An English jewelry designer’s singularly engaging account of how a childhood pastime that involved making things by hand evolved into an artistic career.
The son of bohemian parents, Monroe spent his childhood growing up “between the woods and river in the wilds of Suffolk,” where he fought, fished and hunted with his siblings. He also drew and learned how to make things like counterfeit coins, go-carts and weapons to use against neighborhood boys from discarded pianos, furniture, bicycles, and other assorted odds and ends. In this book, Monroe interweaves stories from this idyllic childhood—as well as his more troubled adolescence and early adulthood—with meditations on the creative process that has since brought him international fame. Memory and artistic idea are inextricably bound in every piece he creates. The remembrance of a family mystery involving the death of a grandfather who loved to garden found its way into a delicate chrysanthemum wrought in gold. A story involving the teenage Monroe’s first tentative encounters with desire became interwoven into a collection of necklace charms meant to “evoke the wind in your hair and young love and escape, and behind all that carefree joy, something more elusive.” Experiences with love and loss—one belonging to Monroe and the other to Queen Victoria—became the inspiration behind a golden, heart-shaped locket containing a single bejeweled lovebird. Illustrated throughout with photographs and sketches of the projects he discusses, Monroe’s book is more than just an account of an artist’s past and its relationship to his work. It is also an extended essay that explores ways of seeing the world—especially the natural world—and how that vision gets translated into meaningful objects.
A gem of a book.