Good Art Hlywd: Unexpected craft and beauty

Friday, August 20th 2021
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I was buzzing when I got off the phone with Josh Warner of Good Art (above) last week. 

It's been a while since I've talked to someone new that has that bright-eyed passion - the enthusiasm of an obsessive creator. 

He reminded me of Graham Thompson, of Optimo, or Simone Mattioli of Umbria Verde. There was the same excitement about the product, the keenness to explain it, and the simple love of beautiful things. 

It says something about Josh that he liked my comparisons, found them interesting and wrote them all down. 

While trying hard not to generalise, I also think there's also an openness about this kind of person. 

As soon as Josh appeared on the Zoom call, he was showing me round his house in the Hollywood hills, introducing me to his partner and his dog. They're building a guest house a bit further down the hill. 

It’s the same simply, unpretentious welcome I felt from Graham in Chicago or Simone in Italy. 

Let's rewind a bit, though, and explain why I'd asked to interview Josh in the first place. 

For a few years, I've admired the silver jewellery from Josh's brand, Good Art, on display at Rivet & Hide in London. 

Now this might raise a few reader eyebrows. After all, Good Art makes curb chains and belt clips, decorated with skulls and expletives. Surely Simon doesn't think he's some kind of biker? 

No, but look closer. Remain curious. 

Pick up a piece of Good Art jewellery, and if you appreciate these things, you'll immediately recognise something in the quality of the materials and the work.

Chain links move smoothly and effortlessly against each other. On a key chain like mine (below), the sections all revolve and twist frictionlessly. You notice how the clip is split in two, so there’s a clean overlap. The thumb lever is pleasingly bevelled.

It's not so much the decoration you notice, but the engineering.

It was only when I talked to Josh - always the best part of the discovery process - that I understood the reasons his jewellery felt like that.

"Most jewellery is very cheaply made," he says. "Even with the big names, there is no attempt to improve the quality - just the decoration, branding and materials.

"If you pick up a keychain from a fashion brand and compare it to one from the corner store, they might well be made in exactly the same way. There's no interest in performance."

Josh's aim - since he started selling his own handmade jewellery, from a stand on Venice Beach - was to make jewellery with his biker aesthetic, but to the same level as Cartier or Tiffany. 

"That means an interesting combination of really expensive, modern machinery and detailed hand work that has been the same for millennia," he says.

“You’ll have a cutting-edge machine for extracting oxygen from the casting process, next to someone using a pin to etch a ring detail.” 

Good Art is now a company of 25 people, with its own dedicated foundry in LA. 

It's on Mr Porter (although Rivet & Hide is the only London stockist) but remains relatively unknown, largely because the quality and the materials make it expensive. (The solid-silver keyring is £775; gold rings are £7-11,000.)

As with many of the finest things in the world, it's not very scalable or very efficient. 

"Look I just want to put beautiful things into the world, to create joy with them. There's enough cheap shit in the world," as Josh says. "I'm at a place where I can't even afford my own stuff, but that doesn't matter. I still think if you're going to do something, it should be the best it can possibly be."

Like the type of enthusiast I characterised him as earlier, Josh’s feelings about competitors are a mix of anger and bemusement. 

"Jewellery is just a terrible business, particularly here in LA,” he says. "Everything is brand, everything is about which celebrity wears it. And everything is outsourced - nobody trains their own people, so all the stuff is basically the same." 

Or, as he sums up: “What’s the word for when nepotism rots through a village of idiots?”

Josh reserves a particularly strong stream of vitriol for one competitor that will remain nameless. Because of their low quality, but also their dishonesty.

"On our bracelets, we forge every link, then cut each open, attach the next link and solder up the join. It's the strongest way to do it, but it's hard and it’s time-consuming," he explains.

The competitor doesn't bother with that. They just make each link open (a 'C' shape) and squeeze it closed around the next one. That's the same technique used on the cheapest chain you can imagine - on my kid's £3 souvenir keyring. 

