A look back in time with Dan Dower, jeweller and one half of Dower & Hall
Dower & Hall have been designing and making fine jewellery since 1990. Over the past three decades, they have seen the jewellery industry change and evolve with the times. We had a chat with Dan Dower to find out how Dower & Hall started.
Dan Dower and Diane Hall met at college, “studying jewellery design at Middlesex Polytechnic, which then became Middlesex University”. Dan has fond memories of his time at college: “on site, we had fashion, ceramics, glass, graphics, furniture… all of those things together. The cross pollination of ideas was phenomenal.
“In my final year, I was doing stuff with some of the glass makers, with some fashion designers. It very much gave you the idea that anything was possible. Certainly, with the fashion side of things.
“I'm doing stuff that happens to be worn on the body. It's more sculpture than jewellery, and in fact, I never really envisaged that I would be a jeweller. I was going to make jewellery. I was going to make adornment. I was going to make beautiful things, tangible, tactile treasures.
“I didn't necessarily want to be a jeweller, partly because at the time, in my mind, jewellery had such connotations of backward thinking.”
The jewellery industry has evolved dramatically since the 80s, and Dan Dower talks about a revolution, one Dower & Hall was a part of.
“The whole jewellery world I found to be quite misogynistic, quite male-dominated quite traditional. It was one of the last of the arts or the crafts to really be woken up to the modernism that was coming through. There was quite a revolution going on at that time. This was the 80s. The 80s were a blast of creativity in fashion, but jewellery really, really needed waking up. Fashion: it was exciting in the 60s, the 70s… But jewellery has always been traditional. And the 80s really saw a big shake up and we were part of that.
“When we graduated from college, it was exciting. The things that we could create, the audience that we could educate, bring on board because at the time women weren't buying for themselves.
We have seen a revolution. Women buy jewellery now because they can, because they're worth it, because they see things that they know suits them, rather than something they're being given.
Today, Dower & Hall is a recognisable brand, but it didn’t start that way: “At the time, branding was not even thought about. It was not even considered. We were designers. The important thing for us was to establish a design following and aesthetic.”
Dan Dower believes the Dower & Hall brand “came from people's perception of what we made, the signature of what we made, which has developed since. But the core signature styles of carving, sculpture, colour, shape, form, to be quite tactile: they've always been true all the way through.”
Having been around for over three decades means Dower & Hall has evolved. “When we first did our brand, we had the quatrefoil. And that became the logo. We've now moved on to a D and an S in the packaging, much more subtle. Although I'm still using the quatrefoil as signature in the gold pieces that I do.”
With countless designs, the jewellers “have probably at least 10 main signature styles and main recognisable motifs.
“We do quite a lot of hammered texture. We do quite a lot of stylised nature, we do a sculpted ripple look, we've got the quatrefoil… there are various elements, but that's the exciting thing.”
While Dower & Hall has evolved with the times, the “bench skills” are still integral to the jewellers’ process. They may have added new tools to their kit, such as CAD and 3D printing, but “traditional” jewellery skills are still used in everything the jewellers do.
Dan explains: “You've got to have the connection to the bench skills to know what is feasible, to know the weight, and it's easy to get carried away. Even wax carving is tricky, because you can't gauge the weight of it.
“The advantage of always making things directly into metal carving from a block of metal is you've got that heft. You've got that tangible thing. We've got new toys to play with, but they don't replace, they add to the range of things. You have an idea. And then you work out which of the many tools we have is most suitable to use.
“In one collection, there may be a combination of handmade skills and the CAD, as it gives you the ability to repeat designs and to adapt and adjust.”
Keeping up with the times seem to come easily for Dower & Hall, with Dan saying his brand is “fashion aware, not fashion-led.
“We've got designs on our website that we've been doing for 20 years. But they sometimes need a bit of tweaking. The stacking ring thing we've been doing for 25 years, they're now more delicate, they are finer, the size of stones is a little bit smaller.
“They've developed, they don't stay the same, but the function, the way they're worn is the same. But then they're a ring. We're still limited by the number of things that we can attach jewellery to.”