Seb Brown is a multi-skilled chap. After moving from Apollo Bay to Melbourne in 2006, he initially trained as a graphic designer, before sidestepping swiftly into jewellery design and a fine arts practice. He is now based in a studio in Brunswick, where he makes jewellery pretty much full time, and draws and paints whenever he can.
Though he never formally studied silver smithing, Seb Brown recalls being fascinated by jewellery for as long as he can remember. ‘I remember telling my Grandma that I was going to be a jeweller while I had her clip-on earrings clipped all over my nose, ears, face and lips’ he says! After completing his honours in graphic design, Seb soon found himself craving a less restrictive creative outlet, and began experimenting with 3D forms in silver. Before long, Seb’s focus shifted to jewellery making full-time.
Seb’s jewellery is raw and sculptural. He works intuitively, rarely having a clear outcome in mind when he starts a new piece. His textured, organic forms are created mainly in silver, with the occasional addition of pearls, enamel paint, resin, precious and semi precious stones, rubber tubing and even aluminium pipe!
A lesser known aspect of Seb’s practice is his drawing and painting (we love these illustrations). He has been enjoying working on this side of his practice recently, and admits to being intrigued by interiors and furniture too. His dream project would be to create a large-scale jewellery-inspired furniture range using chrome and leather – please keep us posted on that Seb!
Tell us a little bit about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you’re doing now?
Ever since I was a child I have been constantly drawing, painting and constructing things. I remember telling my Grandma that I was going to be a jeweller while I had her clip-on earrings clipped all over my nose, ears, face and lips.
I studied Graphic Design straight out of high school, and I was lucky enough to be asked to study honours – this was basically a year of honing skills in communication, concept development and idea generation, and it soon steered me away from the frustrating ‘amend, wait, amend, wait’ process of client driven graphic design. I am an extremely impatient person!
I began experimenting with 3D forms in silver, and people started wearing them and buying them, so I made more.
So, you came to jewellery design after training as a graphic designer…. so in the early days, how did you learn and perfect your new found craft?
I was originally fascinated by the history of jewellery and jewellery making. Centuries old techniques like lost wax casting, which I use almost every day, are still entirely relevant and necessary today.
Adornment, tribal symbolism and mark making influenced my earlier work. The fact that we squeeze our finger into a little metal ring and this means we ‘belong’ to someone else is quite a bizarre concept – I wanted to expand on this.
I am self taught as a jeweller but have gathered millions of little bytes of information from so many sources. I am constantly surprised at how forthcoming the Melbourne jewellery community is with advice.
How would you best describe your design aesthetic, and what influences your work?
My work is very immediate and raw. I guess I work in the visual form of the literary ‘stream of consciousness’ and am influenced heavily by the material I’m working with. I tend not to plan my work beforehand and just see what happens, a constant ever-evolving experiment in form and texture.
Influences are a difficult concept for me because I am not particularly influenced by any particular person, design movement or thing. We are all constantly bombarded by a myriad of visuals, and what inspires me can range from seeing a plank resting on the side of a car, to a Prada campaign image. Having said that I am supremely influenced by walking around the streets and seeing people interacting with each other, obstacles and events. I am obsessed with documentary photography because it encapsulates societies reaction to events – this is really crystallised for me in the work of photographers like Martin Parr and Jesse Marlow.
Also, growing up by the sea (and being a Piscean) has left me with a strong affinity with the ocean. The parallel world going on under there is as strange and exciting to me as outer space.
Can you give us a little insight into your process – when commencing a new commission for example, what is the process and how long does one piece usually take to complete?
My work is very erratic and I tend to work on a multitude of things at once, jumping from piece to piece like a maniac. It’s difficult to quantify how long an individual piece takes, sometimes it’s anywhere from three weeks to 10 minutes.
Silver predominates my jewellery practice, it reflects light and highlights the rough texture of my forms. Lately I have also been working with pearls, enamel paint, resin, gold, precious and semi precious stones, rubber tubing and aluminium pipes.
A lesser known aspect to my practice is drawing and painting. I construct 2D shapes and sculptures on paper – something I have had the time and space to devote more time to recently.
What has been a favourite recent project you have been involved with?
Kuwaii asked me a few years ago to create a jewellery collection for their catwalk show. This was a welcomed challenge – how to create a range which is both true to my design aesthetic, but bold enough to be noticed as it rushes past.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
The start of my day is always very coffee-centric. A cup at home with my boyfriend, a cup with my friend Adelaide and/or a cup with Mum before hitting the studio!
Fortunately there is no typical workday, although I usually roll into the studio around 11am, work on new ideas, draw, finish stockist orders, visit my lovely stockists and chew the fat, have clients come in for consultations, go out for coffee, ride into the city to pick up supplies.
Dusk is the best time of the day. All the birds go crazy and people are rushing around all over the place like ants. My best work comes out here once everyone has left the studio and I can pump the music and work without any distractions.
Which other Australian designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?
Lydia Wegner. One of my all time favourite artists. Lydia’s large-scale macro/micro analogue photographs mess with your perception of objects and medium. I own one of her photographs from her VCA graduate show and the other day after looking at it for years, a friend realised it was a photo not a painting! She highlights the sublime beauty of the everyday and reading her artist bio is eerily like reading my own.
Tom Polo paints mischievous slogans and strange evocative characters. His work is a constant and refreshing source of inspiration – playful and succinct.
Natalia Milosz-Piekarska has and always will keep me excited about jewellery. Each of her pieces is like a small holiday in a made-up world. She reminds me the artists hand is always welcome and should remain present.
Work by the following artists and designers really excites me – Sally Gabori, Merryn Lloyd, Karl Fritsch, Phebe Schmidt, Wolfgang Tilmans, Karla Spetic, Anna Varendorff, Lance Delary-Simpson, Richard Serra, Ron Nagle, Tracey Emin, Hany Armanious and Jean Arp.
Which resources, across any media, do you turn to when you’re in a need of a bolt of creative inspiration?
Instagram, Old National Geographic or books from the op shop, the Indigenous Art Collection at The NGV Ian Potter Centre, Apartamento Magazine and Freunde von Freunden, as I am fascinated by how other people live and work, warts and all. A visit to ACCA is always inspiring, especially on a hot day.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Last year I was invited to show my jewellery collection to the buyers at Opening Ceremony in London, this was quickly followed by a career lowlight when they didn’t end up putting in an order!
What would be your dream creative project?
Delving into the world of interiors and furniture intrigues me. Basically an endless budget to create large-scale jewellery-inspired furniture using chrome and leather.
What are you looking forward to?
I have been travelling for the last two years and have just signed a one year lease, so staying in one place for more than a few months.
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
Collingwood. There is lots of change happening (good and bad) and I like watching the tension between the new influx and the old stalwarts. It remains an important place in the Melbourne gay community.
What and where was the best meal you recently had in Melbourne?
My Mum is obviously the best cook! She effortlessly creates a spread of exciting vegetarian delights and homemade sourdough from her tiny kitchen.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Waking up in the bush in the back of my van with my boyfriend and going for a surf at Bells Beach. Or at Mina-no-ie nursing the night before.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
It’s no secret but we are only an hour and a half from the most beautiful and secluded beaches in the world.