Josh knows he shouldn't rant about other brands so much. As he says, it shouldn't be the point. It's not the point. But it does come from a place of confusion as much as anything else (as in, why would anyone want to make this crap?).

“People talk about a thing called a purpose line. My purpose line is aesthetics, creating beauty. Others’ is making money. I guess that’s what I need to remind myself.”  

I’ve always had a soft spot for things that are hardier because they are finer - as opposed to fine socks or knitwear, which are often more delicate than cheaper versions. 

Felt hats, for example. A fedora made with finer felt will be stronger than one made with coarse felt. That’s why a great hat can be run over by a car and still refurbished. Or why cheap hats come with plastic rain covers, and good hats don’t need them. 

Good Art jewellery falls into this camp: the craft makes it stronger. “I’ve always wanted to build things that are welcoming to life,” says Josh. “We go to great lengths to make sure our pieces are perfectly polished and gleaming when they leave the foundry. It should be that way. 

“But they’ll look better once they’ve been used and dinged up. You’ll knock that keyring on a door handle and it’ll get a scuff. Then you’ll drop it and it’ll get a little nick. And after a few weeks it’ll look like no one else’s in the world. 

“It’s so much better that way. Silver is a soft, warm metal. It's just beautiful with that kind of use.”

 

 

I am not an expert on jewellery, and many of the things Josh says I’m taking on trust. But as should be clear by now, that’s something you naturally do when you talk to him. 

Plus the results are clear to anyone that holds a chain in their hands. Most readers can’t do that of course, but if you can, it’s worth a visit to Rivet & Hide in London/Manchester, or Self Edge in LA/San Francisco/New York - or the other various dealers.  

My key ring - the Barrel Key Chain - is shown here on the new black version of our nubuck tote, made by Frank Clegg (below). There are still a couple of these left from the last batch, in the black and the original brown.

More details in this article, plus information on the clothes shown. 

Many thanks to Josh and everyone at Good Art for their time.

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

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Arnold

The worlds most expensive key ring?

Arnold

I’m not sure how noble an ambition that is on its own if the result is something that becomes prohibitively expensive. I cant speak for the craftsman as i am not one but i think personally if the epitome of my craft was producing something very exclusive and affordable only to a few i might have a problem with that.

AK

Doesn’t that apply to a lot of the stuff we talk about here? Most tailors could not afford to spend $6000 on a suit, after all. And even at lower price points craft can be out of reach for most of the population. Part of the problem is simply that the economy is structured to concentrate a lot of wealth in a small number of hands, and to survive and thrive as an artist or crafter you’re forced to serve those wealthy. A more equitable economy (he says as The Internationale begins playing in the background) would make it easier to devote oneself to craft and easier for more people to afford to enjoy one’s work.

Arnold

Interesting conversation comrades, i don’t think its impossible to imagine a more equitable society where craft still exists and consumers move away from the mass produced to something more sustainable. If the demand for craft increased the price would potentially reduce. Ok, the very top end might still only be available to the wealthy but i can certainly imagine a society where craft was more democratically available. Indeed we may will really on this move away from mass production in the current sense in order to survive as a species.

Arnold

i’m not referring to the level of craft on this site necessarily but it wasn’t that long ago when clothes weren’t mass produced but instead saved for and maintained.

Mike Rowley

Whilst not to my taste at all, it is just great to read about, and see, true craftmanship.
Thanks for a really interesting article.

zo

that looks like the ultimate fidget keychain

PF

Simon I’m English but live partly here in LA. Fyi the brand point is acutely bad as compared to London. But it has its advantages: if you go to a vintage store (I’m not exaggerating) you will see a Tom Ford t shirt for $500. And then right next to it will be a Ballantyne cashmere jumper in perfect nick for $15, and a charvet shirt for $30. So if you don’t earn a huge amount there are some small comforts!

