Between sculpting and jewellery
The New York born jewellery designer Bibi van der Velden always wanted to be an artist. She began to sculpt long before growing into being a jewellery designer, a process that took time.
Now she says she is both: A jewellery designer and a sculptor.
In an interview with Bibi, I wanted to find out where her passion for jewellery came from and what made her focus on this field of design.
When and how did you start your career? Why did you focus on jewellery?
After starting my studies at an art academy in Italy, I began to collect antique objects and small, extraordinary things. After a while I thought that I should create something out of my collected pieces, and so I decided to make jewellery out of them. That way, I discovered my passion for designing jewellery. After my graduation in 2005, I got my first show at the Amsterdam Fashion Week in January 2006. And that really started everything.
What part of your work do you enjoy the most?
To me, it is an extremely relaxing feeling to create jewellery or sculptures. And through my work, I get to travel around the world and use the things I find along the way for my collections. All the experience and inspiration I gather this way, all become a part of my jewellery.
Is there anyone whose work you admire or who inspires you? Where did your inspiration for the current collection come from?
I find inspiration in everything. In experiences. In things I read or find on my journeys. With my current collection, I wanted to combine sculpting and jewellery. That is why I created large forms and body shapes.
Usually, I try to always use new materials and to challenge myself that way. This time I worked together with a glassblower and made pieces out of bronze and many different materials. I wanted to give them a sculptural and futuristic feeling.
Your shows truly deserve to be called shows, because you always create an impressive performance. What was the idea behind creating a light tunnel this time?
I wanted the models to come out of a vacuum. First, you only saw their shadows, so that the large forms on the models got into focus. What they were actually wearing became visible in the second half of each walk. What I especially liked about the lighting was that everything seemed to be cut off as soon as it was outside the light tunnel. I wanted to create shadows around the items, so that the sculptural shapes could be seen really well. And it was the first time that this kind of lighting was used at the AIFW.
Do you cast the models for your shows yourself? What makes a girl interesting for you?
Yes, I make that selection myself. For this show, I wanted girls with a slightly morbid and exceptional touch. What makes a girl interesting depends on many factors. It is always a highly personal and individual decision. Every time, I try to have a good mixture of different types of models and not just girls with all the same look.
Are you stressed by the thought of constantly having to be creative and productive?
Of course, one should always create something new and innovative, especially for shows. That is the challenge, and I like it a lot. But more than that, I like to create timeless jewellery. Not trendy pieces that you wear for a season and then get bored by them. That is not what I think jewellery should be. It should be something that a mother gives to her daughter and that stays within the family for a long time. Something truly special. Timeless.
How important is travelling for you and your inspiration?
Travelling is a very big and important part of my whole work, because I find my materials all over the world and also run two lines of jewellery in other countries. It is important for everything – for my inspiration, materials, cooperations and more. But it is also a way to relax and get a good distance to everything.
Besides travelling, what do you do to relax from work? And how much free time do you have?
I run a lot, for example in marathons, and I love sports in general – skydiving and much more. I like everything that is exhausting or challenging in a way.
During my time at the art academy, I ran my own catering service company, and today I love to host big private dinners. I work from the early morning to the evening, and that does not stop on the weekends. Running the studio togehter with my mother, also a sculptor, makes it a family business in a way. My family and friends permanently walk in and out of the studio. I don’t see my job as a job. It’s a part of me.
If you have a mental block during work, how do you deal with that?
Things become difficult when there are too many projects at the same time or when too many things happen simultaneously. That is why it is important to me to have everything planned and organized precisely. But a mental block, when it comes to creativity, that is something that never occured to me yet.
Do you wear pieces from your own collections? How would you describe your clothing style?
Of course I wear pieces from my collections. I wear some of them all day. I like to combine styles. For example, I love to wear vintage clothes and combine them with one or two design pieces. Slightly bohemian style. During the day, I tend to dress casually. And when I work at the studio, I usually wear boyfriend jeans and t-shirts, because my clothes often get dirty during work.
Do you have a favorite scent?
I always wear Agent Provocateur.
And finally, what are your plans for the future?
Together with my mother, I am working on an exhibition that will be mostly sculptural. And I am convinced that this project has the potential to become big. We will finish that in May, and a few little things are planned in Paris and London.