‘&Co’ features the people that embody everything P&Co believes in- Riders, surfers, skaters, tattoo artists & creatives.
‘Live the Life Less Boring’
- SILVERSMITH / RIDER -
P&Co: Despite being born in London, we’ve seen that you grew up in New Zealand with your parents. What was life like in NZ and When did you know it was time to uproot and go off on your own adventure?
Imogen: Yes, I was born above The Great Frog in London in the 80s - My family lived in the flat above the shop, and after I was born it was a pretty full house with my parents, siblings, cousins, aunt and uncles all under one roof, so my parents decided to cut out and move somewhere more family oriented..
My Dad was American and my mum a kiwi, and they decided on New Zealand as the place they wanted to move to. I'm really glad they made that decision, as I loved growing up in New Zealand! It's a beautiful country, and I was lucky to have a barefoot-backyard-no television-carefree childhood.
As I grew older, throughout high school and during my teen years I felt that I really didn't fit in in New Zealand.. Its a small country and I felt I was missing out on so much of the world. After finishing school, I worked to save enough to get a plane ticket and some spending money, and at 19 I left for a year-long solo trip. That trip shaped me in so many ways.. I spent time in the US, the UK, backpacked through much of Europe and spent some time in Japan before returning to New Zealand. I worked along the way, including at a surf shop in Florida and at The Great Frog in London where I inhabited 'the rats nest' - a little attic/crawl space, 4 floors up from shop level.
Upon returning to New Zealand, unsure of my next move and feeling pressure to conform to societal norms, I entered into a scholarship and began studying education at university. Despite doing well and enjoying my studies, after 2 and half years I realized that teaching was not the path for me, and I was itching to get out of NZ again and travel more. I had a partner at the time who wanted to move to LA to pursue music, and me having a US passport, I figured it would be an adventure to see what LA was all about. That was almost 8 years ago, and I guess the rest is history! I really enjoy going back to NZ to visit my family, and I've found I have a lot more appreciation for the country as well as a desire to explore more of it, now that I've moved away.
P&Co: How long have you now been working as a silversmith for The Great Frog- were you a natural or did it take a lot of practice?
Imogen: I've been officially silversmithing for The Great Frog for about 7 years now. It's hard to know if I was ever a natural because I've been in workshops since I was a kid and began to work in my parents jewellery shop after school from the age of 14. I've never taken a course - everything I've learned has been passed down from family members. It has taken a lot of practice I guess because I've been learning about it my whole life!
My dad, cousin, brother and both of my uncles are silversmiths, so I've had a lot of guidance, but also a lot of trial and error and figuring it out on my own since opening TGF LA, as I haven't had any family here to glean information from! I love picking the brains of any jewellers I hire at the shop or meet along the way. I'm still learning all the time!
P&Co: It’s clear that your dad is a huge inspiration to both you and your work, but you also mention a particular uncle too. What was it about these two in particular that really influenced you?
Imogen: My dad has definitely been a huge inspiration and influence on many aspects of my life and attitude towards it. He was one of those rare, magical people who just exuded warmth, wit and a sense of fun. He was a mechanic and a jeweller, he could fix anything, he rode bikes and could fly planes. He was silly and loving, and just embodied every great quality a human could have. I aspire to be more like him every day. I am lucky - My whole family inspire me!
Both of my uncles on my mums side are talented jewellers in their own right, but also polar opposites of each other. I have probably spoken more publicly about my uncle Paterson Riley, as he co-founded The Great Frog with my aunt Carol back in the early 70's. Paterson inspires me with his old-school, rock and roll lifestyle and attitude that he maintains to this day at over 70 years old. He shuns technology, reads a lot, still works at a bench most days of the week and still likes to party!
My uncle Gavan Riley was with TGF in the early years before also relocating back to NZ in the 80s where he has designed and made his own pieces ever since and has carved out a niche for beautiful and intricate nature-inspired pieces which are carried in art galleries and boutique shops around New Zealand. Gavans healthy lifestyle, artistic talent, creativity and his gentle, mindful approach to everything has been an influence on my life also. I try to take on positive traits I see in those I admire and find a balance that works for me!
P&Co: How important is it to you to carry on the legacy of your family history and T.G.F?
Imogen: It has become very important to me... It was never a goal or an aspiration of mine growing up, and I didn't plan on working within TGF or even silversmithing for that matter. I guess growing up around what your whole family does, it didn't seem that exciting. I grew up hearing stories of The Great Frog from before I was born, but I really fell in love with the whole thing more when I was living and working at the Frog in London at 19. I just got wrapped up in the lifestyle and the excitement of getting back to my roots and crossing some of the same paths that my family did for many years before me.
It feels great to see a larger audience enjoying my family's work after over 45 years and two generations of being a kind-of underground company. Playing a part in continuing my family's heritage has been surprisingly rewarding.
