Jewellery Talk with CarterGore

05 October 2017 by Eva Lund

Gary Carter is 51 years old and the designer and maker of the British jewellery brand CarterGore. Initially, the purpose of CarterGore was to make a few one-off commission pieces with tattoo-inspired jewellery, but one design let to the other and soon Gary found himself as the founder of his second jewellery label.

CarterGore presented their tattoo-inspired jewellery at The Jewellery Room Event in London. We took the opportunity to learn more about Mr. Carter, who labels himself as “a creative” and among other things loves a good cocktail with a smoke, collects fine wines and lives by the motto “work hard, play hard”. Learn much more about the cool Brit below.

Why did you choose to become a jewellery designer?
“It’s definitely in my blood, so I think that jewellery sort of chose me. My father sparked the passion; over the years he collected some amazing pieces for my mum. But the thing I remember the most, is him explaining that it’s us who get to admire the jewellery far more than the person who is actually wearing it, so in reality, you are buying for yourself – a very true observation!”

“I can’t remember making my first pieces, it’s just something I have always done. Although my main design career has been in designing bars, restaurants and hotels, I always came back to jewellery either as a business or relaxation.  CarterGore is my second jewellery brand and this time I am hoping that it’s going to be my main focus for a long time to come.” 

How and why did you start CarterGore?
“I had just finished a 3-year project, designing and rolling out an American smokehouse restaurant chain, and was actually planning to take a year out to decide what to do next, when an old jewellery manufacturing contact asked me to have a play with a laser kit they had just taken delivery of. 

By total coincidence, I had also had a couple of jewellery commission enquiries about the idea of turning tattoo designs into jewellery, so almost by accident the concept was born.” 

5 quick for Mr. Carter:

– What do you dream about?
“The CarterGore launch party in Selfridges, when they re-do their jewellery rooms.” 

– Describe a perfect day for you?
“Hidden away at home, designing with no distractions.” 

– Do you have a crazy habit?
“Apparently I hum when I am thinking – a lot!” 

– What is the best advice you have ever been given?
“Don’t live in the past – live in the future.” 

– Do you have something you can’t live without?
“Cathy, my wife ..we are one person!”

What is your guilty pleasure?
“Collecting fine wines (been doing this since the early 1990’s, so I have way too many!)” 

“Oh, and drinking cocktails wherever and whenever I can – there is just something about an amazing cocktail.” 

“Oh, and smoking! It’s great to sit back and smoke when you have finished creating something cool – it’s like a reward.“

Do you have a piece of jewellery that is extra special to you?
“I have two. The first is an exquisite late nineteenth-century Akan gold weight, which I wear as my lucky charm. Mine is in the form of a tribal wife and she is quite simply a “masterpiece in miniature”. These were used to trade gold, so very appropriate to a jewellery designer.” 

“The second is the first ever CarterGore piece. Well, it’s actually marked as Carter&Co which was the original working name for the business before CarterGore. It’s the Texas Longhorn, so a very iconic design and actually one of our best selling pieces.” 

What are you currently working on?
“Long-term we have a second range in development, but short term it’s all about gold. The retailer we have been talking to wants a range of mini charms in 9ct yellow gold.” 

Do you have a motto you live by?
“It’s definitely “work hard, play hard” – life is short and I am determined to pack as much into it as possible.” 

What would your occupation be if you weren’t a jewellery designer?
“It would still definitely be in design; probably back in the food and beverage sector, designing bars and restaurants. If I had to leave the creative world I would be running the coolest little city centre bar, with the coolest interior of course.” 

What is your biggest moment in your jewellery career?
“Sponsoring and launching CarterGore at the Great British Tattoo Show at Alexandra Palace earlier this year; such a cool bunch of guys! They loved the range, and business was exceptional.” 

Do you have a style icon that inspires you in your approach to design?
“I don’t really follow “style icons” but if it’s iconic designers there have been a few. In the jewellery world, George Jensen and Theo Fennell are certainly up there. In the interior world, it would have to be Philippe Starck and Mark Brazier Jones. All these guys have been, or still are, at the top of their game delivering timeless classics.” 

What do you see as the next hottest jewellery trends?
“Obviously CarterGore, we have a lot of ideas up our sleeves. But things I am noticing are yellow gold, multi-layering, minis and eclectic collections, in all areas, from necklaces to bracelets to earrings.” 

What moments would you highlight in your entrepreneurial journey so far? And what have been the greatest challenges?
“For me, the highlights have been all about achieving what we set out to do. That could be reaching a successful exit, building up a dynamic team ready to jump up to the next level, or simply reaching monthly turnover levels.” 

If I had to pick one it would be ChloBo. Chlobo was cool, I was brought in to double the turnover year on year for 3 years, build a 100 retailer UK network and establish ChloBo as a national brand. We nailed it, and it was a lot of fun. 

Historically the challenges have been about cash flowing an expanding company, but this time with CarterGore, it seems to be all about making noise and getting noticed in a very saturated and competitive marketplace. It’s something that I am still working on and is turning out to possibly be one of our “greatest challenges”. 

What would you do if you won 10 million pounds?
“Spend it asap! As a creative, you are not at your best when you have loads of cash. There is something about the struggle that gives the best results.  

PS: I don’t mean mindlessly blow the lot, I would do the right thing, spending it on family, friends and fellow creatives – I wouldn’t just waste it.”

Visit CarterGore’s tattoo inspired universe here.

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