The Folklore invites one of our designers, Malaika, for a conversation to talk about what inspires her design process and her hopes for the future.
Inspired by large cityscapes and the intricacies of fine jewelry, architect Malaika Carr’s jewelry brand Chalk Jewellery offers unusual, geometric, wearable forms that are influenced by architectural elements, everyday objects, and bold colorful cultural patterns. The London-based design studio produces handmade pieces crafted by the architect herself.
Splitting her time between her day job working at an architecture firm and jewelry-making creates a fusion that gives her jewels a dynamic edge. Malaika studied architecture at the University of Greenwich and completed her qualification at Westminster University, where there, she started experimenting with model and jewelry making.
Her background developed her concentration on function, scale, and precision whilst designing jewelry pieces, and she often bases her collection around a specific building and infuses it with an earthy color palette.
The Folklore interviewed Malaika Carr about her design process, balancing jewelry making and her architecture career, and her hopes for the future.
Can you walk us through your design process?
I tend to look at various typologies when selecting a building for a collection to keep the designs fresh and dynamic. The design process for each collection is the same but the outcome is always very different due to the nature of the buildings.
For example, the arched glazed facade designed by EM Barry’s Hamlyn Hall in the London’s Royal Opera House inspired one of my collections for Chalk: walnut shapes form the structure, and I outlined the jewelry with a rich palette of colors incorporating vibrant green and blue hues. An element of luxury is added with etched gold and silver mirrored shapes, adding depth to the pieces that pay homage to one of London’s most iconic buildings. Another building, Walden 7 (designed by Ricardo Bofill) was the inspiration underpinning my designs for ‘Shaped Objects’. I try to capture the fun and playful vibe of this architectural masterpiece in my jewelry.
You also have a sister brand called Arco Studios, what architectural references did you use for that collection?
La Tomba Brion, cemetery designed by Carlo Scarpa is the building that I referenced for the ‘Arco Collection’. The linear lines, layered concrete and stepped ridges are heavily incorporated within the pieces. The building is rather brutal, with harsh, rough materials and severe shapes. Arco Studio creates timeless designs that beautifully pay homage to architectural pioneers.
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Designing a building and designing jewelry are very different crafts. How do you feel about both practices in conjunction?
When you design a building you think of the end-user, how you can make them feel excited, comfortable, and fall in love with the spaces. This same thought process is included in jewelry making, but I tend to think about myself as the end-user! The biggest difference between the two is that architecture has its limits and requires a lot of patience, as it can take years before you actually see the end result of the construction, whereas the creation of jewelry is more instantaneous!
Other than architecture, what other things inspire you for your collections?
I tend to stay away from fashion trends, as I would prefer my pieces to be seen as versatile and timeless. So historical references about old jewelry, as well as bold, cultural fabrics, graphic prints, motifs, and molding play an influencing role in my design process.
A photograph of Carr wearing jewelry from the Arco collection