P&Co: When did you decide to open the Melrose store? How has the US responded to The Great Frog?
Imogen: We opened the LA flagship store on Melrose in February of 2014. I knew we were ready to have our own shopfront in Los Angeles after I had been running TGF out of TRIco for two and a half years and we were getting busier and busier. Before that, I had ended up getting more heavily involved in TGF after I'd recently relocated to LA and flew back to NZ for my sisters wedding in early 2011, where I caught up with my cousin Reino who had taken over the running of The Great Frog from his father in recent years. I pitched the idea of opening a TGF in Los Angeles to him, and we ended up opening TRIco in collaboration with DiCE Magazine in September of that same year!
The response in the US has been great! When we first opened within TRIco we were pretty much unheard of, and it was months before anyone came into the shop knowing about TGF. I mean, we'd never advertised or had a presence in the states. So, it's been really cool to witness this growth first-hand from our Melrose shop and meet people every day who are so passionate about the history, craftsmanship and quality of my family's work.
P&Co: The Great Frog have collaborated and created custom pieces for the like of Iron Maiden, Motorhead & Slayer. Is there one band/ person that you are particularly stoked to have wearing your jewellery? Or anyone that you would love to create a custom piece for?
Imogen: Yes! My cousin Reino Lehtonen-Riley has hand carved some amazing pieces in collaboration with some of the best in the rock'n'roll and metal genre, along with the many other musicians or figures that have been wearing TGF for years. But oh man, I couldn't pick just one band or person - I love that Lemmy wore our rings every day, I admire my friend Kat Von D who has been so supportive of TGF. I would love for Black Sabbath to collaborate with us! Haha, I want everyone to be wearing it!
I remember a few years back when Jimmy Page came into the shop after we'd got involved with the Classic Rock Awards, and he hung out a chatted with me for a bit. He was lovely to talk to, but he was wanting some kind of snake pendant, and we only had snake rings - no pendants, so he didn't end up leaving with anything. I was bummed that we didn't have what he wanted!
P&Co: As well as being a badass silversmith, you have also been named as an ambassador for women riders. How do you feel about this and what would you say the scene is like for female bikers?
Imogen: I don't see myself as an ambassador for female riders. It's flattering, but really - I just love riding motorcycles! I didn't set out to be any kind of spokesperson and I'd rather not have the pressure to be a role model for others. I just try to go with the flow and do what makes me happy. I truly think its great that so many more women have gotten into riding in recent years - I think there is definitely a lot more support of, and respect for women on motorcycles these days than ever before.
There is a real community and sisterhood between female riders across the board and around the world, and I think social media has played a huge part in creating that atmosphere. You find you have friends and common interests with people wherever you go, which is so awesome! I have met some amazing individuals and made some great friends through riding motorcycles. But if I'm totally honest, I try to steer clear of any 'scene'. I've never had a desire to be a part of a group, or club - it's just never been who I am. Nor do I call myself a 'biker'. It's one of the many things I do and enjoy, but not how I define myself. Generally, I like to maintain my privacy and a pretty small circle of friends and family, and I've always been that way.
P&Co: What are you riding at the moment?
Imogen: Currently I'm riding my little 1200 Sportster that's customized with a 4" over front end, mid-high pegs and a wicked tank painted by my talented friend Gen (@genloveearart).
I guess the only thing still stock on it is the frame and engine case.. I'm also riding my '94 FXR which I love jumping on for long-haul rides. It's pretty stock, except for the seat and exhaust at the moment. I have plans for it for when I can find the time. I've loved riding any motorcycle that I've ridden, and I'm lucky that I've had opportunities to ride all sorts of bikes! I'd like to eventually expand my fleet to include a Shovelhead, a Scrambler and a dirt bike or two!
P&Co: We saw that you gave a quote: “I don’t ever want my life to become stagnant”. Where did this come from? Would you say this is a mantra you live by?
Imogen: This is something I've been saying for years now, I'm not sure where it came from. I suppose from my fear of things staying the same. I love change, and it doesn't often happen quick enough for my liking. I would say it is definitely a mantra I live by - I'm always looking for the next adventure or new thing I can learn or try. As soon as I'm too comfortable, I know its time to do something different or challenge myself... I like to throw myself into the deep end and figure it out from there.
As humans, we need to be adaptable in able to survive and I figure the more I put myself in new places and situations, the more I can adapt and gain new perspectives. The thought of staying in one place too long or having a routine to follow scares the shit out of me.
P&Co: It was good to see you at the Assembly Chopper Show last month, what did you think?
Imogen: Yes! Well I guess this is past tense now, but it was great to bump into you guys at the show! I come out to London on behalf of The Great Frog to help out with the set up of the show. It's one of my favourite motorcycle events to date!