Amy Cunningham is the creative director and co-owner of the beautiful new Black Matter Jewellery store at 182 Ponsonby Road (in the old fire station).
Amy, tell us about yourself, including what you do and how you got here.
Benjamin, partner, and I have two jewellery brands and Black Matter Jewellery is one of them. We started in business together soon after we got together in 2013. I have two boys who are 15 and 13. Benjamin and I also have a daughter together, she’s three-years-old and a real sassy-pants diva so you can guess who rules the roost!
Although I’m creative director for Black Matter we are a small team so I do a bit of everything. I’m often found in the bathroom knee-deep in Janola or chasing dust particles in the studio.
Our manufacturing workshop and studio are based in Nelson — we make everything for both brands here.
Apart from jewellery, I was a musician in a previous life and have a life-long love of sport. I’m in a band in Nelson and also still play netball, which isn’t easy on the ageing bones but keeps me out of trouble.
While I was at university studying music I was introduced to modelling, which is where I became really interested in fashion. I love the vibrancy and energy of the fashion industry, so creating a fashion jewellery brand in addition to our custom jewellery business has been a fun progression.
Tell us about your design style. What makes your collections unique in the industry?
Our design style is bold and beautiful with understated simplicity.
Black Matter is unique because our jewellery is made entirely in New Zealand. We craft everything to the highest standards in our Nelson workshop, using only solid sterling silver or gold. This means our pieces are of the highest quality and are made to be worn and loved for many years to come.
Describe a typical day in the life of a jewellery designer?
After getting the kids off to school, the day always begins with coffee and planning. I love chatting with Benjamin and our other amazing jeweller, Joel.
When we have settled on our music selection for the day (very important) we get on with the daily priorities. This usually consists of me planning, making sure new collections and orders are on track, and that the jewellers are doing their thing.
I’m at my desk during the day working while the jewellers manufacture right behind me in the workshop. It can be noisy, hot and stressful, particularly when working to deadlines (which is often), but we all love what we do and have a lot of fun in the process.
I leave work at 3pm so I can pick up Isla from Montessori, then either return to work with her in tow, or juggle emails and calls from home while playing Duplo, hopscotch or having my face plastered in three-year-old inspired makeup.
As a designer, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Sometimes inspiration comes from other artforms, such as music and dance. Other times it just comes from a place we can’t pinpoint. What we do know is, when inspiration comes, you have to catch it quickly before it disappears. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this — it’s similar to waking in the night and recalling a dream vividly. By the time morning comes the dream has faded.
It’s the same as song-writing. Inspiration comes in waves. We just have to roll with it when it comes and let it consume us for a short time.
Obviously this isn’t always possible in the madness of life but when it happens it’s a beautiful thing.
What is the most favourite piece you’ve ever created – and what made it so special?
The Statement Ring. This was our first design for the Black Matter brand. I remember talking Benjamin through my concept for this piece and it all happened so quickly. Before I knew it I had one on my finger and it’s been there ever since. This piece remains my favourite because it’s simple in form, but it’s designed to curve comfortably around the top of the finger. It’s these little design nuances that can make a simple design a great one.
What advice would you have for aspiring jewellery designers?
Personally I have found the learning to be immense in this industry. As Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.”