Hold a piece of Digby & Iona jewelery and a fable begins to take shape in your palm, exposing an idea lifted from paper to reality to notoriety. Brooklyn-based creator and designer Aaron Ruff, a carpenter by trade who found his calling in metal work, creates delicately whimsical pieces that whisper of childlike adventures and hint at melted-down family silver.
In between putting the final touches on his Spring collection, Aaron downed tools and spoke of his next move.
You made the move from Maine to New York City to set up a workspace. Why did you choose Brooklyn?
I actually made the move to New York City for school, furniture design at Parsons. I spent my first mandatory year in the dormitories in Manhattan and vowed never to live there again. I’ve been able to keep that promise, even choosing a few winter months of homelessness over housing back in Manhattan! Over the last nine years I’ve lived in just about every neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Your designs have such a distinct style. Are you all about signature pieces?
It certainly seems that way, doesn’t it? I really enjoy making large and ridiculous jewelry, most of my most popular pieces such as my 14 point buck ring and moustache necklaces have been pieces that I made solely to amuse myself never thinking they’d catch on and be so popular. It’s very lucky that a lot of other people seem to share my child-like sense of humor…
Who are your favourite designers?
At the moment I’m following a lot of men wear designers like Shipley and Halmos. I’ve recently been trying to break out of my daily ‘dirtbag construction worker’ look and dress a little more properly, so I’ve had to reeducate myself a bit.
What does the future hold for Digby & Iona?
For this coming season I’m working with a lot of detailed engraved imagery and doing my own take on signet rings. I’m also currently working on a collaborative collection with childrens book author / illustrator Oliver Jeffers based off the imagery in his books. I tend to design jewelry for ‘grown up children’, so this is a dream project for me.
What’s got you up at all hours?
I’ve been frantically filling Valentine’s Day orders for the Digby & Iona Stump Ring. This piece is based on an idea that has been rolling around the studio for a few years and I finally got the chance to sit down and carve it over the holidays. The finished ring reminded me of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, so making a limited edition version with an engraved heart for Valentine’s Day seemed perfect. The ring is available plain or with any two sets of initials engraved inside the heart.
The Stump Ring is a playful piece with a legacy of character. A friend of mine made a stop motion film about the Stump Ring and I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw it come to life on screen; it’s as if he has captured a scene from my mind.