SOME/TALK : A CONVERSATION WITH HENSON
Can dualism exist in profound design?
Is there room for introspective analysis, beyond what is right in front of us?
Character is built over time. As is the patina covering the lethargic urban sprawl. To transfer into nature, without trepidation, might be our only salvation. As in the wild, nothing but our senses guide us.
Therefore, yield your tools benevolently, oh sage warrior. Loose control, attempt to feel the ‘’here and now’’. Tomorrow is but moments away. To fear it, is to to forget.Brent Gold and Andy Henson, of the eponymous HENSON atelier, are true waders. In their work they aspire to embrace the purity found within our innermost longing for unadulterated freedom. Acceptance of the periodical system: yes. Abiding by its limitations? never. Over a series of ruthless conversations in the still of the night, the following dialogue transpired.
Time. As we say, it is of the essence. What does it mean to you?
Andy Henson (AH): Such a big question to start this conversation. If you think about it, time is all we have really. Birth, Death and Rebirth, if you believe in this, are all markers of the time you have. We often forget that we are only here for a small moment.
Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about time speeding up and I can feel this too. However, the reality is that time is not moving at all – we are. And we are moving faster and faster as we become more interconnected whilst our attention-span shrinks. Therefore, we feel like we have less time to focus, to enjoy and appreciate the moments because the next one is already on the horizon. I think this is a real testament of our generation, this feeling of chasing the clock or getting to the next deadline. In fashion design you really feel it. Our lives are broken into 14 week cycles of design and production. An entire year feels so quick. We try to stop and reflect more these days … otherwise it is easy to feel lost.
Histoire 1.0. Would you say that there are meta-physical restrictions, when it comes
to crafting jewelry?
Brent Gold (BG): The saying goes that ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. So it is very important that we see all our creations as beautiful in some way. It is also very relevant for us to consider how a piece will be worn and how we want it to make the wearer feel. The individual weight/feel is important too, especially for the men’s pieces.
AH: Our process is often much less thought out than most people would think. We will often start with a conversation about what we want to make and how it will work technically. From there it is really about how the hands make it and often we find the true look during the actual making process. A hammered texture around a stone can often be born out of a ‘mistake’ when initially setting is. You sit back for a moment and say ‘hey that simply looks great’ – let us apply this to some other pieces.
Salvage. To give back is to re-use. How do you harvest your silver and set it onto its new journey?
BG: All of the silver we use is recycled and we collect it wherever we can find it. Sometimes at an antique auction where old jewelry is sold by weight, sometimes we buy the scrap from other jewelers. We also have a very close relationship with an unique refiner who buys old silver and gold from the public. So we are never in short supply of re-purposed materials.
AH: Once the metal has been refined to its pure form we then melt it in a crucible (graphite bowl) and add in 7.75% Copper to strengthen the metal and bring its overall Silver content to .925 Sterling. It is then poured into an ingot mould and you end up with a bar of honest recycled silver, which can be wrought into anything your mind can think of, as long as your hands can follow.
Heirlooms. Someone once said, that we merely look after this world for future generations. If we turn this to design, this is a valid premise too. Would you agree?
AH: ‘Good design should be timeless’ is another saying – but I would not want to use the word timeless here as I said before, that I think that time is very important. Good design should reflect the time in which it was made and the actual time it took to make. Yet it should also be able to transcend these boundaries. When you work with silver (or gold for that matter) there is this subtle reminder that the material is fairly permanent and not subject to natural decay. What I mean, is that the material itself is almost on its own singular journey. Silver is formed during the explosion of stars! And that makes you think about how long it existed before it arrives in your hands and where it will go after it leaves them. We can never really own anything … death definitely sees to that!
Trinket. Embossments, rough diamonds, small shavings, why do you leave behind a subtle maker’s mark in your pieces?
BG: For me, this is about creating a reminder that these pieces were made by another human being. Next to this, such intentional markings give the pieces a sense of belonging and value.
AH: Perfection, is an artificial construct; something that is completely subjective and never really attainable. When we reach for that perfect look the result can often be a lack of real human connection to whatever it is in front of us. With jewelry, I think that its real value comes from human connection.
