Acanthus Jewelry is a modern jewelry collection conceived by designer Nichole McIver and inspired by her background as a medieval art historian. Nichole takes inspiration from her love of cultures past, and translates that into handcrafted modern heirlooms. Her pieces are feminine with a touch of edge and combine precious metals and gemstones with a variety different of techniques resulting in unique, one-of-a-kind wearables. Nichole creates each piece herself in her studio in Minnesota. We recently had a chat with Nichole about her work, dream job and inspirations. Here's her take on things:
How did you start designing jewelry?
I began about 7 or 8 years ago. I worked for an artist and also in an art gallery that sold jewelry. I missed having an outlet for my own personal creativity and took a closer look at the jewelry we sold in the gallery and thought, “I can do that.” The more I considered jewelry design, the more I realized what a diverse medium it is and I fell in love. I began to teach myself different techniques and it has evolved ever since.
What’s your favorite part of the process?
My favorite part is being struck with inspiration by something I see or something that comes to mind, and then getting swept up in a creative frenzy considering different ways to make that inspiration into something I love.
Do you have a favorite medium?
Well, since so much of what I do is based on the relationship between silver and gold, I would have to say Sterling Silver. It’s a very amenable metal and it acts as a canvas for me to use gold and gemstones to play off of it.
What is your design philosophy?
I feel very passionate about hand crafting the jewelry personally. Transforming a sheet of metal or piece of wire into something completely different is very fulfilling for me. Having a strong background studying art history and the relationship between patron and artist is deeply ingrained in me, and I love that I can retain that by making sure that the people who wear my work know that it was me, and only me, who created it.
What did you want to be when you were little?
Aside from a dolphin trainer (ha!), I wanted to be an artist or illustrator. I’ve always loved drawing and painting, and that’s even what my undergraduate degree is in.
Describe your work in 3 words: Bold, tough and powerful.
What’s behind the name of your collection?
My educational background and other love is in art history, and Acanthus comes from a type of design motif that is repeated throughout art history, from Ancient Greece through the 19th century and even today. It’s a scrolling leaf pattern that I’ve always been drawn to, and though it has no one specific symbolic meaning, it’s consist appearance throughout different eras evokes a feeling of timeless design for me.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m definitely inspired by cultures and objects of the past, typically the 16th century and earlier. It could be an ancient Roman tile, a medieval manuscript margin or a Baroque painting. It’s often the way people of the past visually interpreted the ideas and world around them. I like to be inspired by those interpretations, and reimagine them in my own way.
Who is your design/fashion crush?
Jen Altman is an immensely talented photographer and stylist. Her home makes me drool every time I see images of it, her book Gem & Stone is incredibly inspiring, and the way she piles on her collection of vintage and independent designer jewels is enviable. Her style sensibility permeates her life, and you can see it instantly, which I adore.
Do you have a signature look?
Mixed metals are definitely my signature. Since I first played with combining oxidized silver and gold, I have continued to try and push that dramatic interaction between the two, and I would definitely say that it is my signature look.
Who do you design for? What kind of woman wears your jewelry?
I’ve always kind of thought of designing for a cooler version of myself! Ha! My personal style is very simple and relaxed, jeans, t-shirts, boots, leather jacket, etc., so I definitely envision a woman who has a cool, relaxed vibe, but loves jewelry that has some attitude. I think the Acanthus woman is powerful and a bit of a badass when she needs to be.
What makes a woman look modern?
I think owning your style and who you are makes a woman look modern. Making something your own, rather than following all of the latest trends from minute to minute.
What piece of jewelry is the most important for a woman to own?
Definitely one that she cherishes and has a personal connection with, whether it be something she admired for a long period and saved up to purchase, a gift from someone special, or a piece of jewelry passed down from a family member. Something that she would wear every single day because she loves it that much.
What does modern mean to you?
The strict definition of modern shuns the past, but I think truly nothing is 100% original. Everything is derived from a connection to the past in some way. Reimagining, transforming and building upon that connection, and inserting your personal perspective makes something modern.
What visibly interests you?
I’m always so drawn to things that feel worn, handmade, and like that they have a story behind them. Whether it’s something hand-stitched, a raw, scribbled sketch, or a piece of antique furniture, I’m constantly connecting to things that allow me to feel the maker behind them.
What can’t you live without?
Well aside from the obvious (my husband and two kiddos), I can’t live without creativity. During difficult times when I wondered whether making jewelry was going to work, or whether it was worth the stress or difficult times I was going through, I thought “Well, what if I just didn’t do it anymore?”, and it made me so sad. I can’t picture not doing this, and I know that even if no one wanted my work, I’d be filling up my own personal collection because I just have to take the ideas I get to completion.
Also beer and chocolate chip cookies. ;)