Matt Weston’s jewellery design evokes the sentimentality of a charm bracelet, the nostalgia of a family heirloom and the eccentricity of a misplaced cultural artefact, resulting in pieces of a found art aesthetic that both tell a story and allow a story to be told. While the predominantly unisex pieces borrow from native civilisations, there is also something distinctly modern about them. They are a mishmash of times, events, people and materials. And somehow they work.
It was in Mexico that Matt’s interest in jewellery design was awakened, which is hardly surprising considering the culture’s penchant for adornment of all sorts. Upon arriving back in Australia, he headed straight for the local markets, taking on a bowerbird approach as he sorted through the trash to find the treasures that would eventually act as the basis for many of his pieces. Not longer after, he began to receive interest from stylists, editorial coverage and wholesale enquiries. “Yep, I’ll give this a go,” he thought to himself as he found a studio and started his label with few expectations but many aspirations.
When envisioning Matt’s workspace, one cannot help but imagine an ancient curiosity shop where charms, keepsakes and oddities from all eras and ends of the world overflow from boxes and shelves. “I collect things all year round,” Matt says, at least partly affirming our fantastical mental picture. “I hoard trinkets and pendants and springs and pulleys and buttons and bones – all kinds of things.” His process of putting the pieces together, then, is not so much based on a specific conceptualisation, but more so on the availability of the materials in front of him. “The inspiration is the materials I have available… I design each piece as I assemble it,” he explains. “When it’s time to make a collection I pull everything out and start fixing it together.”
From what seems like a haphazard marriage of disparate objects, it is somewhat surprising that the end result is even wearable let alone covetable. Yet although the designer may not always have a clear thematic idea to start out with, his collections are cohesive with just the right amount of quirk. “Alongside the religious and the military you’ll also see SIM cards and ring pulls…. I love working with a lot of materials; it’s combinations that I like,” Matt tells us, listing off his favoured couples in a rather poetic manner: “pewter and feather, leather and resin, metal and bone.”
His current collection, which he describes as “something dark, enigmatic and rich”, does not shy away from this sense of juxtaposition. Built from bits and bobs dating back to the Victorian era, Matt explains, “I saw a theme happening so I added to it. There are a few things that fit and there are a few that are completely out of place.” These contrasting items include old clock parts, tiny glass cylinders used by traditional clock makers to store screws, and, bizarrely, small dolls heads that were buried beneath a ceramic factory during the bombing of Dresden. To say that his pieces are unique is an understatement.
For such an avid collector and designer by trade, it comes as a shock when Matt tells us he doesn’t really have much of a personal jewellery collection. “I have some things that I keep for some reason. My favourite is a little leather Navajo pouch,” he says. While Native Americans traditionally used their Navajo pouches for holding talismans or healing herbs, we wonder what Matt’s contains. “The keys to my old house in Italy and a wooden drink token from a bar in New York,” he answers, revealing his secret.
Despite the fact that his pieces have been featured in some of the country’s leading magazine titles, such as Oyster, Russh and Grazia, as well as being stocked in some of the most reputable boutiques nationally and overseas, Matt’s proudest career moment to date is when Peroni offered to send him a box of beer every month. “A very proud day,” he laughs.
words: Ingrid Kesa