from the city of London where my studio is based, which feels eerily quiet as all the huge offices remain empty with people still working from home.
Who do you live with?
My boyfriend Mali and I live together and both run our own businesses, which has provided highs and lows during such a challenging time. On the one hand we are both well-practiced at working from home where we have our own routines and work spaces equipped with all we need to be occupied endlessly. On the other hand, there is no external routine imposed on us, and the temptation is to throw ourselves into endless work. We have needed to be very strict with ourselves.
What is your work environment/office like?
I have had a studio set up at my home for many years now: It’s a creative space where I keep all my drawing, painting, and making equipment and where I devote uninterrupted time to developing new ideas. I would usually save my more formal paperwork for my official studio where I host clients for viewings and design meetings.
During the pandemic my home studio has become my primary work space, which I have had to be very strict about: Letting paperwork and my emails into my creative space makes it a challenge to get in the right mood [to be creative]! As the lockdown has eased, I have found my way back into my old routine, traveling between the two spaces and creating more space for creativity. Fingers crossed it will continue.
How has the pandemic changed your business plans for 2020 and beyond?
The pandemic has kick-started my focus on virtual and digital communications in a more intense way. My work has always been very focused on personal service and often has grown by word of mouth. In a post-pandemic world, with my clients and myself socializing and traveling less, I have been aiming to work on better and more immersive communication materials to keep my current clients connected to what’s happening in my studio, and also tell my story to future clients. I am currently working on a short film introducing my new [pieces]!
All my craftsmanship is done close to home (pieces are made in my London workshop, which is, happily, walking distance from my studio). This has always been really important to me—allowing my total involvement with the creation of each piece as it develops, oversight of the materials used, and confidence in the fair treatment of all the artisans involved.
During the pandemic this proximity to craftsmanship has taken on new importance and has allowed me to create and produce one-of-a-kind pieces throughout this challenging time. Keeping supply chains as simple as possible feels like a great thing at this moment.
How have things changed at retail for you?
In some ways my practice has always been quite suited to the post-pandemic world. I specialize in working with private clients on a one-to-one basis, either tailor-making one of my Edition designs to order or designing a bespoke one-of-a-kind piece.
Working with international clients means I have always had a virtual aspect to my service, i.e., video calling with clients to discuss designs and host viewings. This is, of course, a real focus for me moving forward, as it has started to play a much bigger part in my day-to-day.
Since lockdown measures have eased, I have reopened my by-appointment studio and am happy that clients who live in and around London have been very comfortable coming up for personal design viewings again (something I really missed during full lockdown).
I’m thankful that while there is more distance between myself and the clients and, of course, a newly intensive cleaning routine between meetings at my studio, I am able to maintain the same intimate and luxurious experience I have always aimed for them to have.
What has your designing output been? Have you been designing new pieces?
Design output has been a really interesting subject and something I have spent hours unpacking with other creative friends. At the start of lockdown we were all convinced that, while this would be a hugely painful time, an upside could be many more hours to indulge design ideas. In reality, I have found this period quite mixed. I have devoted a huge amount of time to the creative (apart from time spent gardening, of course) but have found the time less creatively fertile than I dreamt it would be! For me creativity is an escape, and during this time of heightened stress and collective fear for the future, it has been hard to sit down and really immerse myself in the creative process.
Interestingly, I have found my sculpture practice—something that informs the jewelry I create—more easy to connect with recently. Perhaps it’s something to do with a time lacking in personal connection to my clients and the people I design for. As I have started meeting with more clients in person, the sculptures and shapes I developed during lockdown have been finding their way into my jewelry again.
How has it been working with colleagues and people in the United States right now? Do you feel our collective stress?!
I have many clients in the U.S. and usually travel to New York regularly for work, so it is a place I feel connected to. It has been a confusing time watching the heightened political, social, and environmental turmoil ensuing in the country. I have very much been feeling the collective stress as a country, and I’m sure most would agree [the U.S.] should be an open and engaged world leader and not close in on itself and turn its back on essential agreements like the Paris Climate Accord.
Watching the tone of public discussion, particularly around climate change, has been something that I really hope will find its feet again, as it’s just so essential to moving forward.
Do you have any good book/TV/movie/podcast recommendations?
Podcasts: The Modern House, Moral Maze, and Today in Focus. Films: the BBC’s Once Upon a Time in Iraq and Abstract: The Art of Design [on Netflix].
(All photos courtesy of Liv Luttrell)
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