This week we are featuring Pierce Healy from Pierce Healy Studio. We were fascinated by the detail on their metal jewelry and the dark themes that is embedded into each piece. We sat down with Pierce for a chat.
Can you tell us a bit more about your brand, what’s Pierce Healy’s story and meaning? How did Pierce Healy start, and how is your brand different?
I was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. Music was my first love. I wrote songs and played guitar in a band since I was a kid. I also did some standup comedy for a while. My career as a rocker brought me to San Francisco, where I spent twelve enlightening years. It was there I accidentally came across a gold panning and jewellery supply store. I bought a sheet of silver, some tools and a book on Navajo jewellery. After many hard but rewarding years of melting and burning things (myself included), I started to create my own Frankenstein-esque jewellery.
From the very first ring I made it was evident that I was passionate about mark-making and textures. In the beginning I would scar silver with all types of hammers, punches, rocks, files and saw blades. Sometimes I would glue silver to the soles of my boots and go out for a night on the town usually forgetting about this experiment until the following day. The results were always a pleasant surprise; the memory of a night reduced to scratches and scars on a piece of silver.
Eventually (years pass) I met Hratch – the SF Armenian super hero hand engraver who took me under his wing and taught me the basics of hand engraving. Engraving was the perfect fit for me as it enabled the harnessing of my drawings, words, symbols and ideas into metal that till this day I continue to distill and explore along with other materials.
It seems like you really enjoyed your time in San Francisco, what made you move back home?
I had planned on spending six months in the US. Twelve years later I decided to leave. I loved living in San Francisco but I always planed to return to Ireland. One night in SF I applied to Art College in Dublin. I got accepted, this gave me an opportunity to begin a new adventure, which led me to study metal work and jewellery in Dublin and later in London, Stockholm, Finland and Iceland.
It seems very clear that engraving was your spark in entering the fashion scene. Why is your work with beasts and metal so different?
My work has always been different because from the beginning I’ve had no master plan. Each piece is an experiment – a study that informs the next piece. I am interested in experimenting with materials and forms and the idea that jewellery is our second skin and when worn becomes something bigger, something otherworldly as it takes on the scratches, dings and stories of the wearers adventures. I combine my craze for the everyday, drawing, storytelling, making and hand engraving to create hand-made raw jewellery that I would want to wear. My jewellery is an antidote to the nothingness jewellery of the high street. My jewellery is a capsule of my time.
I agree, the jewelry of the artist or brand captures the experiences and trials of the designers. What’s the jewelry creation that you’re most proud of, and why?
I’m proud of my Volcanic love rings. They capture the mood, movement and textures I experienced during my time in Iceland. The Volcanic love rings are raw and unpolished; the integrity of the silver and gold is preserved. As the outer ring rotates it burnishes the ring underneath revealing a secret rock pool type universe of bright-engraved cuts, symbols and shapes. The Volcanic love rings are a benchmark for the moment my work turned direction to juicier, less flat creations. They are becoming quite popular as wedding ring.
Wow, being able to cater to the wedding ring crowd is quite impressive! Can describe your most loyal customers, and why they love your designs?
My audience are the brave creative alternative types that seek out truly hand made, hand engraved alternative jewelry. They enjoy my work because it anchors them to a moment in their life; my jewellery becomes their second skin and part of their story. They are proud to wear a unique piece of Irish art that will last many lifetimes.
You’ve mentioned that your jewelry is an antidote to the nothingness jewelry of the high street. Can you elaborate on this and what you mean by it?
When I mention the nothingness jewellery of the high street. I am taking about the jewellery that is born out of greed and manufactured in toxic, child labor, sweat shops. Void of any essence, the horror story of this jewellery is completed when purchased and worn.
You talked about the Volcanic Love Rings being a pivot in your creative mindset, how does this process occur?
Traveling to Iceland was the spark that inspired my volcanic love rings.
While in Reykjavik I began to think about volcanoes and in between having nightmares about been chased by molten lava rivers I realized that relationships are very similar to volcanoes whether they are active, dormant or extinct. Both are beautiful sometimes volatile and constantly manifest change, memories, wounds, and scars internally and externally. During this period, in addition to my hot lava dreams I was researching toilet graffiti in Dublin. I am fascinated by this occurrence and it seems to me that every since mankind crawled from the swamps to stand upright he/she has been mark making, scratching and scaring the earths crust or own skin whether marking territory, adorning or storytelling. I believe toilet graffiti is a continuum of this idea and as an engraving maker I believe I too am a link in this chain of mark-makers.
‘But volcanoes aren’t human’ I hear you say…they don’t have to pay rent and work in shitty jobs and put up with tourists!
I hear you but with this jewellery I am trying to capture the visual poetry of both the topographical and the tactile nature of volcanoes alongside the toilet graffiti, symbols, textures and words of drunken lovers.
So far your journey seems extremely smooth, has there ever been any difficulties or challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Since the conception of Pierce Healy Studio there has been enough stressful moments to power a small country. There has been the constant battle between making fresh work and finding a suitable vehicle to let the world know about my work. I would be a great believer in the “learning as you go” or the “fake it till you die” school of thought. Sometimes things go wrong and can drag one down, but over the years I have become better at ignoring the negative chatter in my head and using that energy to find solutions to keep moving forward. Project by project Pierce Healy Studio has grown slowly; everyday is a challenge. What drives me is my blind passion for making, knowledge and storytelling. I am not driven by money… BUT… money is a vital tool which I need to keep experimenting, playing and evolving my practice.
As founders of the BRENMI platform, we totally understand the arduous process of creation and the balance between passion and money. Can you talk a bit more about the exact launch of Pierce Healy Studio, how did you decide that it was time to take a hobby, and showcase it to the rest of the world?
I was working a day job as a draughtsman in an engineer’s office and working on my jewellery and music at night and the weekends. I did this for many years until I developed my technical jewellery skills to a proficient level. In tandem I had begun to investigate my designs and sought out my voice in various materials. After many experiments and rejections I had some successful gallery shows in San Francisco and Stockholm. When I began to receive commission requests I realize it would be possible to turn my jewellery madness into a full-time gig.
Any sneak previews to your upcoming designs and Pierce Healy in general?
At the moment I am working on a gang of extra chunky deeply engraved rings that were born out of a fantastical question:
What kind of work would result if biologist artist Ernst Haeckel went out for a wild weekend in Dublin accompanied by some stone age cave painters with access to fire, silver and gold and couple of jewellery making tools?
Thank you Pierce for the interview! We enjoyed discussing with you the origins of your engraving-based products and how your passions have made you the person you are today, and the fashion brand that you represent. Wish you best of luck in your endeavours in business and in life.
– The BRENMI Team