The moment that changed the career path of Jeremy May from landscape architect to jewellery designer was his first wedding anniversary. He and his wife, artist and architect Eva-Chloe Vazaka, had decided to mark the occasion by making each other paper gifts. He made her a ring from a Greek newspaper, layering the sheets to create a strikingly sculptural form. It’s a highly individual process he has since perfected to produce bold statement rings (from £600) and bracelets (from £900) that have almost geological strata – and have made their way into the permanent collections of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York and the Swiss National Museum.
May refers to his creations as “literal jewels” as they are made predominantly from the pages of books, with the resulting pieces neatly presented within the book from which they were hewn. The first step in his process is to read the book – even if it is, say, a German version of Kafka, which he will read in translation. “When I start reading I have no idea what I will make from it,” says May. “It’s the book that gives me my inspiration and by the end I know exactly what I am going to make.” Design decided, he then starts to cut into the book at his studio in southwest London. “I cut one page at a time, by hand, with a scalpel,” he says. “It takes a lot of time.” He then laminates the individual papers using a “secret process”, before layering them into a wood-like form that he sculpts, again with a scalpel, into organic or geometric shapes that are finished with a layer of lacquer.
“I have a ring made from a copy, appropriately, of The Lord of the Rings,” says his gallerist, Andrea Harari at Jaggedart in Marylebone, London. “It’s fabulous. I love wearing it. It is jewellery but also a work of art when displayed on a bookshelf.” For his bespoke pieces (from £800), mostly rings, clients either come to May with a specific book or ask him to source a copy, as well as detailing design parameters of colour and size. Interestingly, his clients are predominantly male. “They ask me to make something for their wife or future wife from her favourite book. It’s very romantic. I just finished a wedding ring for a chap in Spain,” says May. “He had been travelling by bus to see his girlfriend two or three times a week for 10 years, and he had collected all the tickets. And from that I made a ring.”