Join us for a glimpse behind the scenes as we sit down with architect-turned-jewellery-designer Malaika Carr, who founded Chalk just over 11 years ago. She tells us about her all-time favourite pieces, the story behind Chalk and what’s in store for 2024.
How did you get into architecture… and then switch to jewellery?
I always loved drawing, even from a very young age. According to my mum, when I was about 5 years old we were asked to do a picture of our classroom at school and I was the only child in my class to do it in plan view, like an architect! So I suppose the spatial awareness and drawing skills came to me quite naturally.
It was whilst studying that I discovered the laser-cutter. I used it to make architectural models, and then played around and started making jewellery.
Where do you get your design ideas?
Obviously I’m really interested in architecture, so wherever I go I am gathering little bits of inspiration. For me the moments when I get the most inspiration are when I am travelling. I think when you’re in a different environment your eyes are more open, and you’re seeing things that may be totally different to the world you’re used to.
Early on in the Chalk journey, I travelled to Cuba with a friend and that trip inspired our very first collection. Ever since then, we’ve continued in that vein, with the Mayan, Lamu, Shaped Objects and Moroccan Tile collections. In spring 2024 I will be going to India, so I cannot wait to see what kind of designs may come out of that!
Where does the name ‘Chalk’ come from?
Chalk is a drawing medium, and I love to draw. Ever since I was really little, I have always been drawing and of course I took that through to studying architecture. And when I create designs for Chalk pieces, it all starts with sketches.
Of all the drawing materials, chalk is very tactile to use and it makes me feel I can draw more freely than, say, an ink pen. I think that because it can be erased, you can be very uninhibited when you draw with it, you don’t have to worry about making mistakes. That’s the way I like to approach my designs, and in a way it’s how I’d like you to feel when you wear a Chalk piece - not too worried about being perfect or overly-composed, just be yourself, be happy and be free.
Who is Chalk for?
To start with, it’s about creating things I would like to wear myself.
But I want to make pieces that will bring out positive feelings for the person wearing them. The person I have in mind when I’m designing is a bold, confident, unapologetic woman. She’s happy in her own skin, not trying to conform to conventional beauty standards, she’s just being her beautiful self.
People often say that their Chalk pieces are conversation-starters. I love the thought that when you wear them to a party, not only do you catch everyone’s eye but they make you more approachable to everybody there, they all want to come up and chat to you. And of course, behind each piece is my own story of inspiration, often to do with travel and architectural styles, so the pieces have quite a story to tell too.
Do you have any celebrity customers?
We’ve had some amazing moments seeing people wearing our jewels. Susan Kelechi-Watson wore our starry night earrings to the Wakanda Forever premiere. Trinny Woodall has worn a number of our pieces. Laura Mvula has worn multiple pieces to perform. And there’s also a beautiful member of the Royal Family who I am not allowed to name, but she wore them very well too!
But honestly, I love it when my customers share pictures of themselves looking fabulous in Chalk pieces. They’re designed to be worn, and I love the wide range of people who wear them and look like they’re having a great time!
Which is your all-time favourite Chalk piece and why?
Our all-time best sellers are our statement Derin and classic Florence earrings. I think both are such flattering shapes, it really makes a woman’s jaw line look elegant and slender. The way it hangs, it draws attention to your shoulders, it’s just a very nice adornment and makes people look and feel good when they wear it.
Our Derin earrings were inspired by the Lagos scarf designed by textile artist Sarah and Sorrentino. The colours and geometric form of this textile print spoke to me. I abstracted the patterns seen in the scarf and re-worked the forms to create this striking piece.
Our Florence earrings are influenced by the regal forms from the ornate details and geometry found within the Main stage auditorium ceiling of the Royal Opera House. This piece has a completely different vibe to our Derin earrings - the colours are more subtle but the geometry is still very strong.
What’s in store for 2024?
Well, depending on when the baby decides to make her/his entrance, it may be arriving right at the end of 2023 or the very beginning of 2024. So that’s pretty exciting!
I’ll be taking a bit of time out at the start of the year to spend time with my family. I’m so lucky to have a brilliant team here in the studio, so the wonderful Sol and Boyu will be taking care of things while I’m away. And knowing me, I will be itching to come back within a few months!
In February we are planning a trip to India for a friend’s wedding. So I look forward to getting loads of rich inspiration from that trip, and putting that into a new collection later in the year. \