Luxury meets GOOD!
Jeweller and Sculptor Bibi van der Velden was born in New York, and had a peripatetic, artistic upbringing between The Netherlands and the English countryside. After training in sculpture at The Florence Academy of Arts, the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and The Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, she decided to turn her attention to creating art of the wearable variety, launching her jewellery line in 2006.
It was antique objects that first inspired her to create jewellery. One of her earliest necklaces had at its heart a gold antique peanut, which she melded together with a folding pocketknife in order to create a charm. Stones with a story still hold an appeal for Bibi, with a square-cut emerald ring – left to her by her late grandmother – one of her most treasured pieces.
Today, she is renowned for her imaginative aesthetic that makes a feature of materials as diverse as 40,000-year-old mammoth tusk, baroque pearls, antique Chinese jade and real scarab beetle wings. She works these unexpected elements together with sustainable gold, diamonds and precious stones, to create truly unique designs. “I love things that tell a story, when something looks like it’s old and has had a previous life,” says the designer. “I love stones and pearls with imperfections, which give them character.”
We recently spoke with Bibi to learn more about her craft, her life and how she is approaching life differently since her daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2017.
“This is what separates the boys from the men and just get the job done.”
Bibi Van Der Velden
Having originally studied fine art and sculpture she always had a deep appreciation of craftsmanship and things made by hand and it was when she was working as an assistant to a Dutch goldsmith that she developed her passion for crafting fine jewellery.
Entering the world of fine jewellery is by no means an easy thing to accomplish, but with a background in fine art, a creative mother for support and a unwavering perseverance, she has not only entered the field but she is now redefining fine jewellery through her contemporary take on the beauty of nature as well as its decay, both of which are inspired by classical Dutch still-like paintings. She refers to her designs as “miniature, wearable works of art” because her unique pieces can be held in the palm of your hand.
Praying Mantis Ring | Bibivandervelden.com
Roger Selden, a Milan based artist who we collaborated with, said that the “artisan is the artist’s third hand”, so we asked Bibi how important artisans were for her own creations?
“My jewellery-making process is grounded in traditional craftsmanship. While I design and hand-finish my creations, I often work with artisans dotted across the globe to add specific elements of my pieces. They might be craftsmen in China whose expertise is carving mammoth tusk, or miners in the Australian outback who source and cut the most spectacular boulder opals, each of which is entirely unique. I would say these artisans play a pivotal role in the creative process.”
There is a growing movement of entrepreneurs redefining what luxury is and should be and in Bibi’s opinion luxury is exactly the opposite of mass production. With many artists and companies starting to realize the weight quality over quantity has, all of Bibi’s creations are produced in small, limited editions. Her process of jewellery making follows age-old, hand-worked techniques, with a meticulous attention to detail. With steely seriousness she explains that “the pinnacle of luxury is something made to measure which is all about craftsmanship. Of which there is only one and which tells your own personal story. “
a mother's worst nightmare
With a growing legion of global fans, acknowledgement and recognition from both customers and media alike, a beautiful young family and a happy marriage, you would think that all in Bibi’s life was plain sailing. On May 10th 2017, her life spiralled into the unthinkable when her daughter Charlie was diagnosed with Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Three weeks later a further setback occurred, when Charlie was confronted with her first set of complications. The cocktail of medications to suppress the side effects and symptoms would often make her feel worse than the leukemia itself and it was through this very personal and heart wrenching process that Bibi decided to focus on positivity and use her own family experiences to alleviate the pain and stress of prolonged hospital stays for other children just like her own daughter, thereby diminishing the traumatic experiences. The Charlie Braveheart Foundation was founded.
After undergoing intense treatment Charlie is now doing very well. She is cancer free, smart and most importantly, happy. She has made tremendous progress and the whole experience has provided a real insight to Bibi and her family on what really matters.
“ In the end its about family, friends and the love that you have for each other. The rest is all of secondary importance. “
It really says something about the type of person that Bibi is, that during her own painful experience, she decided to put others first and use the courageousness of her own daughter to act as a catalyst to re-educate caregivers.
educating the next generation of care givers
The ‘Charlie Braveheart’ Foundation aims to make the unbearable more bearable. Hospital treatments for children ranging from First Aid Posts to Orthopaedics, Burns Units, Rheumatology, ENT and Oncology can be a traumatic experience and it is their mission to train medical and nursing professionals to help alleviate childrens’ suffering. They have created a tool kit which includes; Focus language, Hypnosis, Music, Sedation by laughing gas, and other Technology.
A training programme is now in place, which aims to train 500 people in 80 Dutch hospitals annually and ultimately to familiarise a minimum of 2,500 people with these effective tools within 5 years. A training app is being developed with clearly detailed explanations and instruction videos that are suitable for different levels of expertise.
The Dutch are pioneers especially when it comes to the medical field. She explains that there are international specialists from across the world working with the themes that Charlie Braveheart are trying to incorporate and they are all using Holland as a kind of pilot. Her goal is to get Dutch hospitals and the Dutch government aligned before rolling out the tool kit to the rest of Europe and hopefully after that the rest of the world.
luxury for good
In our opinion Bibi really is at the intersection of using #luxuryforGOOD . Through her vast international network, she spreads the goals of her foundation while simultaneously bringing her humanitarian and planetary values into her the core of her own business. She is an ambassador for sustainable gold and stone mining and is mindful of how she treats her own employees which echoes how special a person she truly is.
With so much experience, and a master of her own craft, we asked her what advice she would offer the next generation who are interested to enter the fine jewellery field?
“One thing that I think is very important is being convinced that you have something to add to the luxury jewelry fashion landscape and that the message that is relevant. I think a lot of people want to have a brand in fashion and then start to think about what that should be, and it should in fact be the other way around. Have a true message, make sure it’s something which isn’t copied from which you see in the industry, make sure it is from deep within yourself and that you stay true to that idea.”
With a business in Amsterdam, an active Foundation, a young family in Portugal she confides that it is not always to juggle all of the balls she has in the air.
"I think for all young mothers who also have a business, it’s very difficult to combine all these things,” she adds “In the beginning I felt a lot of guilt, guilt towards my social life that I wasn’t giving it enough attention, guilt towards the kids if I was away or for my employees if I wasn’t at the studio enough but I think it is really important to accept you’re not able to do everything at once, although this is an ongoing challenge for me. Of course what happened with Charlie put a lot of things into perspective and I am simply trying to be the best person I can be for all of those important people in my life.“
In closing, both Crafted Society and Bibi Van Der Velden share many of the same values, as well as an acute passion to protect exquisite craftsmanship for future generations while at the same time using our respective platforms as a force for GOOD.
Crafted Society is supporting the Charlie Braveheart Foundation this Holiday season. Purchase with purpose.