We've just had a nice big delivery of jewellery from Julia De Klerk, so we thought it's about time to do a Folks' Tales interview with her! In this instalment, we find out about how Julia makes her ideas and what she gets up to in her spare time. A really fun & informative read. We love Julia's work so much, so it's been brilliant to get to know her a bit more.
OK, enough chit chat - let's get stuck in!
Could you start by giving me a quick biography of who you are and what you do?
I’m Julia, a UK based designer/maker originally from Portsmouth but now based in Petersfield, Hampshire. I make colourful and art inspired jewellery from acrylic and sterling silver.
Tell me a little bit about your design and making process. I’d love to hear about how you formulate your ideas and bring them to reality!
I always have a lot of ideas whirring around and get inspired by lots of things. I love abstract art, illustration & print, collections of shapes and anything where colour & textures contrast. I will usually have an idea in my head for a while and draw a quick sketch out on a bit of paper that I’ll literally stick on a wall till I can work on it. I’ve never liked using sketchbooks. I use procreate or illustrator to sketch designs more carefully and I’ll start to draw over it with textures and patterns so that I have a better feel of what it will look like.
The final design is made into a vector line drawing on illustrator ready to cut out via my laser cutter. I test run on cardboard to perfect the size and how the shapes work together and then I’ll cut the final designs using coloured Perspex and have a play about with findings until I think it works! It was similar when I used to hand saw the shapes.
Julia's busy workbench with work in progress.
Hand sawing Perspex is so difficult – the laser cutter makes things much quicker! OK, so what inspired you to start your own business?
My parents used to have a business making wooden toys back in the 80’s so I grew up around their creativity & it definitely inspired me to want to earn a living by making things.
What is the best thing about being a jeweller? (And the worst?!)
Best thing for me is that my pieces are often bought as gifts. I love seeing gift messages for special occasions, nice to help bring someone happiness via something you created. Worst is that all the pieces are very small and sometimes fiddly. Lots of counting and trying not to drop or lose things haha!
Two of Julia's brooches that are stocked at Heavy Gretel
What is your favourite piece (of yours) that is stocked at Heavy Gretel?
At the moment I love the new abstract brooches. I’ve been waiting to create a colourful abstract brooch that uses lots of simple shapes for ages, something that would look good on a coat or cardi. This jewellery route all started with my obsession with Bakelite brooches so I do still have a soft spot for designing them with dangly bits in that style.
I love Bakelite jewellery – I wrote an essay about it at university (Bakelite nerd for life)! Do you have any tips for how best to look after acrylic jewellery?
Acrylic is hard wearing but can be brittle if it gets knocked on hard surfaces so always try to keep it carefully in a jewellery box or hung when not in use so it doesn’t get tangled or squashed. Avoid getting perfumes or lotions on them. I really recommend polishing any silver parts with a silver cloth to prevent tarnishing. Jewellery pliers are a useful tool to keep around if you have a lot of jewellery great for tightening things after lots of wear. I do offer repairs on all my jewellery if something does get damaged and even offer just a polish up as my main aim is for your jewellery to last!
Laser cut acrylic on the workbench ready to be made into jewellery
Aside from making incredible jewellery, what else do you like to get up to in your spare time?
My partner and I are currently renovating a house we bought a couple of years back. It’s a 270 yr old tannery workers cottage out in the stix. Needs a lot of work but my boyfriend is a chippy (carpenter) and I love painting & filling so we are a good team. I also have an allotment and that keeps me really busy when I’m not making jewellery!
What are your plans for the business – recently you brought out a new collection (which we love!), so do you plan to develop more new work?
Ooh I always get stuck on questions like this. I don’t have a specific plan this year but recently I’m thinking I’d like to do some larger more extravagant pieces maybe. More collabs hopefully too as love the opportunity to design in different styles and work with other people. I also have some acrylic home & gift items I hope to bring out by Xmas but we’ll see if they make it. As I team of one I have to accept that things move slower than I wish they would especially new work - like my greeting cards that have been on the go for about 3 years haha!
Some of the pieces we have in stock in process of being made!
What's your current earworm/podcast/fav music to listen to whilst making?
Generally, you’ll find me listening to the radio at the studio. Planet Rock, Radio 6 music and Radio 4 depending on tasks and mood haha. I do like a podcast when I am doing repetitive things so I listen to things like 99% invisible which is a design/history podcast that can be super interesting and This American Life which is stories on different themes, also a few that make me laugh like SMA. On Fridays/weekends I like dad rock and whistlerfm.ca is good for that.
99% Invisible, podcast that Julia likes to listen to while making
Oh we love listening to history podcasts - thanks for the tip! Do you have any advice for someone thinking of becoming a jeweller?
If you are starting out, experiment with materials to find out what you like working with, I used to try all sorts of things & shove them on my Etsy shop & learnt what I like making and didn’t like making. I used to look at jewellery in books and in museums rather than places like Instagram as people have been making incredible jewellery for thousands of years. You could look for a day course if you can, but also there are great online courses now on places like Domestika or free YouTube tutorials you can watch to learn different techniques.
Don’t be afraid to be unique and find your own style rather than always going with the crowd, people will notice it and it’s far more interesting, plus you’ll enjoy what you do more. Most of all… just go for it!
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us about your work, Julia. It's always really interesting to see how our makers formulate ideas and the steps along the way that get you to the finished product. We always love a good podcast recommendation too!
We have a lovely selection of Julia's new jewellery in the shop right now - head over Julia De Klerk to check out the whole collection now.
Keep up with Julia online: