Could you ever imagine upping sticks and moving to a different country? Belgian designer, Julie Nicaisse, did just that 20 years ago, after only originally planning to spend a few months in London. She’s still here and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else!
Her work looks at the unconventional side of nature. So the thorns, rather than petals, is where Julie draws her inspiration.
Find out why she loves London so much, how she creates her pieces and how she gave ‘birth’ to her first collection…
How would you describe your jewellery?
‘EMPOWERING, EDGY, EVERYDAY STATEMENT PIECES.’
My pieces translate the magic and mystery of unconventional beauty I see in nature. I use organic shapes with a pinch of dark elegance, to reflect the power of nature.
Each of my creations are human and sustainably conscious, using materials such as Fairtrade gold, recycled metals and ethically sourced gemstones. To handcraft luxurious and fluid jewellery designed to be handed-down from one generation to another.
What materials do you use?
When choosing my materials, I try to make the best choice possible in terms of sustainability, ethicality and quality. I use materials such as Fairtrade gold, recycled metals (gold, silver and occasionally platinum), ethically sourced gemstones and fair-mined, conflict free diamonds.
Where do you create your jewellery?
I am based at the 401½ Studios in south London, where I have my own studio. The building is filled with jewellers, artists and designers, it’s a great place to work from. And what I love the most about it is my studio is only 20 minutes walk from home!
Do you think of yourself as predominantly a maker or a designer?
Both! To me being a designer goes hand in hand with being a maker. I couldn’t imagine one minute having someone else design my pieces or having someone making the pieces I designed. Most people don’t realise, but when you are a small business owner you have to muti-task a lot. And believe it or not, sometimes there’s actually not that much time left to make jewellery! The design and making is my favourite part of the job, this is what I am good at and this is the reason why my business exists.
Where do you live and what do you love about it?
I live in London and there’s so much I love about this beautiful city. I love the fact that despite being a big city, London has a lot of green areas, such as parks and gardens. And unlike other European cities, the buildings in London are not very tall which gives you the feeling of space. London is also a great place for inspiration, with its museums, galleries and shops.
Have you always lived there? Where were you born?
I was born in Belgium and lived in other countries before moving to London in 2000.
What brought you to London?
Good question! Since I was young I was always drawn to London. So at the age of 18 (after getting my A level in Belgium) I packed my bags and jumped into the Eurostar traveling to London. I was only meant to stay a few months (or a year at the most), to improve my English. It was a strange feeling, but after just a few months I really felt home in London, so I stayed. And 20 years later, guess what? I still live in London!
What do you miss about Belgium? Is it very different from England?
I have lived in London longer than anywhere else and to be honest, apart from the chocolate and the beers I don’t miss much about Belgium. I think the biggest difference between the two counties is cultural.
What’s the favourite piece in your jewellery collection?
The ‘Lightning’ earrings from my ‘Celestial Fall’ collection. They mark the launch of my business and a new adventure in my life. This pair of earrings is the first piece I finished when starting my business.
I’d carved the model into jeweller’s wax over 10 years earlier during a jewellery making class at City lit college in London. I then left it in a drawer and forgot about it. Working for other jewellers (as a bench worker and workshop manager) for several years stopped me from making my own jewellery.
But when I decided to get back into making my own pieces, I found that piece of wax I had carved and decided to turn it into silver earrings. These earrings then gave birth to the rest of my first collection as a business owner. I also think this pair really represents me!
What’s the piece you’re most proud of creating?
Apart from my bespoke pieces (which are always challenging my skills and giving me a great feeling of satisfaction once the piece is completed), I am very proud of my new set of rings I have just finished making. The set consists of three interlocking bands. Each ring is designed to mark a special occasion in life, such as wedding or engagement. But I won’t say much more, as I haven’t officially launched this set yet!
How did you start creating jewellery?
I started making jewellery as a teenager, using any materials I had to hand to create my own personal pieces. To me jewellery has always been a way of expressing myself. Not only to express my creativity, but also my personality and style. It gives me the chance to wear something different and unique that’s not available on the high street.
Where did you learn to create jewellery?
A few years after moving to London, I decided to study jewellery making and enrolled at Lambeth college for a two year jewellery course. I didn’t know that just over 10 years later I would establish my studio just across the road from that college! The college is now a Tesco express and I sometimes go in there to buy my lunch when I haven’t got my packed lunch with me.
After Lambeth college I trained in several jewellery schools across London, before perfecting my skill through eight years’ experience working for a number of renowned jewellers.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration in the magic of unconventional beauty I see in nature. I translate my way of seeing nature in metal.
People often look at the obvious beauty, such as the red petals of a rose, but to me beauty lies in the thorns. Nature is beautiful. But also powerful, wild and dangerous. And I want to represent all those aspects in my designs – not just the obvious beauty, which everyone sees.