Craig

I’ve seen Good Art pieces in person at Self Edge in New York City. They are very attractive, intricate and seem very well-made. For someone with little experience with men’s jewelry, they have a surprising heft to them. Men’s jewelry isn’t really my thing, and I struggle to think how I’d incorporate it. If I wear a bracelet on my left wrist, I’ll scuff my watch; on my right wrist, I feel like I’m wearing two watches, or being too symmetrical. Rings will get lost (I’m a surgeon and would constantly be removing them), necklaces seem like a hassle. So this will remain something I admire on others. For those interested in a bracelet, the Model 10 is great. They look amazing in person, in a way that photos just don’t capture.

ckarnan

Hi
They also make some items in brass which are a lot more affordable. I have one of their belt loop buddies which is a great piece of design. After reading the article, I’m dying to know who their competitor is that he dislikes so much!
C

Alfonso

hahahah yeeees I’ve the same feelings

Peter Hall

I’m not a jewellery man, but appreciate fabulous design and craftsmanship .Striving for excellence is never wrong.

Geoff Oakes

I totally agree and it provides a benchmark at which others can aim. We have to support raising the standard, not bringIng it down.

Arnold

Not suggesting that standards should be brought down, just a wider thought about luxury i guess. I also feel slightly uncomfortable with the very widely held perception that we should always strive for the best, the fastest, the most profitable at any cost. This type of neoliberalist, capitalist dogma that abounds globally and especially in the UK and US will be the death of us. It’s perhaps unfair to raise this subject off the back of this article. I’m not implying that Good Art are a symbol of all that is wrong with society, not at all. Im just suggesting perhaps rather than striving blindly for ‘the best’ we should should re-asses our values and strive for something more sustainable.

Yosef777

‘Open link’ system aka shitty metal smithing indeed! Nice work, reminds me of chrome hearts a bit.

Il Pennacchio

It took me far too long to realize that “HLYWD” is an abbreviation for Hollywood, and not somewhere in Wales.

Samuel

Good Art reminds me a lot of Chrome Hearts, similar kind of LA rock aesthetic. Would that happen to be the vitriolic competitor?

Graham Morgan

Although I appreciate the craftsmanship, skill, and entrepreneurship…. I really don’t like the aesthetic! Would I wear any of those pieces; no. Could I foresee myself wearing an outfit that would work with any of those pieces; no. If it works for you, then great; just not for me.

Rav

Very glad to see Good Art on here Simon! I can unapologetically say I am a huge fan of the brand and especially the people behind it. Josh’s philosophy and approach combines quality craftsmanship and design with a certain idiosyncratic whimsy which makes each piece very personal.
Regarding the cost, I feel it is more than commensurate with the quality, especially compared to the generic pieces churned out by “luxury” labels. I equate it with purchasing from an independent watchmaker vs. an established Maison under a faceless corporate umbrella. You “acquire” a piece of the designer/maker along with the product if that makes sense.
If circumstances permit one to visit Los Angeles, I highly recommend making a trip to the Foundry if possible. Funnily enough, I had already made plans to visit next week before I saw this article pop up.

Geoergios

Simon thats a great post from a brand that im looking for a long time now but still not pulled the trigger. I really like the rings they produce and im thinking of let for me and my girl our wedding rings made. Do you have any other suggestions for wedding rings ? I cant really decide what i want though. Id like something from gold and really thin so that it doesnt get on the way but i also sometimes think of the idea of something more unusual that could be worn like jewellery and not scream wedding ring. Whats your opinion ?

Emerging Genius

I’m impressed by this guy. A straight talker in a world of mealy mouthed bufoons. Expensive, but it’s the real deal if you can afford it.

Aaron

I have a friend who is a jeweller and he definitely values fine, precision work in much the same way – I think you’d appreciate his work too, which is all bespoke.

I learnt of Good Art via PutThisOn and there are definitely a few pieces I would like, although fleshing out my clothes wardrobe definitely comes first.

Aaron

His name is Thomas Wellburn
I haven’t personally handled any of his jewellery, but I’ve seen his knives and swords
http://www.thomaswellburn.co.uk/
https://instagram.com/thomas_wellburn_jewellery?utm_medium=copy_link