USM x Meadowlark
Behind tinted red doors on the outer fringe of Auckland CBD sits an unpretentious space housing a jewellery atelier showcasing traditional craftsmanship with an intimate showroom setting. The white concrete building is beautifully balanced with rays of warmth and filled with mindful treasures.
Back in 2018, we were approached by Claire, Creative Director of Meadowlark to assist in the creation of her first USM piece. With a clear vision in mind, we worked together to create New Zealand's first commercially fit Haller E unit.
The new custom-built Haller E storage unit now sits in the centre of Meadowlark's showroom providing the perfect mixture of storage and display for Claire and her partner Greg's flourishing brand.
We caught up with Claire to chat about her sources of design inspiration and her new piece.
You mentioned you first spotted USM on your travel endeavours abroad. Can you tell us how this inspired you to have a piece of your own?
Actually, I first saw USM in magazines and books and recently discovered a magazine from 2013 with the corner folded on a USM advertisement, so I know it’s been at least that long since I’ve wanted to own a piece. It wasn’t until I was in a homeware store in LA that I realised there was a glass top option which is perfect for jewellery so that was it for me. Until then, I had been trying to design custom cabinetry that just never felt quite right.
Every piece you source for the showroom feels like it has been carefully curated to fit in with your style and taste. It seems like you’re not afraid to mix and match different pieces which we also love. How did you initially visualise USM fitting into your space?
I’d like to say it was all in the plan but we actually did everything bit by bit. When we first opened the showroom we used furniture we had and just painted the walls. We were testing the space to see if people would even want to visit, it has been much more successful than expected so we decided it was worth investing in the space. I am lucky to have some great interior lovers in my life so I ran my ideas past people and had help with some aspects like flooring and lighting. Talking to lots of friends about the project actually clarified that I needed to follow my own gut and just go with the pieces I had wanted for many years. I worked with Tamsin Johnson in Sydney for some finishing touches including the orange concrete sofa and the Den Holm counter I had been dreaming of for years.
Each piece of furniture was ordered one by one, as individually they are fairly big investments I wanted to get right. It was a slow game getting it to this point but having time with each piece meant they were considered fully. But I like change so I’m sure it will continue to evolve over time. I love that almost every piece is really modern but is actually vintage or from different design era’s yet work together perfectly.
Would you say you have a particular style with your interior choices?
I don’t think I have a particular style, but I do love things to be slightly weird and unusual and not like everyone else. I like to have pieces that are not easily found in New Zealand. I just choose what I love and trust it will all work together, I also never rush into any big purchases. The beautiful Ettore Sottsass mirror took me three years to finally talk to the accountant into, it has since become an it mirror with its own Instagram filter!
When working on your customised unit with you, we spoke about its modularity and longevity. Do these ideologies have an influence on your design choices? Why does USM work for you?
Definitely, because our space is unusual and not in a normal shopping area we didn’t want to invest in anything that would only work in this particular location. Modular means if we ever moved the showroom, we could completely change the cabinet to work in any space. When we have a sale we also split the cabinets in half and put one on each side of the room. I can’t imagine this kind of flexibility with anything else. It was also important to have a piece you can walk around as we didn’t want customers to be stuck looking at anything against a wall.
I love that it looks like one piece but is actually two but could be split into 6 if we wanted or completely transformed into something else.
What were you and Greg doing before jewellery?
Before Meadowlark, I had a streetwear brand which I sold in 2004 before working as a freelance graphic designer, mostly designing magazines and websites. Greg was skateboarding and making jewellery when I met him and we decided to combine our skills to make some cute jewellery. We never imagined Meadowlark would become what it is today!
You also have a USM unit in your home. Can you tell us about how you have incorporated USM into your home?
This was actually the dream piece I had wanted for so long. Once we got the cabinet in the showroom I was hooked on USM. The sideboard is perfect for our small home, it houses our records and collectable books & magazines plus objects I’ve collected on my travels. It’s a really functional piece for us that we utilise every day.
Your showroom feels like a contemporary space with the contrast of the brick exterior. Coming inside always provides us with such light and warmth. How did you decide on Newton Street as your Meadowlark base?
We were looking to move into a bigger space as our workshop and office was getting way too small, it took two years to find this building. We wanted to stay city fringe and this came up and fit our requirements, we loved the windows and open space. We have made a lot of changes to the space with walls and offices and renovated the shared spaces. The showroom wasn’t really planned and it was a meeting and event space for us for the first year.
What’s the symbolism of the red door?
I was inspired by the Larry Bell, Pacific Red artwork and decided a bright coloured door would be interesting and unusual. It helps to be able to direct people to our space as it can be slightly hard to find. It also creates a beautiful glow in the foyer.
Light plays such a large part in merchandise displays, also when creating a human-centric atmosphere and environment. How does your choice of USM Haller E place importance on how your customers see your jewellery?
I think just having Meadowlark housed in USM tells you that we care about design first and foremost, especially design that can last the test of time. USM has allowed us to present our pieces in a really beautiful way, with loads of negative space it offers a sort of silence that we were missing. Lighting is a huge part of showing the best a piece of jewellery has to offer, you need it to show sparkle and the life inside diamonds. Our work looks best in our showroom and we are inspired to take this feel into our stockists over the coming months.
Are you designing a new collection at the moment? What can we look forward to seeing for the rest of the year?
Luckily for us, we actually finished two new collections in 2019 so we have pieces ready to go right into 2021. But what is coming is full of meaning, more talisman type things and the occasional statement piece. Expect symbols of protection and love, something we all need in this crazy world that I hope is changing for the better.
For all enquiries about USM, contact our sales member Erika at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photography: Simon Devitt