Tamara Lapinski and Jay Dave are the creative duo behind the beautifully designed handmade jewellery collection, Tay. Here they reveal how everything from Mughal motifs to Seventies brickwork inspires them
When did you design your first piece?
We have both been involved in jewellery design for a long time. The first piece we designed for Tay was a ring that still forms part of our collection. We came across a selection of beautiful, large cabochon aquamarines while travelling in Sri Lanka that we knew they would look fabulous as a ring. The first person to see the ring bought it, and it seemed only appropriate to name it after her, hence us calling it the ‘Chrissie’ ring. It still remains one of our most popular designs.
Can you describe your designing process and where you go for inspiration?
We are surrounded by inspiration and we never leave home without a pocket notebook in which we are constantly scribbling, whether it be a piece of 1970s brickwork, a light fitting, an architectural detail – it has become almost instinctual to look at everyday objects, asking the question, “How would this work as a piece of jewellery?”
Beautiful stones in themselves are also an inspiration and we are often travelling in Asia looking for them. Once we have the stones, we spend time with them, looking at them and creating pieces around the stone. When an idea has formed, we use modelling clay to make a rough model of the piece to gauge the ideal proportions and if the design “works”. When we are happy to proceed, we will sit in our workshop and oversee the various stages of the production, making slight changes as necessary.
Islamic geometric patterns, Mughal decorative motifs and Christian symbols are all an inspiration. We often take a pattern or motif we are especially drawn to and do a number of sketches drawing inspiration from the ancient design while at the same time we try to make it aesthetically relevant to today. Once we’re happy with the feel of the design, we then start to draw the piece formally (i.e, using precise measurements). After that, we transcribe the design on to a piece of card, and make up a crude first sample.
What do you listen to when you are designing, or do you prefer silence?
It very much depends on the mood of the moment. Sometimes it’s BBC Radio 4 and there are other times when silence is perfect.
Describe the space where you design. Is it important for you to feel comfortable in your space?
The ‘essence’ of a new design rarely comes to us when sitting down in a working environment, and more often than not, it is while we are out, so most of our pieces start life as a doodle. Once we are both agreed on the design we then sit down to draw the piece properly. Being comfortable is to a certain degree secondary as the enjoyment of creating a new piece puts the environment we are in at the time to the back of our minds.
Would you say you prefer clutter or order in your home and workplace?
We are both firmly in the clutter bracket. That is not to say that we prefer it. We would both love one day to have a large white room with just one wall covered in our notes and cuttings, and two large tables with a jar of sharp pencils… as lovely as that sounds, we would somehow manage to fill it to overflowing in no time and for us at least, being surrounded by objects and a certain chaos is stimulating. Being in a cluttered environment somehow helps us focus more on the job in hand.
How long does each creation take to be made?
This varies greatly from piece to piece. In general, one of our rings will take approximately three to four days from start to finish. The process from an initial idea to a finished piece is naturally much longer. There is one bracelet we have been working on for nearly a year and it is still not finished as transforming the design of a piece into a physical reality is at times a much more difficult thing to achieve than we would like!
Your jewellery is beautiful. How do you come to choose the combination of your materials?
A lot of gemstones we buy, we do so with a completely open mind as to what we will do with them, so to a certain degree, the way the materials come together is something that happens over time as opposed to a conscious decision. That said, we are extremely disciplined in our stone buying and will only buy stones that meet certain requirements – for example, good proportions, well cut, of an aesthetically pleasing shape and lively colour.
If you had to describe your jewellery in three words, what would they be?
Bold, unapologetic, glamorous, bohemian-chic (sorry… that’s four!).
What would you say makes a piece of jewellery work successfully on a person?
Any item that is worn confidently by someone means it works successfully on them. Our jewellery tends to be quite large, and one of the most common comments people make is that they would never wear something that big. The reason they say that though is purely because they never have in the past and it is incredible how once they try it on, their outlook changes.
Design is nothing without good craftsmanship. One of the first things antique jewellery dealers do when they look at a piece of jewellery is turn it over and look at the reverse side. If there has been as much care and attention put into the reverse side of a piece as the front, you know it is well made. We have tried to bring that ethos into our pieces. We pay as much attention on the hinges on a bracelet as we do on the overall feel of a bracelet as it is the detail that makes a ‘good’ piece. Similarly, weight is extremely important. Weight does impart a feeling of substance and quality, as well as allowing a necklace to hang well, or a ring to sit well.
What is your proudest achievement?
Introducing clients to a style of jewellery they would never have previously considered wearing. The jewellery we design is what we would love to see people wearing, and it is therefore extremely flattering to find people who share our thoughts and ideas, and we are always happy to work with clients’ requirements for bespoke pieces.
What are your plans for the future?
We are planning on expanding more into the retail side of the business by expanding our presence in boutiques in London. We have recently developed a brass-based line of jewellery made to the same quality and of the same integrity as the silver- based designs, as well as some objects, such as letter openers, matchbox covers, corkscrews and ashtrays, which is exciting.