Today we visit what is known to be the Netherlands’ smallest city, Madurodam. Despite its size Madurodam has a number of interesting attractions including a wooden shoe factory called Klompenfabriek. The Netherlands is also home to featured jewelry designer Felieke van der Leest.
Where creative outlets are concerned, like feature films and music, at times it seems originality is sorely missing.
It seems that once someone comes up with a successful, creative formula then everyone wants to copy it. It is frustrating to see creativity stifled in this way where very few creative risks are taken.
I have viewed 13 years’ worth of van der Leest’s work through her online gallery and while the theme of nature, particularly animals, is recurring throughout her contemporary jewelry collections she manages to always imbue something fresh, imaginative and fun into each of them.
An alumna of the Netherlands’ Technical School for Gold and Silversmithing in Schoonhoven, and Gerrit Rietveld Academie, the Norway-based jewelry artist harbored a restless type of creativity that sought out unique expression.
Salvador Dali’s eerie artistic vision inspired van der Leest’s sensibilities, and her lucid imagination nearly caused her to drop her studies at Schoonhoven’s goldsmithing school as “colorless" metals did not appeal to her.
“After I graduated from the technical school, I didn’t want to become a traditional metalsmith. I thought about becoming a mechanic or carpenter,” she says.
“When I apprenticed with Sylvia Blickman, who is a traditional metalsmith, I applied for Gerrit Rietveld and Sylvia suggested that I give the jewelry department a try. So I did it and discovered that I really liked to work in three-dimensions and to play with materials.”
The emerging talent also called upon her skills at crocheting and knitting, which she learned during her youth, as her distinctive aesthetic began to formulate. While she attended Gerrit Rietveld a suggestion given to her by a guest teacher would become the foundation from which van der Leest would build her one-of-a-kind designer jewelry.
“The guest teacher was Marcel Wanders and he was an industrial designer. He told me that if I have an idea to just do it, and not think about it too much,” says van der Leest. From that moment she began to slowly blend her metal and textile experience with the additional, quirky element of plastic toy animals. The combination would become the jewelry artist’s signature.
The local zoo of her childhood home in Emmen paired with the humanization of animals in children’s stories serves as the central influence behind adorable animal jewelry consisting of varying elements of gold, sterling silver, crystal beads, epoxy resin, glass, and yarn.
Each animal toy becomes an unforgettable character adorned in crochet capes, miniature cowboy and top hats with monikers like Maki Kaki, Brian the Lion, Sven Svanson and Billy Bang. It is an amazing visual language full of charm and easy humor.
Her blithe contemporary jewelry is currently exhibited at The West Norway Museum of Decorative Arts in Bergen, Norway. The exhibition called Jewellery Circus is the first collection of contemporary jewelry presented alongside the museum’s silver jewelry collection.
“I often start working on the textile part of a piece as I sift through ideas about the plastic animal toys I have in my studio. I imagine how to make them into a new piece.
Sometimes I completely change the original idea. I like to work with toy animals because the inspiration is endless.”
Photo 1 (top right): Bracelet on Fire
Photo 2 (center): Textile, Plastic, Gold and Glass Sven Svanson the First NecklacePhoto 3 (bottom left): Plastic, Textile and Gold Prima Ballerina Hippo Lolita Ring with Cubic Zirconia