x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Desert Island Books: Stephen Webster

The jewellery designer says his love of books has influenced not only his life, but also his creations.

Stephen Webster, the founder and creative director of Stephen Webster Ltd and a creative director of the world's oldest jewellery house, Garrard, is one of Britain's leading jewellery designers. Devotees of his edgy and glam-rock craft include Madonna, Kate Moss and Elton John.

From modest beginnings in London, Webster's love for things that sparkle found him attending a jewellery and silversmith course at Medway College of Design at the age of 16. He's gone on to achieve accolades that include three British Luxury Jeweller of the Year awards and Jewellery Designer of the Year in 1997, 1998 and 2006. His love for the traditional and a passion for contemporary music, fashion and art have brought his work to the necks, ears and wrists of some of the entertainment world's most glamorous stars.

His love of literature has also influenced his life and designs: "I have always enjoyed a good book. At school I would love to follow an author's entire back catalogue, enabling me to connect with the writing style and get to know the characters, who they were, how they behaved. I believe I've read every Agatha Christie, Graham Greene and George Orwell novel, to name a few. I actually get a little agitated if I don't have a book to reach for. Reading time for me is on a plane or before I go to sleep even though I am often so tired that after one page my wife has to take the book off my face and remove my glasses."

Webster boasts more than 200 points of sale worldwide and eight boutiques internationally including in London, Dubai, Beverly Hills, Moscow, St Petersburg, Kiev, Vienna and Marbella. Stephen Webster jewellery is available at Azal in Emirates Towers Boulevard in Dubai. He shares his Desert Island Books with Jemma Nicholls.

 

THE DEVIL'S PAINTBRUSH by Jake Arnott

I came across Jake's writing by chance in a book called The Long Firm, a story of London gangsters and scams. He has written quite a few books set in the recent past, fiction but inspired by actual events. Set during the 19th century, The Devil's Paintbrush is a marked departure for the author, following the story of a lifelong soldier from a working-class Scottish background, "Fighting Mac", who, despite his unrivalled military achievements in major campaigns across the Empire, is held back from the top rank due to snobbery and social class. Away from his wife for years at a time, Fighting Mac is caught up in an indiscretion with a soldier in Ceylon. This was accepted as quite normal behaviour but Mac was used as a scapegoat and court-martialled. He finally ends up in exile in Paris at the time of the Oscar Wilde scandal with the occultist and great beast Aleister Crowley. A compassionate novel.

 

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess

This was the first provocative adult book I remember reading. I don't remember being disturbed by it, though at 13 or 14 I probably should have been. I became absorbed by a radical style and story line. A future where gangs beat up undesirables accompanied by their favourite classical music, drank milk in futuristic bars, and then the experimental treatment as an alternative to prison and its disastrous outcome. When I was 15 the film came out and I sneaked in to see it before Stanley Kubrick withdrew it, not to be seen again until after his death.

 

THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG- DISTANCE RUNNER by Alan Sillitoe

Sillitoe captured post-war working-class Britain in the Fifties and Sixties like no other. This book is about how a kid sent to Borstal prison for stealing discovers he has a talent for long-distance running. He uses this as a mental escape from the mind-numbing drudgery and hardship. This book affected me on two levels, one being the story and how he uses his talent to get his own back on the brutal, pointless system. The second was that after reading the book I started long-distance running. Just like Smith in the book I found it a great escape. I later went on to run many marathons.

 

ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

It's hard to believe this book, which influenced a whole movement toward the concept of opting out and consequently alternative lifestyles, is 50 years old. A young man decides the system and all the expectations that accompany it are not for him. He packs a bag and heads west. The people he meets, the places he sees and the slow pace of the journey allow him to reflect on himself and his place in his country. This was another huge influence on me, not to opt out but to question authority, also to travel the United States - not by foot, I'm glad to say, but in my fully restored 1959 Thunderbird.

 

TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT by Graham Greene

I love Graham Greene. Brilliantly English but incredibly international. I could have picked any one of his books from Brighton Rock to Our Man in Havana. I chose Travels with My Aunt because I love this story of a boy who is learning his rites of passage, hopping from country to country with his badly behaved aunt. It's genius. He never knows what she is up to but it would never be considered acceptable in polite English society. I have an aunt who used to take me on trips and allow me to drink Bacardi-and-Coke when I was 14. This has reminded me that I must re-read this and a few other GG books.

 

SAKI: THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES

I was introduced to Saki by a very literate Lithuanian friend of mine who could not believe I was not already familiar with his writing. As a rule I'm not a fan of short stories, often finding them too short! Saki's style is more brutal but hilarious observations of everything. The quintessential snob, Saki never gets it wrong but pretty much everyone else does. His time spent in Russia pre-revolution is some of the best. As a person who happens to be married to a Russian (who is also a snob) I can relate to his characterisations as well as the English ones. Good to dip in and out.