Read time: 12 minutes, 26 seconds
Jonathan Foyle’s series on early career jewellers and silversmiths continues with Hugo Luis Johnson.
Passion is the great driver of mankind, for we are less rational creatures than we like to believe. To embark on a career, to partner, buy a house, to parent a child- each fundamental investment in life is driven less by evidenced strategic calculation than by emotional impulse.
Jewellery is made for those grand emotions and passions, even if the late Zsa Zsa Gabor admitted that “I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back”. The metals and stones that jewellers shape into private microcosms offer, on a basic level, the reassurance of unchanging beauty and order in a messy, complicated world. Beyond that, they might stir the sentimentalities of memory, or spark hope, represent a vow of commitment, love and generosity. Each exchange of crafted precious materials marks such a moment, and often lives beyond us, a witness of private bonds to future generations. Jewellery fits these emotional stations in life as snugly as a greased ring on a fat finger.
The point was amply made, although not without criticism, on BBC2’s ‘All That Glitters’, a recently broadcast competition between eight jewellers judged by celebrated industry luminaries Shaun Leane and Solange Azagury-Partridge. Like much television it traded on emotion. Introducing clients’ hopes and dreams, we meet a couple about to marry seeking a piece the bride might instantly feel a powerful connection to, and a man whose selfless Mum deserved a pendant to receive her MBE; of course, there were hugs galore, brimming pride, contained disappointment. The revelation of the winner caused Solange Azagury-Partridge to well up, and barely pronounce the victor’s name.
That name is Hugo Johnson.
Hugo, who makes pieces under the moniker ‘Hugo Luis’, impressed the judges through his design sensibility and exquisite finish but also for bouncing back from criticism. “Hugo responded really well… he just focused”, said Solange. And here’s the rub. This jeweller whose passion for his work rings out like a golden bell, ascribes his focus and resilience to cancelling emotion. “Tunnel-vision. That’s the state of mind to be in”, he says. And the Zen state he harnesses comes from a place you’ll never find jewellery: the arenas of martial arts combat.