As a jewellery designer, Julie Usel likes to use materials that aren’t your average high-end store window display. Forget the tacky shimmering gold and dazzling diamonds. Julie transforms your average everyday products and objects into wearable accessories.
“I like to transform non-precious material into precious jewellery,” says Julie. She’s not kidding. Back in 2005, she made shaped potatoes into rings and added colouring. “I can make pearls from cling film and rings from potatoes,” she added.
In her final graduation project at the Royal College of Arts, Julie went even further with her creativity and used meat, paper and other materials for her jewellery installation.
“The work is a physical and emotional journey, exploring and externalising emotions as objects and invoking the tension we all feel concerning change,” says Julie. The project itself emphasised the relationship between anxiety and the creative process, which was what exactly Julie experienced.
“The rings themselves reflect this process containing elements of creation, destruction, metamorphosis and evolution. They invoke a range of anxieties by creating a tension between the wish to keep the objects intact or to reveal their hidden secret,” she says.
Julie creates like a child. Not only does she love to use cheap materials, but she loves to reveal herself as who she is in her creations. “They are all personal pieces of work, therefore they all represent my character,” she says. One of her projects, Jeu d’enfant, clearly embeds her own memories towards her grandmother.
“When I returned to my childhood memories, I almost immediately saw my grandmother playing with a tied string. Nothing simpler. With only her hands as tools, she transformed this simple string in a variety of forms,” says Julie. “She taught me the steps to follow and create the Eiffel Tower, a bowl or a parachute. This insignificant string, after some manipulations, opened the doors to a magical world where imagination is queen.”
The imaginative jeweller also enjoys experimenting like a scientist. This is what inspires her and sometimes initiates the starting of a new project. With no prior knowledge of the materials she may use, the result is usually unexpected.
“As I love to experiment with various materials, my jewellery is often a result of the interesting reactions I discover,” she says. Even if an idea or a type of material does not seem to work well, Julie keeps the idea on the side until the timing is right.
In her latest project, La Route de la Soie, Julie has included both the preciousness of jewellery and her characteristics of design: both playful and experimental. She makes use of layers of printed silk hand sewn with gold thread and uses silver and gold leaf details to create perceptual and textural variations.
Other than being a jewellery designer, Julie has another duty that is even more difficult. “My biggest difficulty is to find time to keep creating jewellery while raising my one-year-old son,” she says. She added that motherhood is a complicated task.
Talking about her future plans, Julie will continue jewellery designing. She has had exhibitions around the globe, such as Netherlands, Sydney, Switzerland, Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany. “I would like to open a studio/showroom/gallery in collaboration with a group of people,” she added.