Interview: Emer Roberts on her Luxury, Rat-Themed Jewellery Designs

Image result for Interview: Emer Roberts on her Luxury, Rat-Themed Jewellery DesignsEmer Roberts Design is a uniquely sculptural, luxury brand of original fine jewellery designs. A Dublin-born visual artist and award-winning jewellery designer, Roberts has established her own brand, which itself has two distinct sides, offering alternate works of artistic imagination for different audiences.

Emer Roberts designs vary from elegant and architectural to undeniably edgy. While some of her jewellery is streamlined and classic, featuring a contemporary approach to jewellery design, it’s her ‘Wearable Biology’ collection that’s sure to prove divisive. Nonetheless, it will attract fans of edgy and thought-provoking designs, given that it features – of all things – rats. With an MFA in sculpture from NCAD, Roberts became interested in creating moulds and exploring how to bring aesthetic elements of mammals into jewellery design. In her recent wearable art collection, her gold and silver jewellery echoes the curves and textures of rat tails.

“The edgy and elegant pieces of original design open up unusual debate,” says Roberts, but she finds the usually stigmatised rodents inspiring. “The rat tail is specifically proving an authentic texture, which translates beautifully in jewellery. It is an elegant and interesting paradox and one aspect of the rat that is very unique.”

It was a different project that led the multi-talented artist to this unique source of inspiration. Roberts’ aesthetic has evolved along with her interest in large scale sculpture, photography and mould-making, the latter of which is a core component of her creative practice. This enabled an organic transition from fine art to design.

“After I received my Masters in fine art/sculpture with NCAD in 2009, I continued my love affair with mould-making,” says Roberts. “I collaborated on a number of conceptual banquets with MOUTH, a group of food philosophers, and artist Jesse Jones. This brought me to food-grade mould-making, and at one banquet held at Smock Alley, we served rat on the menu. At this point, I turned my hand to skinning rats, curing pelts and freezing the body parts – and this organically became my wider Wearable Biology extended designs.”

Though the mere mention of ‘rat’ may send shivers down some people’s spines, Roberts’ designs are incredibly chic and elegant. Working from her own moulds and cast straight from the anatomy of the species, Emer’s technical experience allows her free rein in her design process, resulting in interesting and elegant jewellery designs. They include pendants, rings and earrings made in sterling silver, nine and 18-carat gold, and platinum.

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“My brand ethos is elegant and edgy jewellery, whether it is the architectural/art deco style or the wearable art jewellery,” says Roberts. “My greatest love affair is working with the anatomy of the rat, and creating elegant jewellery that surpasses notions of this reviled species. I love working with rubber, resin and combining metals. My latest collection is based around the lower jaw of the rat. With the jaws, I chose to create Hollywood-style statement jewellery worn on the red carpet. The rat as the subject matter is edgy and in execution became elegant, by creating a neckpiece like lace. This collection is still evolving toward my next project, which launches in July.”

Roberts’ innovation, skill and boundary-pushing ideas have been well rewarded. The jewellery brand launched in 2016 at Showcase Ireland, where Emer won Best Product Award with her architectural and art deco-inspired fine jewellery. Invited that same year to exhibit at International Jewellery London, one of Emer’s wearable art designs was shortlisted for the Editors Choice Award. Selected this year for CREATE with Brown Thomas, Roberts’ jewellery was stocked in Brown Thomas Dublin, and has been featured in British Vogue, Tatler UK, GQ and Vanity Fair.

And 2019 is already off to an incredible start for the designer. “In January, I was awarded Best Jeweller at Showcase Ireland and in the same week, the Accessories Designer of the Year Award with the Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI). And last month I won Jewellery Designer of the Year at the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards (IFIA).”

• Emer Roberts designs are available on EmerRoberts.com, 1stdibs.com and The Collective at 24 Drury St, Dublin.

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