From craftsmanship to 3D printing Guy & Max are pioneers in the future of jewelry making. I had the privilege to interview this dynamic duo in order to understand how technology is marrying into craftsmanship to create jewels of the future. Take a look and find out more how these two brothers are humanizing technology with a special touch.
Q: Tell me about GUY&MAX – What is your company about?
Guy: Our company has an interesting heritage; to begin with it was a family business specializing in diamond jewelry, I was working with my father who was a diamond merchant for many years. Max at that time was an award winning product designer who one day came across the new crazy concept of 3-D printing. Originally, he tried experimenting with printing furniture and realized printing at such a large scale was very costly. He thought it might be a good idea to shrink the medium and understood Dad and I worked with a product with a much smaller scale that was entirely sculptural. He came to us with this artistic vision that was years ahead of his time: to 3D print fine jewellery. The consequence was the creation of GUY&MAX. We started using Max’s artistic talent to come up with some wild contemporary designs. Slowly we lost interest in the traditional way of making jewelry and concentrated on this new concept. About eight years ago we opened our Boutique in Mayfair and three years ago we launched our own identity without the stabilizers of the old family business and now here we are today!
Q: Can you tell me about an experience that was challenging which taught you a lot while creating your company?
Max: One of the hardest things we came against was traditional goldsmiths shunning the idea of digital 3D printing, we weren’t considered proper jewelers for a while. Fortunately our customers have been more open-minded and have come to us because we are are making forward-thinking pieces utilizing different tools. From a design point of view, that is the biggest challenge we have come across. Also transitioning from being a furniture designer to designing jewelry has been a massive learning process. Jewelry has a lot more psychology to it in its function.
Q: How did you overcome the hurdle in helping people understand that this is also fine jewelry even if it is not done in a traditional way and it is instead 3D printed?
Guy: The way the market has developed is that now a lot of mainstream jewelers use CAT technology and 3D printers in large and small design houses for mass production. The special thing about what we do, is focus on creating bespoke jewellery, using these techniques. We would argue that Max’s skill in designing a piece of jewelry is just as time consuming as hand making piece of jewelry but the end product is microscopically accurate and adheres to the customers vision. We are not for a moment pretending that the majority of the market that go to high street jewelers such as Tiffany are going to come to us. We are about the people that want something different. When people look for something different they invariably come across GUY&MAX. Our ability to work virtually also enables us to communicate our design message to anyone anywhere without them having to come to the boutique. We have clients all around the world that love our process and they love our jewelry.
Q: You told me your products are bespoke. Do you create the designs or does the customer?
Guy: Eight years ago people would come to us and say “I have seen this design and that one, what can you do?” Now when they tell us that we say “this is how we make ours” tailoring it to the need of the individual. If a ring of ours is platinum and black diamond, but the customer has a skin tone for which yellow gold might suit better or would prefer another stone we are able to change it and personalize it for them, within reason.
Q: How have you financed this project?
Guy: We were a family business in the diamond industry for many many years and it has been a gradual process for us to move away from that main stream commercial aspect in a more artistic direction but we are very lucky to have brought along a platform of very loyal customers. Thus far we have financed our project within the family, and that is the way we will continue.
Q:Tell me a little bit about about your studio, the space, how many people work with you, what kind of tools do you have?
Max: The studio is downstairs and is where we house the 3D printers and the computers. We also have a traditional jewelry workshop upstairs behind the main boutique space, which houses Mark our diamond setter.
Guy: We do as much of the process as possible within the space of our shop. I do the front of house sales. Max does the design, we have Pippa who helps us out as a production manager and Anna, and of course Mark as mentioned…. Oh and Dad! (chuckles)
Q:How are technology and craftsmanship marrying in modern times?
Guy: We have been using traditional expertise for a very long time and we actually play to our strengths. If someone comes looking for a handmade piece we would tell them that it’s best to have it handmade, which we can do. However, people tend to come looking for us because of Max’s design dexterity which lends itself to unusual, sculpted jewellery designs. Max not only uses CAT jewelry technology, he uses architectural, design and animation techniques to make his own unique and detailed way of printing a piece of sculptural fine jewelry. That is a very particular skill set.
Max: Our work is about using the process for a correct outcome. It is not about jumping on the 3D printing bandwagon and making a traditional ring using these new techniques. This to us is pointless, our idea is to create something that would be impossible to make using traditional techniques. The tool we use is essentially a computer and a mouse but we are still spending the same amount of hours designing. You have to have the same education and apprenticeship to build up your knowledge in order to use this technology. You can’t learn to use a CAT program and expect to be as skilled as someone who has used it for 20 years the next day.
