Introducing New Talent: Ara | the altar
Written by Sophie Holt.
Here at Manchester Craft and Design Centre we love supporting new, emerging talent – after all we know how hard it can be to get your feet off the ground. At our recent March Maker Meet-Up we invited makers from all disciplines of craft and design to chat with us about their work and share their portfolio. It was fascinating to see such an array of fresh talent and this made our job of choosing a winner to be featured on our website all the more difficult. Over the next week we will be introducing you to three of our favourite fresh faces.
The final maker selected as one of the winners is Lauren King, a Manchester based silversmith and founder of the brand Ara | the altar.
When we met Lauren at our March Maker Meet Up we were impressed with her professionalism and the clarity of her vision that could be seen within everything she was creating – from her pieces of jewellery themselves, to her branding and website. Lauren made the bold career change from working within the fashion industry to building her silversmithing workshop and launched her brand about a year ago. This was after taking a short course within the craft and feeling inspired to pursue it full time. Her brand Ara | the altar is inspired by astronomy and in particular the small constellation of Ara, which Lauren interprets to represent the ‘sourcing, creating and offering of beautiful objects’. Her pieces are incredibly simplistic in design and perfectly reflect her aims in achieving ethical jewellery which is not only inspired by the world around us but also does not impact or destruct it in the process. These environmentally concerned values are at the core of everything she does within her brand and in return extend to her own lifestyle too. Each piece is carefully crafted with an eye for detail – functional, delicate and perfect for the everyday wear. Perhaps our favourite ring of hers (pictured below) is the ‘Phase | Stacking Set’ that consists of 4 individually designed rings that sit together and perfectly represent each stage of the principle moon phases.
Hello Lauren! Tell us a little bit about your craft and how you started making.
‘I adopt ethical and sustainable practices to create fine jewellery for everyday wear under the name of my earth-aware brand, Ara the altar. Latin for ‘the altar’, Ara is a small constellation depicted in early illustrations as an altar with burning incense, rising smoke, or sacrificial offerings. My interpretation of this translated into the sourcing, creating and offering of beautiful, unique objects for earth-aware individuals.
I established an early career in shoot production, leading me to produce and co-ordinate shoots in the fashion industry. Over time my other artistic interests faded into the background. Although I was working in a creative industry, in my logistical role I missed the hands on process of designing and creating; I needed a challenge and a creative outlet. I was intrigued by the idea of working with silver, I often had a clear vision in my mind of a piece of silver jewellery that I was seeking but I could never seem to find anything quite right. Around five years ago I took a one day silversmithing course and was instantly captivated by the methodical production process and satisfying end result. I slowly built up a collection of tools, enabling me to continue practice from my own workshop and create unique pieces that celebrated a unique, organic aesthetic.
I try to live my everyday life in a way that is mindful of my impact on the environment. As my own awareness grew, as a consumer, I repeatedly felt dissatisfied or unconvinced by retailers’ limited assurances concerning their environmental or ethical standards. I recognised a need for retailers to make responsible decisions that demonstrate a commitment to reducing waste, environmental impact and fair working conditions. With a desire to contribute towards sustainable production I began to develop my own purposeful brand which I launched last year. Ara the altar is rooted in my aim to tread lightly whilst creating ethical jewellery, using recycled precious metal to reduce waste, environmental impact, and repurpose existing material into something beautiful with a conscience.’
What inspires you and your work?
‘Astronomy is hugely influential in my work. I am constantly fascinated by the aesthetics and illustrations associated with celestial objects. The notion famously acknowledged by astronomer, Carl Sagan that humans have an anatomical and molecular connection to the universe as, ultimately, we are all made of star stuff, is incredibly powerful to me. Within astronomy there is a vast amount to explore with existing accompanying poetic narrative and mythology. I like to draw from this ethereal inspiration and encapsulate or weave it into my work, allowing the wearer to resonate with their chosen piece.’
‘I am also greatly inspired by the staggering beauty and complexity of nature: the fragility of flora; the surface texture of a shell in the sand; the gentle or powerful movement of water; the hexagonal prism formation of quartz; the efficient anatomy of a bee; the enormity of a glacier. The preservation of such precious phenomena is what fuels my commitment to reducing waste and environmental impact. For our own wellbeing I also think it is so important to permit ourselves time to slow down, and to recognise and absorb the wonder already surrounding us.’
What is your dream project?
‘I have always been drawn to the irregular beauty of rough gemstones. When I began silversmithing I created pieces with handmade claw-set rough stones; I was convinced that working with such unique specimens would be a significant design focus for me. After undertaking some research I was left unsettled by the destructive environmental impact and ethical concerns associated with gemstone mining. With no tangible fair-trade or ethical standards within the industry, the limited assurances offered by suppliers sadly did not feel like the right fit for my brand values. I intend to explore this area further in the future. I would love one day to work with a supplier inherently connected to a non-destructive, ethical sourcing process, or to find and work with an alternative material, enabling me to pass on genuine assurances to my customers to ensure utmost transparency and, using the lost wax casting method, create some beautiful, unique pieces in recycled silver and gold.’
Why do you think its important to promote and encourage local artists and designers?
‘Manchester has a long-standing history of impactful artistic endeavour and production yet remains vulnerable in times of austerity. There is a concern that continued endangered funding for the sector could diminish the perceived value of art and design nationwide. Community minded organisations like Manchester Craft and Design Centre recognise the importance in promoting and encouraging local artists and designers; they engage with and nurture local talent for the future of the sector whilst providing greater public reach, feeding the local economy and adding value to our community. I think there is a real movement towards demand for locally sourced goods and small-scale production. Promotion of local artists and designers also provides an opportunity to celebrate small businesses adopting ethical and sustainable production practices, to raise an awareness of a more mindful production process and ultimately empower consumers with a choice.’
We can’t get enough of Lauren’s beautiful designs and the overall ethos of Ara | the altar! If you want to find out more about her work check out the links below.
Want to read more about Lauren’s ethical approach to silversmithing? – click here for more.
To shop her work online – click here
To keep up to date with her Instagram – click here.