In my teens, I loved the rush of rebellion a body piercing gave me – getting my friend's older sister to pierce my ears with her Amazon-purchased gun behind my mother’s back and even poking studs through my lobes myself over the bathroom sink. But aside from these DIY piercing experiences, which I now begrudge, I’ve also had many a piercing shop venture too.

Nowadays when pierced properly, you typically have a limited choice of titanium or gold jewellery, which tends to be bigger than it needs to be, in the case of inflammation, and other than that is pretty nondescript and rather unexciting. Depending on the type of piercing, you’re stuck with this hardware for enough time for it to heal – and in some cases, this can take up to years. It always feels like a great shame when you want to show off a new piercing but are slightly regretful of your boring bling.

British jewellery designer, Hannah Martin is challenging this frustration with the launch of her new venture HMp Jewellery (an accidental reference to His Majesty’s Prisons that were totally here for). Setting out to question outdated notions of body piercing, HMp offers expertly crafted 18ct gold body piercing jewellery with signature sculptural Hannah Martin edge.

The designer has been making waves, since she founded her eponymous brand back in 2006, with her fluid, gender-nonspecific works; made with an unapologetic punk undertone. The Central Saint Martins alum cut her teeth at Cartier before being commissioned to design fine jewellery collections by megabrands Louis Vuitton, Chaumet and Francesca Amfitheatrof. She has since launched her own widely successful label, and created bespoke collections for Martine Rose SS19, Edward Crutchley AW17 and Hussein Chalayan AW12 and SS13.

Hannah invariably references the atmosphere of live music venues and the youth culture that flourished within them. Her personal style is also a signifier of her unique designs. One of her lobes is pierced all over, baring hoops, studs and spikes in abundance, while the other remains bare. She transfers her own punk sensibility into HMp’s design aesthetic, with fine jewellery, fixed with precious pearls and diamonds, that is interchangeable and customisable. So, If you're stuck with a piece for a while you can twist adornments on and off and refresh your look without fully removing the piercing and tampering with the healing process. Hannah also offers one-on-one consultations and specialist advice from piercing extraordinaire Miss Roni at the Hannah Martin studio in Clerkenwell. The experience is wholly intimate and individual – just as piercings should be.

Because caught up with Hannah to find out more…

What inspired you to venture into piercing jewellery, and how did you come up with the concept for HMp?
It was one of those ideas that totally came out of a personal need. I have been being pierced for years, and feeling a bit frustrated with the choice of piercing jewellery. But it was when I wanted to get the industrial bar at the top of my ear that it really began. That type of piercing can take up to a year to heal enough to be able to change the jewellery and as a jewel (and self-confessed visual control freak) there was no way I was willing to have an ugly piercing in my ear for that long. I wanted yellow gold, and couldn’t find one, so I had to make one. And that was it – the beginning of this very long journey. My team began asking for pieces, then friends and clients – and we realised we were making quite a bit of piercing jewellery – and I just thought how cool if we could make this a thing.

It also dawned on me that a lot of my clients that were asking for piercings were from a very different world, and weren’t always naturally comfortable walking into say a tattoo studio in Soho, and never would have if we hadn’t taken them. So, I realised there was something in this about the experience itself too. Something that celebrates the ritual, the act of piercing itself, and how amazing that is – and at the same time is accessible to a whole wide range of people, not just ones, like me, that spend half their life in mosh-pits.

How does the HMp collection challenge outdated notions of body piercing, and what does it offer to jewellery wearers?
It has surprised me to know this, but there is definitely still a general view out there in the wide world that body piercing (outside of a single lobe piercing) is something alternative, even something a bit scary or threatening. This is what I wanted to challenge. My work has always been about bringing worlds together – using the sub-cultures that are part of my life, into the world of luxury that I work in – in a way that does not detract from either. The clash of the contrast makes it something totally other. This is what I wanted to do with piercing.

The other big game changer, I think, is the extreme flexibility and customizability of the pieces you can be pierced with. The collection is essentially designed as a set of components which are all interchangeable. It allows you to be very free with styling your piercings and also gives you an earlier opportunity to change up the look with long-heal piercings.

What makes HMp jewellery unique?
It is a decidedly ‘Hannah Martin’ look, so the design itself immediately feels unique, I hope!
I was hooked on the concept of making these piercings in fine materials - yellow gold, diamonds and beautiful black and brown Tahitian pearls – there is something in the contrast between the ‘hardness’ that people see in a pierced look, and the richness of the materials. I don’t think this balance between sub-culture and fine jewellery is something that exists elsewhere.

How do you approach designing for piercings instead of traditional jewellery, and what are some of the unique challenges and opportunities this presents?
There are a lot of things to consider when designing and making jewellery that is going to be put into somebody’s body, that I don’t have to think about in designing traditional jewellery (ie. jewellery that doesn’t make holes in you!). All these things are absolutely to do with making the experience as smooth as possible and helping the healing process happen in the best, safest and shortest way possible.

The weight of the pieces was the biggest challenge for me. As anyone who knows my style will tell you, I like BIG, sculptural forms, and plenty of gold. When it comes to keeping pieces light enough to heal well, this proved to be a real challenge, not only to my creativity but also to the way we manufactured them. It meant I had to really think around the problem.

The craftsmanship and the engineering of the elements is also a big thing, and has to be above and beyond perfect on a very small scale. Any tiny little imperfection can become an area in which bacteria hangs out and starts to use problems. The material itself has to be able to go through the sterilisation equipment. Gold is great for the body, and can be heated to the temperatures required for sterilisation. I was desperate to use Tahitian pearls - it turned out these did not survive the sterilisation process without damage, and actually that is what first started me off on the idea of component jewellery! All of this I learned through making piercing jewellery for me and my friends. We also worked with some amazing piercers as consultants who helped enormously (thanks Rhianna Jones and Roni!)

What advice would you give to someone who is new to piercing and looking to incorporate jewellery into their personal style?
Be brave, but don’t be reckless (can’t believe I’m saying that!) If it is you are new to piercing take it steady, start with one or two of the more entry-level (for want of a better word) placements – the lobe or upper lobe. These are very easy to heal, and are almost pain free in the process. Ease in gently. Piercing is a journey, an adventure, and it is all part of the fun to build up your look gradually.

Lastly, how does the HMp collection reflect your overall design philosophy and aesthetic?
All my work, when you strip it down to a central purpose, is about making you feel. I love sensation, I love intensity, I love the purity of feeling something that is just for you. All my work, whatever the story behind the collection, is about this. HMp is definitely no different.

My work has also always been grounded in a few key themes – a conversation around gender, and gender fluidity, the world of rock n roll, and the tension that comes from combining opposing forces. My design philosophy comes from all these things and perhaps most importantly of all – challenging boundaries. If you take all of this together, HMp is such a clear next step in terms of extending brand HM, I can’t actually believe it has taken me this long to do it.

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By Augustine Hammond