The raison d’être of the world of jewellery has always been beauty coupled with the idea of luxury, or at least traditionally, anyways. In the hands of Max Danger, however, the world of jewellery comes alive and it has stories to tell.
Max Danger by Kate Fahey
He defines himself as a self-taught painter and an illustrator, designer of prefecionist jewelery and a lover of rap music. His pieces, as he describes them, are in reality narrative sculptures.
His work was recently awarded first prize in ”Overall Excellence” in the prestigious competition organized by the jeweller Theo Fennell amongst graduates of the Royal College of Art.
When we asked Max Danger to tell us a bit about the path leading up to this point he said: ”When I was a kid I used to press my nose against jewellery shop windows looking at the precious pieces. I was imagining their history and wondering how it was possible to make them. This was when I was not busy reading comics of which came plenty in my home.
I started collecting stones and would spend all of my money on them untill one day in my early teenage years where the girls from school told me it was too nerdy. All the stones instantly got sold at the flea marked…
From age 14 to mid twenty´s I was busy illustrating in the day time and painting grafitti in the night time. This functioned as a full time hobby and I didn´t know I would refind my interrest for shiny objects untill I got an apprenticeship at Fine Jeweller Jacob Enghave through a friend.
The making never bored me and still dont till this day and his place was like a little Ali Baba´s cave with diamonds and gold everywhere. At times I would even get paid for my extra hours in diamonds if he was low on cash. I vastly found the connection between illustrating and making jewellery and how both things influenced each other. To make and draw is all about seeing and understanding.
I decided to start at The Royal College of Art when I went to visit a friend who studied there and I saw all their machines. Every proper jewellers dream is to have a lot of machines. The best are the massive machines who only serve one function, but to perfection. Ironically I ended up not using any of them at all…”Turmaline Ring – 14 ct gold and 7 ct turmaline – One off
SO CATCHY!: You say that since you were a child you knew that ou wanted to make jewellery. Was there a specific moment that awakened this curiousity for your future vocation?
MAX DANGER: Ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated with gemstones and jewellery. My earliest memory of this fascination is when as a kid, I went to see the Inka gold at a Swedish exhibition. It is still crystal clear in my head how amazing I found it. I always knew that I wanted to be a maker and when I tried jewellery for the first time it just felt right. It is a difficult trade and the more challenged I felt, the more I wanted to master the skills to perfection. The funny thing with jewellery is that there is never a correct answer to the best way of making things, only different opinions on what works best for the individual. This allows me to think creatively through the process and there is nothing better than coming up with an inventive, ”cowboy” solution for a difficult challenge in the making. For instance when a girl told me she used a raw baking potato for her steam casting, I almost got annoyed that I hadn´t thought of that first!
SC!: Define your work in a few words?
MD: Imaginative, narrative based, highly polished wearable sculptures.
Robot Proposal – Silver, 18 ct gold and diamonds – One off
SC!: You recently won a Theo Fennel Award for “Overall Excellence.” How does it feel??
MD: Winning the award was great. I have much so appreciation for Theo Fennells work. Especially his master pieces. Getting to exhibit in his flagship store is something I have been looking forward to and I know he has a passion for both making and illustrating like I do. I think my work will feel very much at home during the weeklong exhibition.
SC!: Did you already know the rest of the winners? Sofia Winberg for example?
MD: I know all the jewellers exhibiting this year and I like the open mind Theo Fennel has in selecting the winners. Even though Sofia’s work is very different from mine, it will fit in well in the context of his shop. I particularly like her bone china and silver rings. I personally think that all the people exhibiting this year deserve the recognition and I am looking forward to seeing the pieces on display next to each other.
Robot Bee Pendant – Hand carved and cast in 18 ct gold – Production piece
SC!: Do you sell your pieces online?
MD: Everything I make is for sale and I also do commissions. The price range varies quite a bit from piece to piece. So far I have been selling through various shows I have had, via word to mouth, and people contacting me through email. Most of my previous work has been unique, one off pieces or limited editions.
I am currently working on a new collection that I plan to sell from different stores in London and Copenhagen and through an e-commerce business that will be connected to my website in a near future.
SC!: What kind of people buy your pieces? Or better yet, what kind of people would you like to see wearing your pieces?
