Meet Bibi van der Velden
The Hunters recently had the opportunity to interview sculptor and jewelry designer Bibi van der Velden. We know Bibi van der Velden from the impressive, artistic and beautiful pieces she shows during Amsterdam Fashion Week. We were very curious to hear about the young and talented lady behind these impressive jewelry creations.
How did it all start?
I started in Italy at a classical art academy mostly drawing, anatomy and working directly with a model. I then studied sculpture at the Royal Academy of the Arts in The Hague which was more conceptual. In the evening hours I started to make jewelry, which I kept strictly separate from the art academy. The first pieces that I made were very conceptual, a rough ribbon with a diamond for example. I noticed there was a lot of interest in my jewelry pieces, so I started a goldsmith course in the evening and soon decided that this was the path I would take. In January 2006 I held my first show during Fashion Week which was the official lift off of my career after finishing the art academy in the summer of 2005.
Besides jewelry designer you are a sculptor as well. Of course both are artistic, but why mix these two arts? You could also decide to just focus on the jewelry.
One of the reasons why I like to do both is because of the mix of the conceptual and the technical. Sculpture forces you to work in a conceptual way. You have a piece of stone and you have something in your mind that you want to make from it. However a piece of stone has its own life, its own history told by the grains and marks which you come across in the process. There could be a mark in the place where you decided you wanted to have the cheek on a face, for example. You then have to think of a new way to work with the material and adapt your idea to the characteristics of the stone. Sculpture can be unpredictable in this way, and forces you to be creative and to adapt. This conceptual part of sculpture is what always surprises and excites me.
On the other hand, jewelry design is more technical to me. Sometimes I come up with all sorts of ideas, without knowing how to create them using the materials I have in my mind. Sometimes I will have something special in my mind, but then have to find out what the possibilities are regarding certain materials. Designing jewelry is much more technical than you would think.
You make sculptures together with your mother. Is your mother also part of the jewelry designing process?
No, I design and create the jewelry by myself. In the same way, my mother also makes sculptures on her own. However my mother is a very good model for my jewelry. Often, new customers come to me because they have seen her wearing my pieces. People ask her where they come from, and then come to me. And of course, like every daughter, I often ask my mother for advise.
I always wonder, and never really understand why big fashion houses let others do the design. Of course they can’t do everything by themselves, but still I’m curious to how they work this out. Personally, I want to be part of the entire process, from the design, the sourcing of material to the manufacturing process.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
This is not an original answer, but travelling is one of the things that inspires me. Before I visit a country I start to research which materials and stones are authentic for the country i’ll be in. I then want to know all the ins and outs on the materials I have found, and if the material intrigues me I will do all the extra research and make sure to make a piece around it. I also sometimes draw my inspiration from daily life, for example from interesting people, television programs or nature.
Take for example my ‘Mammoth Collection’, which was inspired by a documentary on the The Discovery Channel about the exposure of woolly mammoth tusks found under the melting Siberian permafrost. I was intrigued by the documentary and made it my goal to research how I could get my hands on this woolly mammoth ivory. Once I finally sourced the material, work could begin. Mammoth ivory is not something you just go experiment with and try to design a piece of jewelry with. I spoke to the National History Museum and many other experts to find out how I could work with the ivory and started the manufacturing process. The Mammoth Collection is based on prehistoric animals, like the prehistoric material they are made from. Think of crocodiles, snakes, birds and seahorses inlaid with 18ct gold, diamonds, tsavorite and other precious stones.
This all sounds very creative, impressive and also luxurious. However charities are also important for your work. You work with sustainable products and also support charities. Could you tell us a little bit more about this?
For gold I work with the organisation Solidaridad and their campaign ”Goed Goud’ (Fair Gold). In many countries the work conditions in the gold industry are horrible. Solidaridad supports making of fair gold, through good working condtions and always takes the surroundings into account. I support them, work with their gold, and designed a special bracelet for them.
Regarding the stones that I use for my jewelry, I always make sure the working conditions are good. I always visit the countries where I source them from before I start the process. This is time consuming, but films like Blood Diamond ensure that everyone is in the know of how terrible the situation can be and I do not want to contribute to this. As a matter of fact, I’m travelling to Peru next week, to discover and research the industry there.
I also designed a collection of necklaces which incorporates the hand gestures made with sign language. Hands have always been an inspiration to me. I guess it has something to do with the shapes. Inspired by the way in which sign language makes shapes with hands, I designed this collection using the whole symbolic alphabet. You can choose a necklace with the first letter of your name, however instead of a letter, the sign language hand gesture hangs from a chain. Of each necklace purchased, a percentage goes to deaf children in the Netherlands who need support learning sign language.
What’s next, any exciting plans for the future?
I am working on designing a collection of jackets. In my opinion it’s difficult to find a casual, cool jacket which is chique at the same time. A jacket you can wear to a long day at the office, but which is dressy enough to wear after work for dinner or a night out. The jacket line will be practical with a special twist. The collection will consist of about 10 jackets made of luxurious fabrics, embroidered by hand and inlaid with different shells, stones and beads. All of them will be special, different and unique.