April 3, 2023—Over time I’ve fallen in love with the jewels of David Michael and the many designs posted on the Instagram of the master jewelers who have a studio in the Gold Coast of Australia. As a novelist, I look at each piece as telling a story and their creative process fascinates me. One recent rainy afternoon, I reached out to Michael Robinson (half of the twin brothers team that makes up David Michael) to ask him a question which led to a full-bodied conversation about creativity.
Following is an edited and condensed version of our discussion.
It’s so special to see your creative process posts on Instagram. As a result, I’m not only in love with your finished pieces, but also your drawings. In fact, I would wear your drawings, they are that stunning.
Thanks so much, I do think of the sketches in the same way as I do the finished work, it’s all part of the same journey and same expression of what I do.
When I was younger, I didn’t like it when people really loved my drawings and paintings, because to me they were just a preliminary doodle on the way to creating the actual finished work. But I soon realized that everything I do is done with the same care and attention, so having people appreciate any part of my art is a huge honor.
For me, as a novelist, a book idea usually starts from seeing an object. For The Last Tiara it was a 100-year-old-photograph of a now lost tiara. For the recent The Jeweler of Stolen Dreams it was seeing two art deco Belperron cuffs in a shop window. These moments are quite magical—all my senses are suddenly heightened—the world seems to come to a stop.
I get that same exact feeling when I’m working, I often say that my whole world is only the size of a matchbox.
When I’m making something especially, my world is microscopic and it feels like there is nothing else, there’s just my breath and precise delicate movements whilst I’m focused with tunnel vision on a pinpoint area.
I’ve spent a whole day looking through a microscope lens whilst carving a gemstone, getting every detail just the way I want, to only stand up at the end of the day and realize the details I have been agonizing over are barely visible to the unaided eye. Nevertheless, the details are the way I wanted them and the day’s work gets recorded in my workshop journal before stepping into the real world again. My workshop journal is a personal diary that records in order every aspect of creation as I handmake each jewel.
I have the same experience with painting and drawing, I get so focused that I had to teach myself how to be looser and more sketch like with my drawings.
Where does your process start? Where does that initial idea come from?
I feel for me that the process started when I was a kid, I was always drawing and making things with Lego. That effortlessly flowed into making things with scraps of wood from home renovations to making jewelry in my bedroom from the age of fifteen to what I do now, I’ve just never stopped creating.
In terms of finished works today, the ideas come from my mind, I’m very much an over thinker about everything, I have sketchbooks full of ideas that my hands will never have time to make, and I have many more ideas that I’ll never have time to draw on a sketchbook page because I’m too busy making in the workshop.
One specific inception of an object that I can think of is my jeweled Koi Pond, I had the loose concept in my head for probably ten years, it was inspired by the fishponds and rock gardens I would make as a teenager with my Dad and brother at our home in New Zealand, then one day I saw a beautiful portrait cut Aquamarine and I knew exactly what I could do with it. The idea that has been on my mind for years was on paper in minutes. That became the beginning of my koi pond series.
That over thinking helps when it comes to making the physical object too.
I’m self-taught and every work is one of a kind, that means technically I’m faced with elements I’ve never done before, but I’m constantly making things in my mind. By the time I come to bending metal I might have already made the piece vividly in my head ten times, so my hands know what to do as soon as I pick up a tool.
It almost feels like these things are meant to be, I just have to sit back and let my hands create them.
That’s what I love about what I do, my work is very personal, I’m not looking to take any shortcuts, do things faster, cheaper or easier is never a consideration and that’s why I don’t outsource any aspect of creation or use CAD [Computer Aided Design]. I just like to make things as special as possible and enjoy creating works that make me happy, I hope that intern is the emotion my art evokes in whatever audience it might find.
M.J. Rose is a New York Times bestselling author; her most recent novel, The Jeweler of Stolen Dreams was chosen as one of the Best Reads of the Month by Town & Country magazine.