written by
Theo Grundy

Octi: Sculptural Jewelry Inspired by Nature

Fashion Sustainability Art design Interviews 17 min read

Octi is a London-based jewelry designer who founded her namesake label in 2020. Since then she has collaborated with the likes of hybrid fashion brand ROA and is now stocked on websites such as SSENSE, LL-NC, and APOC.

Grounded in nature, her pieces take inspiration from geometric patterns repeated throughout nature and translates these patterns into wearable objects. Ranging from topographical maps to the skins of fruit to cracked ice embellished with gems, every piece possesses Octi’s signature appreciation for the beauty of natural phenomena.

What jewelry are you wearing right now, and what do you usually wear daily?

Right now, I’m wearing these hoop earrings, which are the globe hoops which I wear nearly every day. I normally wear one of these pendant necklaces every day too. And then I’m in the habit of interchanging my rings. Today I have the globe ring in gold and one of the new signets in silver on the other hand.

I also wear the island chain a lot, which is the big chunky chain.

How do you feel about mixing silver and gold? Is that something you often do, or not at all?

Yeah, I think mixing them is great. I wear mostly silver as I don’t have as much gold jewelry as I’d like to. But I have the gold globe ring on at the moment on the same hand as a silver ring.

What made you decide to go ahead and make a gold piece?

It was actually for the showroom in Paris back in June. I don’t like plating pieces as it always rubs off, and I want pieces to last forever. So I only had the budget to produce two gold pieces, and I went with the globe ring and the island pendant necklace.

Gold Globe Pendant

What has the experience been like transitioning to new metals? Do you see yourself making more in the future or even expanding to other metals?

Yeah, definitely. I’m presenting again in Paris in January, and I’m working on some more gold pieces for that, and hopefully, just build it up like that each season.

“I see jewelry as wearable sculptures”- Octi

Do you have a favorite piece of yours at the moment? The island chain, perhaps?

Yes, that’s one of them. I also really like my pickle ring with all the green sapphires. That's always been a favorite of mine.

Pickle Ring with Sapphires

So going back in the past, how did you get started making jewelry? Could you give us a brief timeline of how it started?

I studied Fine Art/Sculpture at Central St. Martin's but only did half of the degree there before moving to Goldsmiths to do Design. The Design course was really interesting; it didn’t specialize in a particular type of design, it was a lot about conceptual/creative thinking and in the end, applying that to whichever disciple you wanted.

After university, I worked in production for a while, and it wasn't until 2020, roughly two years after I graduated, that I made my first piece of Jewellery. That was September 2020, and I’ve slowly been building things up from there.

Was that the plan when you went to art school to be doing jewelry-based things? Was that kind of your preferred medium, or were there other things that took your interest first?

Well initially, I was making quite big sculptures out of all sorts of different materials, but I was always really into fashion. So I guess, in hindsight, it makes sense because I see jewelry as wearable sculptures, so I feel like my work combines all of my interests really nicely.

Do you have an early piece of jewelry that you find yourself always looking back to? One that you've made that was a big landmark early on in your work? Or, in the same way but more personally, are there pieces that your parents had that perhaps sparked an early interest in the art form?

My mum always had really amazing jewelry. She used to go to Wright & Teague sample sales when she lived in London, and she has some really amazing pieces from there. My favorites were always the big decorative hoop earrings, I used to wear these a lot in my teens. She also had a lot of family hand-me-downs and random pieces from different holidays she’d been on.

During lockdown and before I got into lost wax casting, which is what I do now, I stayed at my parent's for a while and made pieces out of reconstructing random beads and old broken pieces of hers. I think these moments definitely feel like seeds that helped to start the whole journey.

So you're in your studio right now. How long has it been since you've had your studio, and how have you found working in the studio? With being in London, was it hard to find a place of your own?

I actually got super lucky with this one. I've had this one since August, which is in Hackney. And before that, I was in a shared studio hot-desking. But I think as I got busier, I just needed my own space. And my friend has the studio across the hall from where I am now. She gave me the number of the guy, so I asked if he had anything free and he said he'd let me know when something came up, and two weeks later, there was a free studio.

Do you miss anything about working with other people? Seeing what kind of work other people are doing? Or is it nice kind of having your own space and focusing on yourself?

It's nice having my own space, practicality-wise. But probably my least favorite thing about what I do is the amount of time I spend on my own. I’m a very sociable person, so I definitely miss being around people more, especially when I’m working really late.

What do you listen to when you're working, and do you have to be in a specific mood when you're working? Do you treat it just like a day job where you like to clock in and clock out?

