- Bibi van der Velden
“My first pieces of jewelry incorporated natural materials like ostrich eggs, shells, and feathers with antiques that I discovered in the back streets on the market stalls in Florence mixed with my fascination of metallurgy."
Stephanie and Bibi have known each other since the beginning of WHITEbIRD, and have met at international exhibitions and fashion weeks. It's not surprising that an exclusive collaboration in France is born after all these years. To better understand Bibi's fabulous world and to celebrate her arrival at WHITEbIRD, we asked her a few questions:
1. What is your connection to sculpture and jewellery? Does it run in your family ?
I trained as a sculptor in Florence surrounded by fine art and history. I used to adore scouring the market stalls for antiques and jewelry and visiting the museums. My love of precious materials came from those moments in Italy and jewelry to me is wearable works of art as miniature sculptures. My mother is a huge influence on my life and growing up in various countries gave me an international outlook on design. It was her passion for sculpture that started my passion for sculpture and jewelry. We still sculpt in mixed media but mainly marble together as "BibiMichele" this year our sculpture will be in an exhibition in the Tayloe Pigott Gallery, Wyoming USA.
2. Tell us about where you come from and your life story.
Born in New York but I spent my childhood between the English countryside and The Netherlands. Once I left school, I initially studied fine art in Florence, Italy, before art school in Amsterdam, then the Dutch Royal Academy of the Arts in the Hague. Intrigued with sculpture it was a natural progression into fine jewelry design as I see it as wearable pieces of art. My designs are all miniature sculptures inspired by nature.
3. What was the first piece you created ? Can you tell us about your creative processes ?
My first pieces of jewelry incorporated natural materials like ostrich eggs, shells, and feathers with antiques that I discovered in the back streets on the market stalls in Florence mixed with my fascination of metallurgy. The result was a catwalk of Amazon women in metal sheath pieces sculpted to body parts and jewels embodying my vision of strength adoring each model during Amsterdam Fashion Week.
4. When you talk about jewellery giving energy to those who wear it, what exactly do you mean?
Jewelry is often purchased to celebrate a special occasion so we immediately have a bond with a piece of jewelry that we might have been given for a birthday, anniversary, birth of a child a wedding an engagement or for ourselves just because….jewellery has its own magic and memories created by the wearer. It is this personal aspect that creates our bond and attachment to certain jewels.
5. Your work is infused with nature and the animal world; can you tell us why?
Nature and the animal world is another constant in my designs, from earrings fashioned as swirling tornadoes to statement alligator earrings carved from mammoth tusk and gold, to a noble lion and unicorn astride baroque pearls set with embedded diamonds. Movement and transformation is a hallmark of my work. A Tahitian pearl spins in the Galaxy Spinning Pearl Ring, while ornate cocktail rings whose design spotlights monkeys or panthers hide a smaller, sleek gold ring within. With this unique element of surprise, there’s always more to my jewelry than meets the eye.
6. You live between Amsterdam and Portugal. Can you tell us why you chose Portugal and how your modus vivendi influences your life?
With two young children I wanted them to grow up close to nature. To have a childhood by a beach and away from the chaos created by busy cities. I had friends living in Portugal and when I visited them, I just knew that Portugal would offer us the perfect family home.
7. You like jewels to be personal; tell us more about this. Are you attached to any jewel in particular?
When I was small, I always remember my mother and her friends and their beautiful jewelry growing up in England and The Netherlands. But a specific jewel to me is nature it is all around us and you can see the inspiration in my Jewelry from little sculptures of insects to lions using nature’s own jewels like 60,000 mammoth tusk and scarab wings.
8. Your jewels truly are miniature sculptures. Do you still sculpt?
Sculpture and jewelry are one of the same artform using various materials. Yes, I definitely still sculpt and I love working with marble and then precious gemstones and metals in my jewellery. On the one hand the technical meditative side of jewelry and on the other hand the conceptual fiscal side of sculpture. With BibiMichelle we are now working on a big exhibition of sculptures that will be shown at the Tayloe Pigott gallery in Wyoming later in 2023.
9. What would you have done if you had not become a jewellery designer?
A sculptor ;)
When I was an art student I had a catering company, so probably something with food or growing things.
10. Who are your favourite artists?
Francis Bacon and Louise Bourgeois.
11. What would you say to a young designer who is starting out? How do you see the jewellery world evolving?
I would say, learn the technicalities of goldsmithing and jewellery design. I see a lot of people who have ideas but have no idea how they can put them into practice.
One thing which is frustrating in this industry is that there is so much copying going on. Stay true to yourself while designing. Don’t be ‘inspired’ too much by what’s going around and also what’s on trend. Try to make designs that are timeless.
12. A Chinese mini-portrait:
If I were...
A stone: a diamond. Although diamonds aren’t necessarily my favorite gemstones, I would still choose a diamond, because it’s one of the strongest gemstones out there which would mean that I would still be around in a million years.
A flower : a ranunculus
A dish: an amazing Indian curry with a lot of spice
A work of art: one of Louise Bourgeois cells
An author or a book: A. S. Byatt - book: Hallucinating Foucault
A country: Portugal
An animal: probably a horse. I would love to be able to run like that.
Bibi van der Velden
38, RUE DU MONT THABOR PARIS 1
+33 (0)1 58 62 25 86
Mon: 2:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Tue-Sat: 11:00 am - 7:00 pm