The fabulous thing about jewellery is that it often tells you so much about its designer, their influences and even their heritage.
When I first saw Isabelle’s designs, I could definitely see the German influence in her work, even though she hasn’t lived there for more than 11 years!
Find out about her story, her inspirations and how she’s worried about Brexit…
How would you describe your jewellery?
Minimal, Bauhaus inspired jewellery with subtle detailing.
What materials do you use?
I work in all precious metals; from silver to gold and palladium to platinum. Some lend themselves better to certain designs than others, either because of their properties or their colour. I also use diamonds and gemstones. I have a bit of a thing for an unusually cut stone.
Where do you create your jewellery?
I share a studio with two other goldsmiths in the heart of Hatton Garden – London’s jewellery quarter.
You’re originally from Germany, what brought you to the UK?
I fell in love with the UK during various family holidays to the south coast when I was a kid, and then spent a year in Canterbury when I was 16.
After finishing my apprenticeship in Germany, I thought it’d be nice to spend another year in England. That was over 11 years ago, thank God for freedom of movement, right?!
I now refer to London as ‘my home’ and Germany as ‘where my parents live’…
Do you worry about what might happen with Brexit – both in terms of your business and your nationality?
Absolutely. I’ve been worrying about it since the day after the referendum. Apart from the obvious impact on my personal life, I do think Brexit (in combination with years of austerity) will have a rather negative impact on the creative community.
You need diversity for creativity to flourish and instead of being open (minded) we seem to be closing ourselves off more and more. It’s very tragic.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration in unusually cut gemstones as much as in architecture and furniture design.
A recent visit to the Bauhaus in Dessau resulted in oodles of sketches, I just need to find the time to make all these pieces now…
You recently took part in the prestigious Goldsmiths’ Fair – how did it feel being selected?
Being selected to show my work at this year’s Goldsmiths’ Fair was utterly exciting and terrifying in equal measures. I had a fab time during the fair in Goldsmiths’ Hall meeting so many people who are as obsessed with jewellery as I am. Plus it really pushes you to create more involved pieces.
What’s the favourite piece in your jewellery collection?
My favourite piece is hands down the Starburst brooch, it was great fun to make and I enjoyed giving that amazing lemon quartz the home it deserves. Plus, there’s some hidden detail on the back.
What’s the piece you’re most proud of creating?
I made some pretty outlandish pieces working for other people before I set up my own business, but the piece I relish most of all is my final exam piece for my apprenticeship.
It had to tick all sorts of boxes, including having a mechanism of some sort and was entirely handmade under exam conditions, with various master craftspeople peering over your shoulder while you work. Talk about stressful. I love it though, as it marks such an important part of my life.
What’s your favourite part of being a Jewellery Designer?
It’s most definitely the benchwork and the fact you always learn something new. No matter how long you’ve been making jewellery for, there’s always a new tool to make, a new trick to try and a technique to be improved.
Plus, I get to meet a lot of people with an appreciation for craftsmanship and design, both as customers and in the trade.
What’s your proudest moment of being a Jewellery Designer?
I was recently made a fellow of the Institute of Professional Goldsmiths (IPG). The IPG promotes traditional craftsmanship and was formed as a way to accredit traditionally trained goldsmiths/engravers/stonesetters and other allied trades.
I’ve met some incredible craftspeople through the IPG and having that recognition from a trade body means a lot to me.
Well, and then there was being accepted into Goldsmiths’ Fair…
Do you work directly with customers? Or sell your work to galleries?
I work directly with customers and sell my work at fairs and through my website.
I am open to working with galleries, but I get a lot of satisfaction from being able to work closely with the person who’s going to be wearing my jewellery.
What’s your design process?
95% of the time I’ll start with a gemstone or diamond and take it from there. If a piece of jewellery is gem set the stone is your point of reference and everything else follows from there.
I usually do some very rough scribbles beforehand, but I always find it easier to just sit down and make. This way I’ll quickly notice things you can’t anticipate on paper.
How important is jewellery design to you?
Very. Especially if you take into account that a little thing like a jump ring or ear wire can totally destroy a good design if not thought through properly. And good design takes the wearer into account as well. This is all the business side of things though; in my private life I’m eternally fascinated by all things gemstone and metal.
A bit like shoes, the jewellery a person wears can tell you a lot about their personality. It can complement your style, make you look dressed and is a great conversation opener. And that’s even before we even get to the emotional connotations in most jewellery, just think wedding and engagement rings, etc.
What do you love about jewellery?
I grew up in a pretty art-obsessed home, my mum was a milliner/textile designer and my dad an art teacher and there was a lot of crafting and ‘making art’ as a kid.
Despite this I went to university to study English and German literature. But to cut a long story short, it just wasn’t for me. Working with my hands seemed like the way forward and I dropped out of uni and started my apprenticeship to become a goldsmith in a small women-led company.
Four days a week were spent at the workbench and one day at college to learn all the theory you need in this profession, like metallurgy, chemistry, maths, art history, design and jewellery rendering.
The whole of the apprenticeship took 3.5 years with one exam in the middle and a big one at the end, to prove you’d actually learned enough to be able to call yourself a goldsmith.
Why did you fall in love with jewellery design?
I find the process of hand-making jewellery incredibly gratifying. You start your day with a piece of rough rolled wire and by the end of the day you’ll have completely transformed it into something resembling jewellery!
What are your aspirations for your business?
I’d love to grow it of course and be able to take someone on to teach them the craft.
Where do you feel most inspired?
As much as I enjoy exploring art galleries and visiting exhibitions, I most definitely feel most inspired at the bench; metal and tools in hand.
Who else inspires you?
Walter Gropius: Couldn’t draw to save his life, yet one of the most influential architects of the last century.
What inspires you?
All things Bauhaus.
How do you juggle all the different aspects of the job?
Sometimes with difficulty, haha. I’m pretty good at time management, but as I’m self-employed and not on the clock I find myself working ALL the hours, more often than not.
What advice would you give to people looking to buy jewellery from independent makers, but who don’t know where to look or how to go about it?
I think it helps to meet the person who makes the jewellery, so fairs are always a good way to start. You can see and try on the jewellery while at the same time getting an idea of who’s behind it.
If you’re relying on the internet a good starting point would be looking at the directories either of the Goldsmiths’ Company or the IPG. This way you can make sure your chosen designer-maker is vetted for their skills as much as their design.
And last, but certainly not least, talk to your friends. Word of mouth is surprisingly powerful.
A jeweller has to be very multi-skilled – i.e. web designer, photographer, tea maker etc! How do you find that?
I’m very lucky in that my other half helps me out with some of these things. He does my photography, website and some of the jewellery stands and props for exhibitions.
He claims he enjoys it, so long may it continue. (And, of course, I’m eternally grateful!)
Jewellers often have to work quite flexible hours, how does that fit in with the rest of your life?
I am very strict about having one day a week off, but will fully admit to letting work take over quite a bit. Good thing I enjoy it really…