Yeah, I have to treat it like a day job. I try to schedule myself as much as I can: so I run most mornings and then get to the studio at around 9am. Listening wise it really depends on what mood I'm in or what particular task I'm doing that day. Anything from Bicep or Nicholas Jarr to sometimes Radiohead or Nirvana or sometimes drum and bass. I listen to audiobooks a lot too. At the moment, I'm listening to Edward Enninful’s biography.

How do you think your style affects the jewelry you make, and do you think that your jewelry is best suited for certain people? Do you think about gender when you make your pieces?

I think there's an interesting and exciting rise in types of fine jewelry for men. It's becoming broader, and there's lots of designers doing really interesting things with that.

And I think also along with that a rise in less traditional fine jewelry for women. So hopefully, my work kind of fits into those categories: women that are wanting to wear less traditional stuff and men that are wanting to experiment a bit more with the jewelry that they're wearing.

You recently came back from Japan. How have you found visiting new places since becoming a jewelry designer, and does that affect your brand and your craft when you go to different places, or is it more just to enjoy these places and less important for inspiring your craft directly?

I think I'm always looking for inspiration, within nature, seeing other art, or researching different processes. I think whether I was a jewellery designer or anything else, I think when you’re doing your own thing, wherever you are, you’re always thinking about how your surroundings can feed into what you do.

Moth Cocoon from Japan

I also think just being in new spaces, especially somewhere so different as Japan, sometimes just gives you a new head space to think, whether it's directly related or not.

I loved this much about Japan, so I spent a lot of time just enjoying it and soaking everything up. I had a lot of amazing food and met a lot of interesting people. It was also really nice that some people were familiar with the brand all the way over there.

Turning back to your work, on your website, each piece has its own reference photo. What do you think it is about natural imagery that you find so inspiring? Is it a product of your brand identity where you've moved into these more nature-oriented pieces, and you use the photos on your website to let customers know where the brand stands? Are these photos specifically references you’ve designed from?

So mainly, the images on my website are there to explain the concepts of my work, often revolving around how patterns and textures within nature repeat themselves, how on lots of different scales, you'll see a certain texture or pattern appear again and again.

I’m really interested in Mandlebrot’s theory of fractal geometry, which explains this on a scientific level. Lots of my work is about repeating these patterns and textures once again into the jewelry.

So, for example, the texture of an avocado is like lava, and the texture of a gherkin is like a field of anthills. And then the pattern I draw on a lot for my work with the wiggly lines to me resembles patterns in water, wood grain, rock formations, etc.

Mandelbrot’s The Fractal Geometry of Nature

So having images of all these on my website is there to show the connection between all of these things in nature and how they then connect to the work.

So it is based around shapes in nature but also a commonality in nature. Is that a way of connecting your work back to nature?

Yeah, for sure. The work also becomes part of this repetition. Much of the work finds a texture or a pattern that's repeated on two different scales, and then I then cast it or draw it and repeat it again into the jewelry.

How much has your work changed since starting on Instagram and doing person-to-person sales to expanding into selling on websites and doing wholesale?

The work itself hasn’t necessarily changed, but I think from repeating processes so many times, such as drawing my line work, it’s naturally developed into something I’m happier with now. I can rely on molds of my designs for larger quantities, but know I have to go over the line work on each wax model before it’s cast to make sure the lines are defined enough in the final piece.

The process of selling has changed quite a bit - before I had a website, everything was sold through Instagram, which led to a lot of conversations with people through DMs. It was really nice chatting to people directly about the designs and having an understanding of who my customers were. But it got to a point where this way of working was getting hard to manage, so having a website has really helped with that.

Selling wholesale is also a really new way of working for me. I was really used to making each item to order and never kept stock. So getting used to producing large quantities for wholesale is something new that was and still is something I’m getting used to. For example, working out the best way to divide time between making wholesale orders and designing/ making a new collection.

Apart from wholesale orders, how do you divide your time between what you should make the most of? Do you think that the kind of more entry-level or cheaper pieces you have a high quantity of and then like as you said, there's probably fewer gold pieces that you have. How do you determine what you should make the most of, or do you have these templates on your website for people to order from, and then that's when it’s made?

Apart from wholesale orders, I make everything to order. As soon as someone orders through the website, that’s when I'll start production on that specific piece. Different items can take different amounts of time, but I find it’s a good way of working because there’s no waste, and it means certain items can be customized - e.g gemstone colors.

Do you think with the way things are going with sustainability in fashion and maybe jewelry, bigger businesses might replicate your practices in terms of limiting waste with made-to-order? Or do you think we're a long way from that more conscious, sustainable field in jewelry?

It’s a tricky question, but I think in jewelry, there are definitely options to take which can really help with sustainability. Making to-order is definitely one of them, but I don’t know how that would differ with a huge brand with a super high turnaround.

