Posted on November 9. 2022
Let’s start with getting to know Maria Black a little better, could you tell us a little about how you as a brand started out and have evolved till today?
The brand was founded in 2010 by me, Maria Black, with the ethos of designing contemporary precious metal pieces that were gender-neutral. I graduated as a goldsmith in 2009 and started the brand by selling my jewelry designs on Sunday Upmarket in east London. I wanted to build a brand that was playful and was determined to do things that made sense instead of following the status quo. For example, we insisted on selling our earrings singular, which is standard today so that people could play with stylings. Our designs and image have changed considerably over the years as we evolved our style and found new inspiration and interests, but our core values of freedom of expression and promoting acceptance of our differences are the same. It’s always been me that has designed all collections but in 2020 the design team was expanded with 2 incredibly talented females that have brought new perspectives and energy.
Our strength in re-thinking jewelry designs and ways to wear it comes from operation in the fashion market as compared to the traditional jewelry market, so that meant that we very early in adopted a ‘live and let live attitude in our way of designing and our marketing; styling men in pearl earrings and women in statement pieces that didn’t scream feminine. And we strive to represent all types of people in our images, not just the norm model.
We believe in honesty, inclusivity, and responsibility in all areas of our business so that is reflected in the way we source and design. We are the first major jewelry brand to include Fairtrade gold in all our production, in fact, we are incredibly proud to have pioneered and developed the GSP program together with Fairtrade UK and we use recycled metals in all our production. Our current project is to re-think our packaging and think of circularity in all our output from the workshop all the way to the person who invests in one of our pieces.
Your collection of jewelry always carries attitude and expressiveness close to your hearts, can you tell us a little about your creative processes and inspirations behind the gems?
We are eternally inspired by our surroundings and sub-cultures. Especially sub-cultures and micro-movements in society as it’s through these early pioneers we will reflect ourselves years later - completely forgetting why we thought men couldn’t wear pearl earrings. Jewelry is our medium to challenge the preconceived ideas most of us have regarding gender expression and societal norms. Like, does your engagement ring have to feature a 1-carat mined diamond that carries a violent and devastating human and environmental footprint? We design everything from scratch each season, we don’t rely on factory designs as a lot of brands do and even though we have an incredible design output, it’s important to understand we are not a fast fashion brand. Our goal is not for you to buy cheap in low quality and then throw them away to buy new ones.
We design in exceptional quality with attention to detail that allows optimal lifespan and as our materials are precious metals everything is 100% recyclable. From our mood boards, we sketch in hand and from there we build the pieces either on CAD or on the bench. It’s an incredible feeling to see something that was formed from intention and created from fantasy translate into a small sculpture. The buzz we get from this process is what sustains us.
Tell us a little about your workspace. What does a typical day in the Danish studio look like?
We are housed in a historic building at the famous Nyhavn in Copenhagen. The building is old and incredibly charming and our teams are spread over 3 floors of this building. Our day is a mix of computer work, creative work, and meetings.
We are so grateful to see that you are big fans of the Varier chairs, how did you discover Varier, and what was important to you when choosing your Varier chairs for your workspace?
We’ve had Varier chairs in our warehouse for a while now, and the rest of the office has always been jealous of them!
In the open landscape area, we all have moving desks and adjustable screens to make sure our backs and necks do not suffer from the everyday working hours in front of a computer. Having Varier chairs just came naturally, as they are perfect to ensure our posture is correct and we do not feel any pain when leaving the office at the end of the day. In the workshop, we have a high workstation, with height adjustable chair for variation when being creative.
We’re also curious to hear a little more about your favorite Varier chairs and what makes these a great match for you and your everyday?
The Varier chairs have an important effect on our workflow, as a regular workday with us involves many different tasks, such as meetings, handling orders, and other creative projects including personnel from all departments of Maria Black, and this challenge focus and productivity, which we believe is solved through offering variation and adaptiveness through the furniture we choose to surround us with.
We want to ensure a healthy work culture, which is one of the main reasons we chose the Move chair as a primary option for our colleagues, mainly for the ergonomic reason as it has natural and flexible support to your back and body, but also because of our height adjustable tables and standing workstations. These types of workstations are a necessity for us to maintain a balanced day so that our employees can enjoy variation as a part of their workday, and avoid static situations for more well-being through support and flexibility.
And of course the Ekstrem, as a statement piece that we have had for a long time at Maria Black, for not just being a fantastic piece for the eye, but also a great lounge chair in our showroom area for our clients and visitors to enjoy when they come to experience our seasonal collections. It’s a great chair not just for its comfort, but also for being a piece that sparks conversation and smiles.
What are the most popular items from your latest collection, and what makes these so current and attractive?
We have two earrings that are simply unique and very loved. One is the Miran Earring, which is a sculptural piece with a pearl dipped in resin. It gives pearls a playful touch and makes them more special and different. The other one is the Marina Earring, a statement earring with a fish inside a resin water drop. It’s a unique piece that gets everyone’s attention.
There's something when it comes to astrology that most of us love. We have a selection of zodiac coins from our POP collection that people enjoy and customize in incredible ways.
But the piece that everyone is talking about right now is our Blaze Necklace, a basic and light, yet unique and beautiful chain with a big charm of a heart in flames. We still haven’t met anyone who disliked it!
We’ve also noticed that you now do in-house piercings as a service for your customers, how did this start out, and do you offer this service in all your stores?
In 2015 we had a now infamous Christmas party where we invited 2 piercers that pierced the entire office. The absolute thrill and life-affirming experience we all had from this evening inspired us to pursue a new form of self-expression that wasn’t rooted in rebellion - our version is about empowerment and subversion of gender expression as well as pre-conceived stereotyping. We launched our first piercing service in 2017, and today we offer an ethical and progressive piercing service in all of our stores with 14K gold jewelry that is created using Fairtrade gold, recycled gold, and lab-grown diamonds.
Famous client list?
It was an incredible and exciting day when Kate Middleton picked MB as one of the jewelry brands she would be wearing during her official visit to Copenhagen. Other famous personalities like Kylie Jenner have also worn our pieces and have let us know how much they love our designs and their uniqueness.