Returning to our series of ‘Maker of the Month’ posts, here we feature An Alleweireldt. The post is written by fellow DJG member Shelby Fitzpatrick. Shelby visited An in her studio and conducted the interview below.
Shelby An, you have some international exhibitions on the horizon, beginning with COLLECT at the Saatchi Gallery in May. The stories behind these are interesting – stories of the work you have made for each of them and stories of the genesis of the events and your participation.
An For the second time I have been chosen by Design Flanders to represent Belgian Design at Collect in the Saatchi Gallery, 8-11th May 2015. Design Flanders is not a gallery as such, but is government-funded and promotes Belgian Design through exhibitions, events and their website.
Last year was such a great experience, as Collect is an event with galleries from all over the world, representing their best makers. You get to see the most amazing applied arts, so come and visit while you get the chance!
In June I have been invited together with three other jewellers to exhibit in Gallery Si in Kobe, Japan. Two of the jewellers, Yoko Izawa and Sarah Lindsay, were fellow students at the RCA.
My partner Nicholas, has lived in Japan for three years – a long time ago – so we decided to make a trip out of it and see the exhibition for ourselves. It’s a great excuse to travel that far! I am learning a few words in Japanese, as I know hardly anyone speaks English. I love being able to communicate, even if it is very minimal….
Shelby How did your new work for these exhibitions develop?
An Design Flanders wanted a point of recognition from last years’ Collect on their stand, as I’m one of the only ‘repeat’ exhibitors. Therefore, I have chosen to elaborate on a theme I started last year, which was finding a balance between square and round. I tend to work a lot with shapes and how I can make them interesting, yet ergonomic. On top of that I like using unusual materials in combination with gold and silver.
I first met Gallery Si at Goldsmiths’ Fair and they were very much interested in my work containing colorful rubber. So there will be a lot of multi-colored work using rubber flooring, again exploring shapes.
Shelby The first I saw of your work was at Craft Central. I vividly remember your jewellery using wooden popsicle sticks and fragments of vinyl records. How did you decide to work with these materials, and how to combine them with precious metals?
An I love working with different materials, to push their boundaries but also to work with their
limitations and different colours. I often find that it makes the work a lot more interesting and varied, but also there is also the added aspect or the story of the piece, which I love.
So the lollipop stick came along when I realised that most of my family cannot finish an ice cream because they get goose bumps licking the last bit of ice off the wooden stick. Together with that story I found the original long and rounded shape of the popsicle stick very pleasing, and also loved the fact of making something precious out of a disposable material. Some of these lollipop pieces were set with diamonds.
Shelby Now those wooden popsicle sticks have metamorphosed into gold and are used in new designs, but still with the repetitive simplicity of the original ideas. Elaborate, please.
An When I made the lollipop pieces, people often thought that the brooches were made in a yellow metal. I guess they were not what people expected, but from a distance they have a similar colour tone as metal. Because gold is the exact opposite of the lollipops, I was curious to see what it would feel and look like in gold. The result was probably my first very expensive piece, which is quite a nice story having the cheapest material as an inspiration.
Shelby Back to the vinyl records – how did you choose which fragments of vinyl records would be
combined with the other materials? Your concepts for the choices tell more stories – and give an extra dimension to the work. Please tell us about these.
An The vinyl record was used because as I grew up records, and their contents were precious. Suddenly everyone started throwing away these invisible memories and replacing them with CDs and later digital music. I loved the idea that something could be made precious again and contain a little bit of data, where only the wearer knew what it was. I usually pick something close to the middle of the record, as the material has an interesting contrast where the grooves start on the PVC.
Shelby Your training in Belgium in Product Design has given you a certain perspective. How do you see this has evolved and influenced your jewellery?
An Very much so:- I love working with new techniques- I get inspired by materials – My jewellery always has to be comfortable to wear- The way jewellery is made is very important to me- I always look at cost and how I can make things more effective/economic etc. All these elements are incredibly important in the development of an industrial product. The difference to me is that my job is very varied and I do every aspect of the designing, making, photography, promoting and selling myself – which is never the case when you work as a product designer. I like this very much as every stage of this gives me new inspiration.
Shelby With your simple shapes you incorporate brilliant colours – each with a clarity and purpose. How have you chosen such additions as coloured rubber, and what effect does this have on the work?
An To me it gives another dimension to the piece, as people are used to seeing jewellery made out of precious metals with precious stones. I like surprises and being surprised, it’s the same feeling I like to create when people see my work. Nothing is obvious.
Shelby Is it too early to look into the future and reveal the next materials to be explored?
An I think so, as at the moment I very much feel the need to expand further with the materials I have. They haven’t revealed all their secrets to me yet…. I don’t feel finished with them. Usually materials come on my path, I’ve never looked for them. Who knows, maybe my trip to Japan will bring something to me!
Shelby You have particular skills in the technology of cad/cam design. How important a part does this play in your current collection, and how do you see its use in your future?
An It’s very important for me, as it gives me the tools to quickly explore ideas without having to make pieces. I love 3d printing and the exactness/quickness of it all. To me it is more than the future, as it makes pieces much more economic, but it’s not the end all. There are a lot of designers who only use 3d modelling and churn out plastic shapes, which to me always feel a bit soulless. There has to be something else – a surprise perhaps?
Shelby Can you recall elements of your childhood experiences which have led to a career in creating jewellery?
An As long as I can remember I have used my hands and made things. My grandfather repaired
absolutely everything. I’m not sure if being frugal was the reason, though it might have been living and surviving during the war. I remember a broken handle on a pair of scissors. He took the time to make the most beautiful wooden handle to make the scissors complete again. This to me was a great example of handicraft skills combined with an industrial product.
My brother is an engineer and as children we used to make a lot of camps. One was a tree hut complete with roof, windows, ladder, cupboard, table and chairs and containers to hold the candies we might get. I think we were 8 and 10. I did a lot of drawing as most girls do, but also made handbags, clothes, jewellery etc., anything that I could make.
So there is no real surprise I am still enjoying that!
You can see An’s work at Collect from the 8th till the 11th May 2015, and at the Barbican Centre from the 17th May to the 13th June 2015.