Coline Assade: Jewelry Design with Spirit
Coline Assade captures the powerful beauty of nature and femininity in her collection “Forest Spirits.” From an early age, Assade has fed her creativity by the grace of her natural surroundings. Now she handcrafts empowering works for women to transcend the conventional trend of frilly pink hearts, and to express a more nuanced, wild understanding of what it means to be a woman. In our interview, she speaks about her inspirations and artistry.
What led to you deciding to channel your passion for nature and humans into jewelry arts? How did you start your path in jewelry?
I knew from an early age that I wanted to have a creative job, and later on understood that I wanted to be a designer. I was fascinated by jewelry because to me, it is such an intimate and meaningful object. I always liked to express some individuality through modifying or making my own pieces when I was younger. It quickly became a familiar mode of expression, and now I find myself developing concepts and designs, but also micro-engineering to make a piece and I am passionate about it.
With jewelry, you can tell a story whilst using wonderful materials and mixing traditional techniques with innovative ones. All of this has to be comfortable enough to be worn on the body. I love to think that some of my pieces might become family heirlooms and be cherished for years.
I interned in a studio for a summer before studying in London at Central Saint Martins, where I was trained to design and make jewelry.
On your website, your motto is “if you’re a circle, don’t try to be a square.” You expressed this in your “Unconventional Femininity” collection by making jewelry that would make women stand out beyond the conventional pink, sparkly, heart-shaped jewelry. What inspired you to make women’s jewelry more diversified and unconventional?
The starting point for this was really [frustrating because of the] stereotypes about what is feminine or not. I [had] received a Christmas catalog from a well-established jewelry provider. There was a double page dedicated to women which was filled with kittens, sparkling crystals, pearls, hearts and pink tools. This was in 2016, and I didn’t know if I should be angry or just start laughing. Instead, I created “Unconventional femininity.” The aim was really to produce playful pieces to enable women to express their gender as they want and have fun with it.
I am always searching for a piece that stands out, something that can tell a story or two. I hope to connect with people through jewelry and enable their sense of individuality. That’s what inspires me, helping people express their identity beyond the rules of convention, but always with humor!
For anyone that reads your collection description of “Forest Spirits,” it is clear that you have a heart for nature. When did this love for nature begin for you, and how did it impact your decision to make this collection?
I have been fascinated by nature for as long as I can remember. I used to collect rocks and draw flowers and leaves as a kid, and for a brief moment I considered working with animals. Now being in nature really soothes me. I am still fascinated by it, and believe that nature is the best designer.
When I was working on “Forest spirits,” I was trying to find a way to remind people to look at the beauty in their everyday life. Even when things feel dark and ominous, beauty can be found in the surrounding nature, even in a simple leaf on the floor. That’s what I was trying to capture with the collection. I guess it is something that I do naturally, so I thought that other people will be able to relate to that. This can be easily forgotten, which is why it is useful to have a wearable reminder.
You express on your website that you want the wearer to feel protected when they wear your pieces. Can you describe how this idea of an amulet of protection, which pictures a forest spirit, first came to you?
I love the idea of jewelry as a magic and powerful object. I find it really interesting that people can feel “naked” if they are out without their favorite ring or pendant. That’s why I thought I could create a collection which will empower the wearer when they put it on.
The first one was spontaneous. I was in my studio where I tend to explore my designs with wax. With my forest spirit sketches and mood boards surrounding me, the Gastraton ring emerged. I wore it for a few weeks and realized I was feeling more confident with it. It’s like a friend for your fingers.
As most people know, when you head into an unconventional line of work there is fear that you won’t succeed. At what point, in your time as a jewelry designer, did you first feel a sense of accomplishment in your field?
That is very true! The very first time I felt it was when I exhibited in Las Vegas at JCK. A company called Switch decided to stock my jewelry and suddenly my name was in between Chanel and Dior on their website. It felt good to be displayed alongside established houses.
What do you consider is the most enjoyable part of handcrafting jewelry?
What I enjoy most is the time it takes to handcraft jewelry. There is a high level of understanding required to work with the material, and patience is a valuable resource. It is satisfying to hold a piece that you’ve designed and made with your own hands.
Even when the usual tight timelines appear, I get a sense of enjoyment in the meditative act of working the material. Experience begins to kick in, and you begin to understand the qualities of the metal. It is hard to describe, but it is something that only making things by hand can deliver.
What’s next for Coline Assade jewelry in regards to upcoming releases of new pieces, collaborations, or new collections?
I have been developing some new additions to the Forest spirits family. I wanted them to be more colorful and therefore incorporate more enamel work. A few have appeared on my Instagram.
In the meantime, I have been thinking about a new collection and am happy to say that I have finished the designs. [These are] exciting times for me because I decided to explore a new technique and will be collaborating with a digital sculptor. The pieces will be a mix of hand and digitally made because it is important for me to keep making by hand.
I will start making the first pieces in the coming weeks and continue to produce until launching the collection in the spring.
View Coline Assade online at www.colineassade.com.