Cut Off Your Hands
Somewhere over the rainbow, in the land of Oz, a jewellery maker works deep into the night creating the most amazing silver, shiny things. Yet it wasn’t always so, and it has only been in the last couple of years that Alana of Cut Off Your Hands Jewellery has made creating things from metal her life. Sounds pretty darn cool right?
I first met Alana a few years ago. She’s just one of those really rad people who you immediately like. I’d always catch up with her in the middle of a crowded art gallery, or just passing through a pub somewhere, and whether it’s talking about art, her awesome little family or skateboarding, her love of life really shines out. Through the magic of Instagram, I’ve been following Alana as she’s turned her passion for jewellery into a cool bespoke metal-making business. From tentative first steps, to creating her first chains, to being commissioned for unique wedding rings, I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Though she was born in Brisbane, when she was age 12 Alana’s Kiwi born parents moved the family to Auckland, NZ. Alana then lived there for 10 years before moving back to Australia and settling in Melbourne in 2002. “I've been here ever since and I love it!” she says, “I make jewellery and am obsessed with true crime podcasts. I am a total metal/ hardcore girl. The less melody the better haha! I have a beautiful family consisting of my incredible creative partner, Joel, and our super rad son, Wolf, who is about to turn 4.”
Alana first started learning how to make rings in 2016. After being a stay at home mum for 1.5 years, her son was just getting old enough for her to return to work. It was a fork in the road moment. Alana realized that she didn’t want to do back to hospitality. Her heart just wasn’t in it. But where too next? “Joel was like ‘what do you really want to do?’ and I thought that the only thing I could imagine learning or studying was jewellery making. I’d always wanted to make rings, but had never done anything about it. So I thought, right, now is the time. I had a friend who was studying it at the time, and I asked her for some advice on where to go to get supplies etc. I went and bought a ring making starter pack from Koodak's in the city and just started mucking around at home. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and discovered that I LOVED this. I applied for the Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design as soon as I could, and was super happy when I got in!”
Before she found her passion for jewellery though, Alana had pretty much tried almost everything else. Painting, Lino cutting, writing, but nothing really clicked. She knew she was creative, but just didn’t know where to direct that energy. “When I started making jewellery what I loved about it was the hands on nature and technical physicality of it,” she explains, “seeing something start from a chunk of wax and turn into a beautiful shiny chunk of metal was absolutely joy inducing. The fact that it is wearable art was also appealing and I love that there is a sentimentality that comes with jewellery. My original inspiration, when it all began, was Brutalist architecture. The strong bold lines and angles just spoke to me. I like my jewellery like I like my music. Brutal. Haha!”
As soon as she realised making jewellery was the creative outlet she’d been searching for, Alana knew she wanted to make it her life, but of course it all starts with a name. Cut Off Your Hands. Probably one of the coolest names for a jewellery label that I’ve heard of. “I wanted it to be this 'career' thing that people would always rabbit on about,” says Alana, “from the get go I knew I would start a business as soon as I could, so I needed a name. The idea behind Cut Off Your Hands was that my jewellery would be so good that you'd have to cut off someones hands in order to steal it from them. I’d never been so sure of something in my life. Then I got Joel to design the logo and I printed business cards etc. Once I had that sorted I started my Instagram. My business is still in the early stages, and I don't have my online shop quite ready to go yet, but it will happen soon. In the mean time I’ve just been making custom rings and necklaces for people who contact me directly.”
Initially, Alana admits she had no idea how a ring was made, but thanks to our old mate Google she found out that there’s more than one way to cut off your hands. “There are different ways of making rings, but primarily I work in wax,” Alana explains, “I carve a piece out of wax and once sanded and smoothed to the desired finish I send it off to be cast. It then comes back to me and I finish it by again sanding, grinding and polishing it until it’s all sparkly and ready to be sent out. I’ve been making a few things like necklaces and earrings out of sheet metal too. I’m learning new techniques all the time so I’ll be adding lots of different work to my collection as time goes on.”
“One of first pieces - my 'Brutalust' ring - is my favourite,” Alana adds, “it just happened really organically without me really 'designing' it. When I did the final polish, it just made me so happy that all my fractured/ jagged creative ideas were now materialising in this art form, that I had finally discovered what worked for me. I also love a recent piece, which accidentally kind of looks like one of those rings that’s actually a bottle opener. It's big and chunky (I f@#king hate the word chunky to describe rings but... well... it is chunky!) and I love the way it sits on my hand.”
As any creative person knows, if you love something you gotta work for it, hell I spend most of my days locked inside on a computer! So I wanted to ask Alana what were the best and most challenging things about following her passion? “To be honest I feel super lucky because jewellery is a passion that has only given me the best so far,’ she says, ‘I’m lucky I also get to work in the industry as well as having my own fledgling business. I imagine that if you weren't working in the industry you’re passionate about, then it would be challenging not having as much time to do what you love. The feeling of figuring out what you LOVE to do is indescribable. After so many years of not really knowing what was next, it was like a new energy coursing through me.”
Jewellery has been a part of human culture for literally thousands of years, and so there must just be so much to be inspired by as a jewellery designer. It must be hard to have some favourites. “Oh man there are so many!” says Alana, “at the moment Lee Brennan is a major inspiration. His stuff is so rough yet so goddamn sleek and cool. Parts Of 4 are just sensational. I really like that their work is more like an art installation than being necessarily everyday wearable pieces, yet to me it doesn't fall under the 'contemporary jewellery' bracket. It’s super brutal and concrete looking. Love it.”
“Then there is Blac_Brail Atelier whose twisted metal pieces just made me weak at the knees when I first came across them,” she continues, “she has been incorporating big gemstones into her pieces of late and they are epic. Then of course there is Windfall Jewellery, whom I work for. Seeing the hard work Lani has put into growing her business is so inspiring.”
When she’s not hard at work creating her own awesome jewellery, then you might find Alana working two days a week at Windfall. “The rest of the time I’ll be hanging with Joel and Wolf. Playing pinball and drinking coffee at Ray’s Café, listening to heart wrenching/ gut churning true crime podcasts and being an f45 cult member. Just the usual,” she laughs.
If you want to see more of Alana’s amazing work, or get in touch to commission some cool shiny goodness of your own, hit her up on Instagram. “You can contact me via email or direct message on Instagram, and my online store will be set up soon. If you see anything you like on my Instagram, I’m more than happy to make it for you!”
Famous last words? “I would probably just say get out there and giving new things a go. Do a short course. Learn to skateboard ;) Listen to metal. It's up to you to make shit happen! PMA and all that!”