Kicking off our new feature ‘Behind the Designs’; a series of interviews with London independent jewellery designers in their studios, we speak to Brazilian jewellery designer Fernando Jorge. We first discovered Fernando at his 2010 St Martin’s MA Graduate show; where he presented his beautiful, sexy collection ‘Fluid’; hand-carved gemstones dripping seamlessly into what looked like molten gold chains, referencing sensuality, sex, flesh and skin.
Fast-forward 4 years and Fernando Jorge has become one of the most sought after fine jewellers in London – showing at London Fashion Week at Rock Vault; the exclusive selection of independent jewellers selected by Stephen Webster, and representing London at the prestigious Couture show in LA.
The allure behind Fernando’s jewellery lies in his ability to subvert traditional styles without corrupting them – respecting, referencing and evolving familiar designs like cocktail rings and red-carpet earrings, he creates signature lines and details, uses unexpected stones and materials, but all within the confines of shapes and silhouettes we understand and, more importantly, want to wear.
For example, in his ‘Fusion’ collection he uses howlite, an opaque white marble-like stone, and studs it with black diamonds cut into triangles – a ambitious sounding combination yet it feels effortlessly natural to wear.
Our ‘Behind the Designs’ series aims to shed light on the jewellery design process; revealing and exploring the inspirations and methodology of London’s top independent jewellery designers through an exploration of their sketchbooks, moodboards and minds.
How did you go from studying engineering in Brazil to becoming one of London’s top jewellery designers?
It was not jewellery that drew me to jewellery, if that makes sense. After studying engineering I went to design school in Brazil, and afterwards looked for a job that would give me the chance to draw by hand for a living – I really like to draw – and I got a job doing technical drawings for a jewellery company. I got a real kick out of seeing my drawings come to life as incredible pieces of jewellery. Seeing them made from the most beautiful and finest materials found in nature I thought; ‘That’s it – I don’t need to look any further. This is what I want to do.”
Tell us about the development of your collections. They seem to flow very naturally to the next one, making your body of work very cohesive despite being made up of several collections…
Each collection references what I’ve done before, what I know. Even my first collection was relevant to what I was doing prior to designing, it was about my heritage, a comment on the factories who churn out souvenirs; carved parrots, ashtrays…I wanted to create something elegant and beautiful using the same stone carving techniques, contrasting bad taste and good taste. I found a guy working in these factories who had no training, no family history in jewellery, and wanted to use him to make my pieces instead of going down the traditional fine jewellery route. I could have done the obvious thing and gone to Germany or somewhere in Europe, but I liked that it didn’t come from a perfect discipline, yet was relevant to my background. When I start designing a new collection I start from where I stopped, so that ties them all together.
Your sketchbooks are immaculate, the drawings are pretty much exactly as the finished pieces are. Where are all your messy workings?
What is in my head is a feeling, rather than an image, and a lot of crap has to come out, stuff I don’t like, before the final piece - as I visualized it - is on the page. On my degree course I would draw things again and again and again, and then eventually the right thing comes out, and I then take time to develop that, to refine it. I feel that design is stronger when it is simple. My craftsmen in Brazil can make up the pieces from my hand-drawn designs and can follow them exactly.
I’m interested in the lack of narrative or need to justify your work with a ‘story’. Tell us about that.
I believe that jewellery can say something on its own, without needing justification for its existence. I have often created moodboards out of a need to justify my work to others, but actually it all comes from a feeling inside my head about what I want to draw.
This is a very instinctive way of designing, I think. Your inspirations also seem very primal; collections based on fluidity, electricity…
Yes. I’m the kind of person that wants to go to the essence of everything. The ‘Electric’ collection came from a feeling that London gave me, and so the references were very elemental. I don’t need to add a story or a narrative to that.
Far from chaotic and messy, Fernando’s studio and drawings give an impression of calm, focused ambition. His sketches and workings represent such a clear order of progression that you feel both familiar with and excited by each new design – his handwriting is so strong and defined throughout his whole body of work, that it feels like everything has fallen into place at exactly the right time for him, and each piece he creates is the most perfect version of what it can be.