Designing with Hardware June 07 2016, 2 Comments

A humble metal washer you say?

My revelation in the humid corridors of a bustling market in downtown Phnom Penh marked the beginning of a big change in my design style. I started looking at everything in a new way – (you’ll need to read this next part with a menacing voice) nothing was safe, everything was a jewellery element (you’ll need to stop the menacing voice now otherwise the rest of this post is going to give off a really weird vibe).

I found myself investing increasingly lengthy periods of time browsing through all sorts of bits and bobs, hoping to find inspiration at the bottom of a mixed container of industrial parts. Importantly, I was seeking materials that could be sourced sustainably and ethically, and ultimately upcycled into great jewellery. My answer came in the form of a humble metal washer.

Drilling metal washers for jewellery

Cue the birth of Rags to Riches.

This collection has come a long way since I first thought to combine metal washers and silk.  The first experiments looked like someone had profoundly misunderstood the instruction manual for fixing a sink. If I was being super generous, I could call it an edgy design that revelled in its unabashed rawness, but really it was an unpolished mess of metal and frayed silk.

Thankfully, the skilled artisans at Khmer Creations came to my rescue. Through some stroke of luck, they could see what I was clumsily aiming for, and they translated this into the most beautiful end product. Rags to Riches (see what we did there with the name?) soon evolved into one of our most popular ranges. You’ll be happy to hear that the artisans have finessed this design to a fine art and I no longer meet the quality control standards. In fact, they tell me this … quite bluntly… often. Just like how, every time I see them, they tell me how much weight I’ve gained. They assure me that this is a compliment.

Evolution of Rags to Riches - Silk wrapped metal washers

Contrary to what I first believed when I was hopelessly wandering the streets of Phnom Penh looking for a bead shop, Cambodia has an abundance of beautiful raw materials. My foray into hand-woven silks and plumbing products was just the beginning. I became quite passionate about designs that showcased both the best of Cambodia’s natural beauty, including natural seeds and carved wood, and its gritty and developing side, represented in this case by a mountain of second-hand washers. Although Rags to Riches was the first collection to do this, its popularity led me to experiment with other alternative materials, including cutlery. But I’ll be serving that up in my next post.


Check out the Rags to Riches range in our online shop.