“Sorry about the smell,” jeweller Hamish Munro warns. “I didn’t close up one of the toilets.” It’s an unusual comment and not one you would expect when visiting an artist’s studio.
It’s an incredibly small space with little rooms tapering off to the right and opposite the entrance, with low ceilings, little natural light and maroon tiles carpeting the floor. There are also the discreet outlines of toilets, a subtle reminder that this otherworldly space filled with taxidermied South African animals, sculptured figurines, and antique furniture scoured from across the country was once just a humble lavatory block.
But the real reason behind Munro’s radical conversion of this unused space was not just to create a gallery for his finds and sculpture from his time at the VCA, but to house his own namesake line of jewellery, brought to global attention at the Glastonbury Festival this year when LCD Soundsystem’s Nancy Wang sported his necklaces.
A year of hard work came to an end in mid-November when the space finally opened its doors to the public. After a couple of years selling his jewellery at boutique stores such as Fat, Alphaville, Chiodo and previously Order and Progress in the city, the studio provides a more personalised experience with his product.
His latest range shows strong ties to early palaeontology and colonial exploration, with pre-historic teeth dangling from thick metal chains and leather cords, or metal D-bolts and wire attached to rope.
The gallery space is no easy place to find but if you’re familiar with the Queen Vic Market you’ll know the building with the oversized naked sculptures of green women outstretched opposite the roundabout. Cross the road, take a left at the first unsigned little alley way, and another left at another unsigned corner. If you hit a stack of suitcases pilled sky high and perhaps a few suspect characters, you’re spot on.