Designers find beauty in all things

Last year, scrolling through Instagram, my attention was caught by the photo of one of Caroline Ohrt’s earrings. It looked like a withered flower had been captured by a tennis bracelet and dipped in her glue. A couple of months later it was Vanessa Schindler’s earrings that stopped me in my footsteps, shapeless patches of candy pink, citrus yellow and mud green that slowly slipped from the long silver chains as if melting under a hot summer sun.

“It’s almost these ugly jewels,” says Jules Volleberg, co-founder of APOC jewelry, which sells both brands and focuses on innovative emerging designers. “Doing very imperfect and truly unique things. It is certainly a growing theme among young jewelry designers “. Another discovery on APOC was a Taiwanese brand called Melted Potato, which produces necklaces pendants that combine plastic beads, metals, colored gemstones, the occasional Hello Kitty head, feathers, shells and wool threads that resemble fur. of animals or, more disturbingly, distressed human hair. They could be the remains of a burned-down house, and rightly so, as the brand is inspired by “the contours and lines of objects as they melt”.

Many of these designers share an experimental do-it-yourself approach born of not having traditionally been trained in jewelry making. Georgia Kemball, 32, graduated from the MA Textiles program at the Royal College of Art in 2015 and began making jewelry for her friends using modeling clay. Her pieces include rings and hoop earrings that look as if the metal is melted and hastily molded into shape, with visible lumps and bumps. A closer look reveals that the pieces are made of human and anthropomorphic figures: naked women and men intertwined in an infinite embrace for the pieces of her “Orgy”, goblin heads and mermaids. Kemball makes the first sketches, but often the shapes are born playing with jewelry wax. “It’s a very forgiving material: you can add a little or take some, so the fluidity of the shape is due to the material,” she says.

Schindler, 34, graduated in fashion and accessories design at the University of Art and Design in Geneva in 2016, creates her sinuous and decadent drop earrings by drawing shapes on a flat surface with silver chains and fixing them with resin. For her new pieces of hers she began experimenting with candle wax, dipping it in water and creating unique, free-form swirls. “She gives them this amazing shape, they look like future fossils,” she says. She creates her distinctive colors by mixing ordinary resin pigments and playing with different levels of transparency. “I can’t see the transparency until the resin is dry, so it’s always a bit of a surprise,” she adds.

Caroline Ohrt’s recycled earrings made from a mix of found objects, chewing gum and flowers and resin, from £ 145,

Caroline Ohrt pearl / cigarette necklace with recycled freshwater pearls, cigarettes, resin and steel, £ 295,

Caroline Ohrt pearl / cigarette necklace with recycled freshwater pearls, cigarettes, resin and steel, £ 295,

Other designers combine this experimental ethic with an eco-friendly approach to jewelry design. Danish designer Ohrt, 30, studied fashion design at the Royal College of Art in London, but after graduating she reached a dead end in her career in fashion and started making jewelry. “I had a hard time positioning myself within the fashion industry and struggled a lot with the guilt of working there,” she explains. Her pieces of her include used chewing gum, chewing paper, beer cans and caps, nitrous oxide cans, cigarette butts, leaves and flowers that she collects and encapsulates in resin. These found materials are then mixed with vintage pearls and rhinestones to create what she affectionately calls “my trash jewelry”.

“My practice is mainly about trying to change the narrative of what people value as materials and objects. It’s having fun and being creative with the possibilities within an object that people see as something that should end up in the trash, ”she says. “I used to live in a warehouse community in London. There was a lot of garbage everywhere and the whole environment was messy, so you had to learn to love these things and these surroundings. It’s the same when I work. “Ohrt works alone in a small studio in Copenhagen.” Keeping it small is also part of being responsible for your creation, “he says.

French designer Colombe D’Humieres, 27, avoids working with gold, citing the ethical, environmental and social issues associated with mining the metal. She mainly uses silver and bronze, but she says it’s not enough. “I wonder a lot why we continue to use precious materials that damage the environment and are not beneficial for the land from which they are extracted and for the people who live [there],” she says.

He is currently in the early stages of a research project to create a new material using recycled parts. In the meantime she has committed to making everything about her in her studio, from the chains to the necklace and the screws to hold the earrings in place. “I love the technique and engineering behind jewelry,” she says, talking on the phone about her from her studio in Paris.

Colombe D'Humieres jewels in his Parisian studio, Boris Camaca
Colombe D’Humieres jewels in her Parisian studio © Boris Camaca

Freedom is at the heart of the creative process for D’Humieres, who graduated in jewelry design from Central Saint Martins in 2017. “I don’t exactly design,” she says. Her starting point are often compositions with objects in wax or plastic that she finds on the street which are then fused and composed together to create abstract shapes. Most of her pieces are made to order or bespoke, with customers often bringing their own stones or jewelry to rework into something new. “It can get really personal,” she says.

This emotional and personal connection with their pieces is another aspect that unites these jewelry designers. “When people buy jewelry from me, it marks a very precious moment and it’s sentimental and special to be involved in it,” says Kemball. All of Ohrt’s creations are unique and he often makes bespoke pieces by reworking old customer jewels. Schindler, who personally makes each of his often-made-to-order pieces of him, says he has an emotional connection with each of them. “I like the fact that he produces a piece for someone, to have that kind of relationship with the customer.”

Georgia Kemball Orgy ring, 9k gold, £ 620,, Arno

Georgia Kemball Orgy ring, 9k gold, £ 620, © Arno

Bioresin wheels Vanessa Schindler, € 150, © Julien Chavaillaz

The focus on craftsmanship and more conscious design ethics, as well as this personal approach is common among young jewelry designers and reflects a growing interest in sustainability, craftsmanship and uniqueness, says Jennifer Gray, director of the jewelry and silverware program at Edinburgh College of Art. The college encourages the use of recycled materials and found objects and has joined initiatives such as the Radical Jewelery Makeover, which invites participants to create new jewelry with materials donated by the public.

“The public is more aware of sustainability and wonders about what is precious,” says Gray, adding that there is an awareness that the value of a jewel can lie less in the materials used and more in the skills and acumen of the design. of designers. “People are thrilled to find items that are topics of discussion.”

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