While the world might perceive jewellery as a decorative luxury, she approaches it as a method of self-expression. To her, each piece is not a mere just a replaceable accessory; but rather an extension of her own personality. Over the duration of 25 years, she has spent many nights analysing the connection between jewellery and the body – do gestures require specific designs or do they in fact inspire it.
Often seen moulding and reshaping materials to her own creative whims, she is a shaper of all things intriguing – someone who does not plan to limit her potential in order to appeal to commercial preferences or short-lived trends.
After studying jewellery and metalsmithing at the Royal College of Art, Naomi Filmer has embarked on a journey of designing, experimenting and tutoring. For over 20 years, she has found true joy and excitement in teaching ambitious talents between London and Europe. On the other hand, exhibitions have always been her method to creatively vent and delve into intricate subjects.
Much like an intense love story, before long, Filmer completely fell in love with jewellery design and all its secrets. She best describes her versatile projects as an exciting trail that has shaped her as a designer. Her most notable catwalk collaborations, include her work with Hussein Chalayan and Alexander McQueen, as well as working on fashion exhibitions for international fashion curators, such as Judith Clark.
On the other hand, Filmer spent a handful of years freelancing as a senior designer in Milan. Most recently, the jewellery aficionado took a plane towards Cairo, Egypt to meet he eager students of The Design Studio by Azza Fahmy. Her concise workshop did not only widen their horizons, but it has also introduced her to new hypotheses.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Filmer ahead of her workshop to discuss her unparalleled career, her teaching experience, and what she still plans to explore, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
What made you pursue a career in jewellery design?
I am interested in challenging conventional and traditional jewellery through creating pieces that explore the relationship between the body, objects, and materials. My career is in fact broader and vaguer than you might think, as I do not make jewellery and I do not describe myself as a jewellery designer.
I am a designer-maker, who creates pieces about the body rather than pieces to be worn on the body. I work and flirt with the world of jewellery and in doing so, I cross borders between design, craftsmanship, jewellery, contemporary accessories, and fashion.
What are you always keen to add to the international jewellery scene?
I hope that my work encourages new attitudes towards the role of jewellery, materials and our bodies. As my work is not part of a commercial scene, I do not aspire to offer trends or aesthetic direction. Instead, I aim to open up discussion channels regarding the role of jewellery beyond adornment and display.
After working with the likes of McQueen and Hussein Chalayan, which of your previous collaborations would you define as a favourite?
I do not have a favourite. Out of the catwalk collaborative projects, I would say each was unique and offered me different opportunities to pursue new ideas, which was quite rewarding for me. However, I suppose there are some pieces or objects that I connect to more in on the long-term, such as the ‘Orchid Neck Piece’ for Anne Valerie Hash 2008, the ‘Ball in the Small of my Back’ for McQueen 2001, and the ‘Mouth Light’ for Hussein Chalayan 1996.
However, as collaborative projects in themselves and in terms of my experience working with the designers, I do not have specific preferences.
I find it interesting how people think and communicate their own expressions and identities through creative practices, as well as how that can change from one culture to the next. The opportunity to come to the DSAF arose through Doris Maninger, one of the original founders of the Alchimia, Contemporary Jewellery School in Florence, who is very involved at the DSAF.
We met 18 months ago at the Royal Academy of Arts, Antwerp, where I teach the third year BA jewellery students. Doris regularly visits Antwerp as one of our external examiners and when we meet, I always enjoy our conversations and views on education, as well as the role of jewellery design as a social facilitator on various levels.
Doris asked if I would be interested to give a workshop at the DSAF. Later on a warm invitation from Yasmine Hamalawy followed. I am curious about the design studio in Cairo because it seems quite different from the schools where I currently teach.
What is the workshop’s main topic?
The workshop is based on hand gestures as a mode of self-expression and communication. We all use our hands as an integral tool for communication; yet, that changes from person to person, culture, era, and context. Today we even substitute hand gestures with emoticons in social media, offering universally understood expressions such as appreciation, faith, humour, jubilation, disappointment, etc.
I want to look into how one form of expression demonstrated by the hand can inform and evolve into a piece of jewellery. I want to make wearable gestures with the participants of the workshop.
Being my first time in Cairo, Egypt, I am both curious and excited to experience the city, the culture and the people. Travelling for work, I consider it a pleasure and a privilege, because you get to see a different side of the city through the generosity and perspective of those you work with— it is always a learning and enriching experience.
Also, this workshop and project is new for me, so I am happy to work on a theme that is close to me, as well as match some of my previous works. Yet, I have never worked on this as a theme in itself for a workshop.
What are your near-future plans?
In terms of work, I will continue to teach but I also have a couple of other projects in the pipeline. One of which is designing display installations for jewellery brands for a showroom or trade fair context. I am doing this as a collaborative project with a good friend, Alice Ciccolini, who is also a jewellery designer.
This interests me as an area because it allows me to focus on a space and a communication platform that lies between the jewellery and the body. It is an area that I believe deserves more attention and tackles much of my experience and knowledge to date, so watch this space!