Q: Is this the way that we are moving in the future? Are we having to incorporate technology into craftsmanship to keep it alive?
Max: Yes I think so. In the last Century we have lost a huge amount of craftsmanship (in many areas of design) but we are now seeing new innovative forms of craftsmanship coming back since the computer. We are creating much more design-centered products using old processes with the help of technology.
Q: What impact does G&M have in society. What kind of legacy are you leaving behind?
Max: We hope to change the perception and the fear of technology, especially from a luxury angle. This is something that we seem to be particularly battling with. When we speak to journalists, many say there is no way a computer generated model can be luxury. Then others say of course it can, this is the future. I think combining the right crafts, skills, artisans and technology can be used to amazing ends. It is important for people to understand that jobs will not be lost through the use of technology but that instead they will be generated. Computers are just another tool to create products. Craftsmanship and technology are not incompatible nor exclusive of each other.
Guy: I would like to take that same concept and move it forward 200 years. We deal jewelry which is a product that has been around for thousands of years and we manipulate it in a way to form something that modern people identify with as sculptural art. Imagine in 200 years when we are all long gone, to have our great, great grandchildren taking out a jewel from a box and saying “Wow that was made in London in 2015 and it’s 3D printed.” Jewelry is a legacy and it tells a story – the personalized story of a person, of a marriage, an anniversary. To then have the actual science behind that beautiful sculpture as part of our pioneering legacy is so exciting. It is such an incentive to do more of what we are doing.
Q: On that note, how does it feel to be a pioneer? It often takes a lot of courage to be one as you can be misunderstood being ahead of the curve
Guy: …Are you ready for it? Terrifying! (chuckles). Thankfully though there are millions of people in the world and while someone might be criticizing you, other people are saying this is amazing! 99.9% of people that come to us are celebrating a special occasion and have come to us for something unique and that far outweighs the petty criticism. If you believe in something you have to go for it! It is an honor to be doing what we are doing.
Q: As creatives what inspires you? who inspires you? where do you get your inspiration?
Max: As a jewelry Designer I am always trying to look at things that people don’t normally look at. Jewelry is traditionally really inspired by nature and lots of floral symbols. What we have tried to do is to take the nature that people don’t see such as cellular structures and things of that sort and express that. I am particularly inspired by people using 3D printing in science, and even medicine.
Q: Do you think that technology is making us more human? or is it taking us away from our humanity? or Is it bringing us back to the roots?
Guy: With our product, although the tool is technological it is so entirely personal and bespoke. Every little bit of the process is suggested and followed by our customers. Ultimately it becomes as personal as they want to make it.
Max: Will technology come around to being personal again? I think as human beings we will shape it as we want to shape it. Ultimately I think it will enhance social experiences on a more personal level, that we as human beings crave.
Q: Can you tell me about your creative process?
Max: Usually a client might come to us with an idea of what they want or perhaps inspiration for a special project. From that point I come up with some design ideas or sketches (depending on the complexity of the piece). We than have a second meeting and run through them or email the ideas over. We can also offer digital illustrations or renders of the piece to show our clients how the final product will look, once they are happy with the final design we print the actual jewel, it is then hand-set and finished In-house.
Guy: But there is no point in hitting the print button before customer is 100% sure. Although we send emails with images we also have a 3D resin printer in house, in case there is any doubt. The client can come to the store and lay down the stones on the resin prototype piece. Like this we make sure the stones are set exactly as wanted and the piece is to scale. Once they are completely satisfied we then print the piece in metal.
Q: Tell me a fun fact about you…
Guy: I like to travel to remote places and chill out. I like Scotland, the Isle of Lewis, the wildest place on the earth. I have some artist friends up there and I like to leave the frenetic city and go and breathe fresh air and relax.
Max: I like cycling, reading, running, photography, building websites.
Q: Favorite place in London?
Guy: Shepherd Market and 5 Hertford Street for a drink.
Max: I love London as a place, impossible to say!
Q: What do you do in your free time?
Guy: I like to go somewhere remote. I like Scotland, the isle of Lewis the wildest place on the earth and chill out. I have some artist friends up there and I like to live the frenetic city and go and breath some fresh air and relax.
Max: I like the mountains, I like intense things like spikey mountains and cities as well. The things in between don’t bother me too much. I like cycling and reading.
Q: Any dreams?
Guy: We are living the dream! ….. I would also like to write a book one day.
Max: The next thing I would like to design is shoes.