MD: All types of people buy my work. With the more expensive pieces, I have had business people buying pendants for their better half or sculptures for their homes. With the more affordable pieces, I have had younger people investing in jewelry for themselves and for others. At the moment I am making pendants for an up and coming clothing company and I have worked on commissions and designs for a wide array of clients in the past. It would be a great honour to convince the RZA from Wu-Tang to wear my “killer bee”. That piece is partially a tribute to him and his crew.
I would prefer to sell some of my pieces to a gallery or museum so my work can be displayed to the public. Most important for me is that my jewelry ends up with people who appreciate and understands it. The worst thing for me would be for it to be tucked away in a drawer or a box for the rest of eternity. In that way I would feel that my work has gone to waste…
Pencil Sketch Digital Print for “Let It Bee” – Series of 5
SC!: Let’s talk about the creative process behind your pieces…
MD: My creative process consists lots of drawing and illustrating, listening to rap music, and taking photos of the places and people around me. My illustrations are later transformed into jewelry. The inspiration comes from childhood memories, experiences I have had, comic books I´ve read or things I have heard. Lately I found inspiration on a trip I took to the Island of Skellig off the Southwest coast of Ireland. This is an island filled with puffins and at the summit, there are beehive looking huts that monks used to live in, when doing their thing. This led to a new project that I am keeping secret for a little while longer.
SC!: Which piece is your favourite?
MD: My favourite piece from the past is the Easter bunny ring. This was made in Denmark before moving to England. As I started sketching on the idea so many different scenarios came to life. This was the first time i tried wax carving and it was also the first narrative piece I made. Basically this ring was the pioneer in everything I do now. Further more I remember how irritated my teacher at the time got because I spent a week carving a rabbit, a basket with eggs and an egg with ducksfeet instead of fumbling with random shapes as the project brief required. Though her project probably was useful in many ways, the ring reminds me that sometimes it is better to trust your gut instead of doing as dictated. Especially in a creative environment where there is never an incorrect answer.
Easter Bunny Finger ring – Hand carved and cast in silver – Production piece
SC!: What’s your favourite material?
MD: My favourite material to work with is without a doubt gold. There is a reason this has been the material of choice for centuries. Gold is grateful when you work with it. It doesn´t corrode and retains its qualitys for a long time after it is produced. I like the colour and the weight. I had a blast one day some time ago when I actually tried to leave my bitemark in a 24ct sheet of gold. It is fully possible, just like in the westerns!
SC!: If you hadn’t ended up as a jewellery designer, what would you have done?
MD: Well I started as a youth wanting to be a chef, but then I realized I would have to do the washing up. Then later I wanted to be a baker, but then I realized I would have to get up at two in the morning. Also I have previously thought that I would be a gemologist, treasure-hunter, geologist or graphic designer. So I guess the possibilities were many. But I found peace in jewellery and that is where I want to stay for now.
Robot Pawnshop – Ink and Watercolour on Paper – 2011
SC!: You can’t stop wearing…
MD: Two different socks. It seems I can never find a matching pair. Also they are always inside out…
SC!: A brand you admire…
MD: My favorite brand is ADIDAS. I used to breakdance as a teenager. Allstars and tracksuits will never go out of style. At the moment I really like the work of Dorry Tsu, James Stocklund and Jacob Erixson, contemporaries of mine at the Royal College of Art.
Totempole – Hand carved and cast in silver – Production piece
SC!: Where do you see the future of jewellery design going?
MD: Along with so many other things jewelry travels in a cycle. Like analog pictures that have gained a renaissance over the last few years, so will hands on making in precious metals. At the moment the trend within jewelry is 3-d printing, but unless you stay extremely innovative in this field people will get bored with it as it becomes more mainstream and easier accessible. My guess is that according with the price drop in 3-d printers the appreciation of handcrafted jewelry will rise.
SC!: A book everyone should read…
MD: “The life and times of Scrooge McDuck”, by Don Rosa
Photos courtesy of Max Danger
Translation and Layout by Michael Padilla
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Honey Trail – Hand carved and cast in silver, gold-plated and oxidised – Installation
Robot Bee Pendant – Hand carved and cast in 18ct gold – Production piece
Bees in a jar – Goldplated and oxidised – MA degree show
Queen Bee brooch needle and sculpture – Hand carved and cast in 18ct gold handmade wings with filligri attached after, diamonds in wings and scepter – One off Photo by Dominic Tschudin
Robot Pendant – Silver, 18 ct gold and diamonds – One off