I work with an amazing casting place in London, and with them, there are no minimum order quantities which is another thing that makes it possible for me to make to order. I think this is probably the same for lots of jewelry brands, but could be harder for clothing where I know there are often large order minimums with factories.

The casters I use also only use recycled metals. I think this is another thing that all jewelry brands should think about doing if they can. A nice thing about metals is that they can easily be melted down and become something else.

On the opposite end to wholesale, how many custom pieces have you made? Are customs something that you'd like to do more or less of? Is it a fun part of your job being allowed to make something that's outside of your normal products? Or is it something that puts pressure on your work because of it being more personalized and having to meet a threshold of what they're expecting?

I’ve done it a few times in the past. For example, people have sent me a topographic map of a specific location that means something to them, and I have applied that to the jewelry.

I’ve also made one engagement ring which was a really nice process. We worked together on it, the customer and I. It was an adaptation of the globe ring but a thinner version with three white sapphires in it. So I made a wax model and showed them that to check they were happy with the exact shape, and then I showed them the stones that I sourced for it and checked they were happy with the exchange along the way. I felt really flattered that they had asked me, especially as this was at such an early stage of the brand.

I’d like to do more customs in the future as I like collaborating with people. I think it just depends if the idea works with what I do and if I’m able to make it in time.

Was that a surprise when that message came out of the blue, had they been like a previous customer or had they just seen your work and gone like that's what I want?

It just came out of the blue!

Obviously, you've been working making jewelry for over two years now. You have your core pieces which people probably will see as very recognizable as the Octi label. However, you’re got new designs as well; you've got the puddle earrings which kind of have that poured liquid mercury effect; you have the spiky skin ones. What's your creative process for making new pieces? Is it going back to photo references to think, finding textures to play around with? And is the experimentation physical, or is it drawn?

Everything starts in wax, which is a really forgiving and malleable material to experiment with. In terms of the process, so far I've kind of let one thing flow into another. So the first ring I made was the lemon peel one. From there, I became interested in seeing how other organic matters or fruits can be formed into wearable shapes and turned into jewelry.

So I made a lot of silicone molds of different things, for example, gherkins, lychees etc. From there, I pour wax into the molds before taking them to be cast into metal.

As I was pouring wax into all these molds, all these wax puddles started forming on my kitchen surface, which I was using at the time. I really liked the shapes that were forming. And so that's how the puddle earring came to be.

The globe and island pieces I do came from an idea I had for a birthday present for my partner Jean-Luc. We'd both been into the patterns in topographical maps at that time and he'd made a gilet with these lines on. I noticed the shapes that were forming in the wax puddles and saw these as sections of the maps. So I added line work to them, and the first piece of this kind I made was an augmentation. I then grew this into rings, bangles, earrings, everything.

From here, I realized that this similar types of patterns appear in lots of parts of nature, which is why they are now called ‘globe’ and ‘island’ pieces. I think I've drawn the pattern so many times now that it’s almost become a thing of its own.

You have an ongoing collaboration with ROA. Are collaborations something you're looking to do more of in the future?

Yes, definitely. There are a couple of other collaborations I've been working on which are really exciting and some more stuff with ROA as well. Collaborating with other brands is something really important to me and something that I really want to keep doing. I think the merge of two different processes or mediums creates really interesting work. I also love the process of collaboration in terms of working with other people and bouncing ideas off each other. It’s also a great opportunity to reach new audiences.

What kind of jewelry do you see yourself making in the next year or two? Is it likely to be more of the same materials, perhaps or expanding into others? Obviously, you've started making pieces in gold, but are there other materials that you could see yourself using?

I’m getting really into experimenting more with gemstones — there’s so much that can be done with them, and I find that really exciting. At the moment, I like the idea of sticking to precious metals, at least for my own stuff. But working more with gold is definitely next.

In terms of collections, I think I will have a permanent collection that will consist of a lot of the pieces that I have out now, then each season, there will also be seasonal pieces and they can run alongside each other.

What's it been like sharing the experience of making a brand with friends and family or showing pieces to friends and having them as customers? Is that a nice experience to have, whether they pay or not, giving them something you’ve created from scratch? It’s not really an experience many people get in society, where you can gift something so personalized from one person to another.

My friends and family have been really supportive throughout the whole process. Sometimes they buy things, and of course, I give them mates rates. But I love when it's someone’s birthday - I always liked giving presents, but it's even more exciting now because I can think, ‘oh, what can I make them?’ Or sometimes I'll try out something new or a different gem color and give that to them as something individual and personalized.

The most memorable gift I gave was a necklace to my mum. She had a necklace made from lots of little pieces of coral that unfortunately broke. So I took the pieces and cast some of the coral into gold and made a new necklace from what was broken.

1/1 Reassembled Coral Necklace
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