Before. To work with Mammoth-bone as a base material, must have been challenging. What was your thinking here?
AH: Working with new materials is always a challenge but its also really rewarding. It is like discovering new doors to how you can present your ideas.
BG: When we worked with the bone and ivory, I loved the idea that the material was 10 000 to 100 000 years old! Unlike, other animal products, the Mastodon’s died before modern day man was even around, so it is often referred to as the true ‘ethical ivory’.
AH Interestingly enough, it was quite simple to work with, very soft and easy to shape. But we did not know that until we tried. …
Patting. Do you connect to Australia, its vast natural vistas and fascinating diversity?
AH: Well, I am originally from South Africa and Brent is originally from New Zealand, so we are both foreigners to Australia. That being said, there is something uniquely Australian about this too, if we consider history. I definitely feel a connection to the environment and the lifestyle that comes from living here. There is a real rawness about the natural environment and it is pretty unforgiving too.
BG: 100% . Being born and raised on a farm near the ocean and surrounded by dirt definitely had a strong impact on the way natural forms appear in our work. Even though I have been living in the city for the past 10 years, this raw part of me will never die. Finally, I would say that I am very conscious about how we impact our environment.
Punk. Out of your element, what visuals or audio stimulate you?
AH: I originally studied film before landing in jewelry design. To me, image is very important! I like provocation...in any art form. Being forced to think or feel is so important our contemporary age filled with complacency. An image that shocks (and not just for the sake of it) or makes me feel anything genuine, is what truly matters. It is not important if it is black and white, colour, pop or punk – as long as it makes me feel something. Musically, I love the sound of the electric guitar - especially the distortion of it. This has always been this way, ever since I was very young, I feel it like riding a wave within my inner self.
BG: For me on the other hand, urban planning forms a big draw. By this I mean architecture, industrial design, DIY building and innovative ways to construct structures in natural environments. Sustainable living is big on my radar too! When it comes to tunes, I love music that relaxes me. It can be a useful tool to help slow the brain down. Or perhaps I am just getting old!
Belonging. What personal belongings do you treasure most?
AH: I have a box of letters under my bed that I have collected throughout my life. Most of them are from my grandmother, when we lived in different countries. She was a huge part of my childhood and it is a way of remembering her and the lessons she taught me.
BG: I have a taxidermy pheasant that takes up a proud spot in my house. It belonged to my grandfather and is pretty old. I got pretty sick when I was young and had it above my bed when I was getting better, so he kind of became my little mate. He has been around me longer than most people I know so I owe him a shout out in this conversation.
Sociable. How do you choose to engage your surroundings?
AH: I feel like we are very fortunate to be able to travel and constantly be inspired by the world, its history and the different cultures that inhabit this planet. On the other hand, because we travel so much, I have become more of a hermit when I am home.
Good food with close friends is my choice of social outing now. Reconnecting and sharing real experiences is how new ideas about everything are born.
BG: I am generally a home-body kind of person. However, with summer its way over here, I have been venturing out of the jewelry cave. Getting outside amongst nature is a big part of me and I love feeling the sun on my back.
Devine. If you weren’t doing what you do today, what would you be exploring?
AH: It is hard for me to imagine doing something else, to be honest. Something around music and film could be amazing. Anything. as long as I feel stimulated and able to operate on my own clock.
BG: I would sincerely love to get out of the city again. To be around the ocean more and be out in in the open underneath the sun. And definitely I would need to be using my hands.
Flatbread. To create, is to take part in this world. In what manner would you like for
your work to be consumed?
AH: Slowly…very slowly. I want people to buy our pieces because they feel something when they find and wear them. I like it when there is a story behind someone acquiring our work, or when people add their own meaning to it. Next this, as I mentioned already, I very much value the idea of our jewelry being passed on, becoming part of a new history.
BG: I suppose like anyone who creates something, you want to see your work take on its own life and journey. As a philosophy, I try to think about our work being around, long after I am gone.
All images shot for S/T MAGAZINE, courtesy, Henson.