Designer Spotlight: Jeanne Marell

A brief story of what you do and why you do it

I design and make minimalist jewellery pieces with a twist, revealing their intricate detailing to those who take a closer look. I believe in creating unique and enduring designs – my pieces are precious objects with a style and craftsmanship that lasts beyond the next fashion trend. Forms are often combinations of simple geometries, and each design combines two materials or finishes in an unexpected way: gold or silver might be combined with non-precious materials such as wood, perspex and nylon. All my pieces are hallmarked at the London Assay Office to guarantee material authenticity, and I am about to start working exclusively with materials from ethical sources – my jewellery should make you feel good inside and out!

How did you get into jewelry design?

I did my first course in goldsmithing back in the Netherlands, when I was in high school. Why I signed up? I had always been making things, and after woodworking, painting and ceramics, working with precious metals seemed like an exciting challenge. On my course, I made a statement necklace in silver with LEDs and fibre optics, that later got me into the Design Academy, a well-known product design school. I briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a professional jewellery designer-maker back in 1999, a couple of years into my product degree. I studied goldsmithing for 3 months with Carles Codina at Escola Massana in Barcelona, Spain. Even though I really enjoyed designing and making jewellery, I was worried it would not engage my intellectual side sufficiently, and I continued studying product design instead. During the next 15 years, I continued to make (or dream about making) jewellery, and followed various courses at Cranbrook (near Detroit, Michigan) and Citylit (London, UK). Many years the wiser now, I have realized that running a jewellery business is indeed intellectually challenging and rewarding, and I have taken the plunge – I now run my jewellery business alongside my career as design strategist.

What makes your collection unique?

My sensitivity when it comes to form, material and finish combinations makes my work unique, but at the same time ensures each design is balanced and timeless. My pieces have both a graphic and tactile quality that appeals to the women and men who buy and wear my pieces. People often say my designs are ‘accessible' – their stories are easy to understand.

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What are your inspirations?

It is often the materials themselves, and the opportunities to join or finish them, that inspires me the most. The best designs result from experimentation after seeing the first ‘clue' elsewhere. It are often other crafts, such as carpentry (I love joinery techniques!) and architecture, that fire up my imagination. My ring ‘dovetail' is inspired by the way two wood panels were joined traditionally, particularly in drawers.
When on holiday, I can always be found at the local craftsmen and women's workshops, observing their art and techniques. When it comes to defining forms, you will recognise the way Bauhaus designers constructed their shapes from simple geometries in my work.
But then, sometimes inspiration comes from an unexpected angle: my brooch ‘spirograph' is – you guessed it – inspired by the spirograph drawings I did as a child. This time, the ‘line' is created by feeding a nylon wire through a silver frame. The way it reflects the light and seems moving adds a dimension that even those intriguing spirograph drawings did not provide!

How are you making a difference in your life?

My jewellery business keeps my creative side nurtured, and allows me to play with materials with a level of freedom I would never have in the mass-manufactured product design world. Not being bound by client briefs, deadlines, cost targets or mass manufacturing constraints, I can make design-driven decisions – resulting in pieces of which I can justify every little detail and am more than proud of. When I am passionate about an idea or a piece I am creating, my energy has no limits!

What's something unusual about you that makes you “you”?

Having worked as a designer for automotive and consumer technology companies, I have been working with many more materials and processes than most people ever get exposed to. That knowledge and experience often finds a way into my jewellery designs – providing the visual ‘twist' to seemingly simple pieces to those who take a closer look and explore the visual detail.

What's the biggest struggle in running your jewelry business like a business? OR What is your biggest success in running your business like a business?

My perfectionism is my business' biggest asset as well as enemy. I believe my customers deserve the best design, materials, craftsmanship and service, but sometimes it would be healthier for profit margins if I left things at 99%. I do set the bar so high that I should question if others recognise that last one percent. That said, I wouldn't change this for the world – it is who I am and what makes my design and execution so strong.
Jeanne Marell headshot

I am a Dutch jewellery designer-maker, based in London, UK. I  combine my independent jewellery business with a career as product designer and strategist, with projects for companies such as General Motors, Hewlett Packard, Hyundai, Nokia and Samsung. When not behind my desk or bench, I am probably traveling – I have been to over 65 countries… and counting!

 

Twitter: @JeanneMarell (or www.twitter.com/jeannemarell)

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