Jewellery designer Bibi van der Velden misses her studio — you’ll understand why

A woman standing in front of a mood board.

The Amsterdam-based sculptor, jewellery designer and member on her canal-side studio and how to adjust to remote creativity

By Jess Kelham-Hohler    Images courtesy of Helene Sandberg   Tuesday 21 April, 2020   Long read

Bibi van der Velden, the founder of her eponymous jewellery line and Auverture, a curated edit of luxury jewellery from around the world, may be waiting out COVID-19 in Portugal, but she’s dreaming of her Amsterdam studio. Housed in a converted 18th-century school building along the canals, van der Velden’s workspace reflects the multitude of ways in which she stays creatively inspired, from jewellery displays she crafted herself in her sculpting studio, to a commissioned marble table for her team to work around. Here, she invites you to take a virtual tour of her workspace and offers her advice on how to take inspiration from her approach for your own.

'Our studio has an Alice In Wonderland, falling through the rabbit hole’ feeling once you step inside.'

What drew you to the space originally?
The light in the studio is key – having high, tall windows is something we’re really grateful for. Our studio has an Alice In Wonderland, falling through the rabbit hole’ feeling once you step inside. We’re based on the old Amsterdam canals where I lived on the Lauriergracht for 11 years growing up, so it also feels like part of my heritage. 

How is your studio organised, and what’s the thinking behind it?
Our studio is organised into three parts. We have office space for both the Bibi van der Velden team and Auverture to work day to day, as well as an exhibition space and gallery where the designs happen and we hold lots of events, too. Our kitchen is also an important space for both teams. We take it in turns to cook for the group and it’s a bonding exercise we all enjoy together. With old buildings you need to always be flexible and adjust your design accordingly. As a sculptor, it was essential to have my sculpting studio within the space too, as these creations are where a lot of my design for jewellery begins. 

Did you start with a few key pieces?
Some of our main interior pieces we had built, like a large black bookcase that holds inspiration and an adjustable marble table we all use for so many things – from meetings to presenting to clients at events. We also have our own art in a gallery-style area, which works great for all of the events and entertaining we do. 
A woman sitting on the floor working on a sculpture.

Bibi van der Velden at work in her studio; her sculptures

Three white flower sculptures.
Tell us about some of your personal touches.
I love to collect, and you’ll notice that one side of the studio is filled with the antique items I have collected over time. But we keep the gallery space clean and white, so it doesn’t take away from any of the art and displays we have all around. We appreciate the importance of both sides. 

What are the objects we’ll always find on your desk?
A lot of jars and pots with drawing pens, sketch books and objects that inspire me, which can be anything at all. Antiques of all shapes and sizes and collections of physical objects I’m drawn to. Mine and my mother’s sculpture designs are all around, alongside my mood boards and drawings of what I’m working on right now, as well as tools to keep creating more. 

How do you display the jewellery in your studio?
I’ve sculpted lots of the display material myself and have designed our display cases for our jewellery, too. Our display designs are always made together with local craftsmen. Displaying jewellery is an art in itself and can be challenging to do well.
Your jewellery embraces sustainability – is this reflected in your studio design?
Sustainability is as key for me as it is for everyone in my team. For example, we get our energy from the most sustainable places we can, at a local windmill. I repurpose everything I can and many things in our studio are refashioned from older pieces.

During this pandemic, how are you staying inspired outside of your studio?
Luckily, while I’m staying in Portugal I am among nature – we are living so remotely near a beautiful beach and the ocean is very calming. At the moment, I’m in survival mode while home-schooling two kids and everything that comes with that, on top of recovering from the virus myself. When I am well and I return to Amsterdam, I look forward to being with my team and having the space and time to sink my teeth into some great projects and collections. 

For those who are trying to do creative work at home, what would be your advice on how to arrange a working from home space?
For me, it’s about being totally open to adjusting to the circumstance. I’d say, create a space that is your sanctuary, no matter how small – find somewhere where you can be truly undisturbed. Try to create moments in which you can focus, too. With so many distractions and things to do, we can all find this hard, but make space for you and your thoughts. It’s important now more than ever. 

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