I don’t want to impose any limitations on who can or cannot wear jewellery
It is time to put someone in the spotlight who has been working for Subbacultcha for quite some time now. Brussels-based artist Laura Callewaert recently completed training as a goldsmith and has just launched her jewellery brand Illicit. We met at DIVA - the museum for diamonds, jewellery and silver in Antwerp - to visit The Jeweler's Art exhibition, an impressive display of jewellery pieces from the 1960s and 70s.
How did you end up becoming a goldsmith?
I went to Sint-Lucas in high school and then got a bachelor’s degree in communications, but I have always been interested in the arts. I started working at BOZAR and, while I like my job, I started missing more creative endeavours through which I can express myself. I had this desire to learn a craft, to do something with my hands. I have always loved jewellery: as a kid, I put together all kinds of jewellery to make my own pieces and my grandmother encouraged that side of me. So when I was thinking about what medium to explore, all these things aligned and I chose the goldsmith training.
What is the main idea behind Illicit?
I want to create pieces that can be worn every day, even though they’re a bit more extravagant than what’s generally on the market. Every piece tells a story, but it is up to the customer to wear my pieces however they want. I love the idea that what I create gets a new life depending on who buys it and what they do with it. I am so curious and excited to see how people will incorporate my designs into their wardrobes and lives.
Do you have a specific customer in mind when designing?
My initial idea is to fill in the gap for young people who want to purchase and wear unique and durable pieces without having to spend a fortune on them. But anyone, regardless of their age, can buy my work of course. When I really think about it, I’d say that I design jewellery that I would want to wear but don’t see anywhere in stores yet. So the first customer I have in mind is myself, and I can only hope other people will like my pieces too.
The first customer I have in mind is myself, and I can only hope other people will like my pieces too.
I notice you don’t gender your customer, is that a conscious choice?
Absolutely. That’s very important to me, I don’t want to impose any limitations on who can or cannot wear jewellery. In every photoshoot for the brand so far, I have done my very best to include people with all kinds of gender identities, skin tones and body types. I really want to create an inclusive brand.
What did you think of the way the jewellery in the expo was put on display?
I really liked the set design, the vibe that has been created, I actually felt like we were in the 60s or 70s. It’s not easy to isolate jewellery pieces from their context and still have them tell a story. I noticed this when making the product shots for my website, so I very much appreciated the symbiosis between the environment and the actual pieces. The jewellery someone wears says so much about who they are as a person and the time they live in, so it is important to keep that in mind when displaying jewellery as artworks. We link pieces of jewellery to certain memories: who gave them to you, who you met when you were wearing them.
The jewellery someone wears says so much about who they are as a person
Do you feel connected to the spirit and style of the 1960s and 70s?
I do appreciate the style of those eras, especially the hippie movement and the music that came out of that period. I also like that, in the past, certain periods had a distinct style. Fashion is cyclical and nowadays it is very difficult to pinpoint what the style of today is, whereas in the 60s or 70s that was way more clear. Every new movement was a clear rebellion against what came before. After the Second World War, people wanted to express their freedom and wear bright colours. I think after the pandemic we will see a similar revival of boldness and joy, and I hope a whole new aesthetic can be born out of that energy.
Do you think that’s still possible today?
Mark Fisher wrote about the ‘slow cancellation of the future’, this inherent feeling that everything has been done already and what we see as ‘new’ is only a remix of something else. I recognise that feeling, but I do think the post-pandemic 2020s are going to be crazy: there will be a whole new vibe for sure. I am very excited for what the future will bring!
@lauracallewa is wearing her own jewellery collection.