Dutch jewellery designer Bibi van der Velden’s innate love for nature is immortalised in every creative endeavour she undertakes.
Inspired by her mother, who was a famous sculptor, Bibi van der Velden had always known that she would one day be an artist.
Born in the US, she spent her childhood in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. She then took up Fine Arts in Florence and continued her studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and the Royal Academy of Arts, both in the Netherlands.
In 2005, van der Velden successfully ventured into jewellery design with her Wearable Works of Art Jewellery. Here’s a peek into her avant-garde design philosophy.
JNA: How did your mother influence you to pursue a career in the arts?
Bibi van der Velden: I practically grew up in my mother’s studio, helping her polish stone sculptures, and eventually working there myself with soft soapstone. As a child, I always knew that this would be my direction in life. To me, designing jewellery is akin to miniature sculpting.
JNA: Majority of your designs are animal-inspired. How did this come about?
Van der Velden: Animals figure a lot in my collections, that is true. But it’s mainly nature itself that is the dominant theme in my work. Nature is a never-ending source of inspiration. It’s found everywhere – especially in the raw materials that I source all over the world. I’m in constant awe of what I find and what is out there.
JNA: Your choice of gemstones and other materials are unconventional. Could you take us deeper into your creative realm and how you come up with such unique ideas?
Van der Velden: It’s all about challenging myself to try new techniques and use unusual materials. Each new collection is a journey of discovery for me. In the jewellery business, there are many styles that look similar and the truth is, much has already been done. I want my creations to stand out and be truly different from the rest.
JNA: You use mammoth tusks in your designs. How does this tie in with your ethical standards?
Van der Velden: I am an ambassador for Solidaridad, the mother organisation of the Max Havelaar Foundation. Solidaridad is a non-profit organisation, which also focuses on ethical and sustainable gold mining. Recycling has always been an integral element in my work. When I started, I used antique materials, and I still do. I do use mammoth tusks because I find the story of the mammoth terribly romantic. Its tusks have been long hidden under the ice and today, there are enough quantities that can be used in an ethical and responsible way. As long as no animals are harmed – that’s the important thing. At the same time, I’d like to think we give the animals longevity by honouring them in our jewellery.
JNA: Who are your clients?
Van der Velden: We have a huge private customer base since bulk of my pieces are bespoke orders, which give me the opportunity to design jewellery pieces around my client’s personality. Buyers also purchase our products from our studio in Amsterdam. We also work with concept stores and galleries all over the world. We sell through our own online shop and via my new online platform, Auverture, where I curate fine jewellery pieces from other designers. At the moment, our biggest market is the US. Our next step is to expand to Asia and the Far East.
JNA: Social media marketing is on the rise and its influence can’t be ignored. How do you feel about this?
Van der Velden: I am not a social media guru but I use Instagram. What I love about Instagram is that it allows me to connect easily with my clients all over the world so I can give them an insight into my life and inspirations.
JNA: What can you share with us about your life outside of being a designer?
Van der Velden: I live and work in the old city centre of Amsterdam, where I use my bike to go to work every day. I own a second home in Portugal so I divide my time between these two favourite spots. I also adore my children and my husband, who’s part of the company too.
My passion is jewellery design and this has inspired me to start Auverture, where we are able to give authentic fine jewellery designers a platform to showcase their work.
JNA: What is your growth strategy for your company?
Van der Velden: I want to further grow my company, Bibi van der Velden, which I started over 14 years ago. I would like to expand globally and collaborate with other artists and industry stakeholders. Attending international shows is also part of my long-term plans. Amid all these, I would like to maintain my philosophy of quality over quantity.
All jewellery pieces by Bibi van der Velden