‘I’m just not really inspired by lines and forms and waves like lots of people. Nature does nothing for me; jewellery without stories doesn’t interest me at all,’ says Jessica de Lotz, as we examine the treasure trove that is her Clerkenwell Green studio. As well as examples of the work that saw her highly commended at this year’s UK Jewellery Awards, the space is packed with books, bags and trinkets. On the walls are framed photos, collages and postcards etched in ancient spidery scrawls – all sources of the secret stories and hidden narratives that inspire her creations.
It all started when she was doing her art foundation course, and bought a 1950s handbag at a fleamarket. When she arrived home she discovered it contained a whole life: a birth certificate, letters, wedding invitations, photographs… a tantalising but incomplete record of Daisy Hooper, which Jessica then spent years fleshing out with a whole degree show’s worth of jewellery, all of it dedicated to the mysterious woman. Themes from this project live on in the Daybreak collection, which includes the apple-core jewellery often seen on Helena Bonham Carter.
Next, while on holiday in France, she found a small tin full of letters and passport photos revealing a passionate affair, which inspired The Love Story, Paris 1946, her signature collection of wax-seal jewellery. Having collected stamps of all 26 letters, she now does rings, brooches, necklaces, cufflinks and chains, all of them modelled on a newly pressed seal, so that each piece is subtly different.
Most recently Jessica came across a suitcase containing a perfect record of Gladys Joyce Bowden’s 21st birthday party: her father’s speech, a programme of events, and all her cards. Out of this came the handcuff jewellery, which is partly a comment on the rather repressive quality of Gladys’ 1940s birthday party, but also a promise of adult fun to come. All of the collections are available through Jessica’s website, and she also works to commission, as part of her stated mission to revive the idea of having a ‘jeweller for life’. When asked how she defines what she makes, she answers rather coyly: ‘Heirlooms of the future.’ We don’t need to wait and see to agree with her.