Representing the creative future

New Waves: Birgit Frietman

Birgit was born in the Netherlands, but always maintained a strong connection to East Africa via her parents. “When looking for an art and design school, I found it really important that it would be based in a very multicultural city,” she tells us. London seemed like a viable option, and after a short course at Central Saint Martins, Birgit knew she was in the right place.

Birgit’s jewellery pieces appear as big wooden structures, almost like actual garments or protective armour; not your average jewel-set of rings and necklaces. They are still precious, however, raised above the conventions of everyday clothing: “What I find most important about jewellery, is that it can be defined as unnecessary,” she says, seemingly cryptically. “Unlike clothing, a person doesn’t need to wear a necklace or a bracelet. Therefore, the wearer makes an absolute conscious decision when s/he puts on a certain piece. The irrelevancy can expose the personal and intimate.” Combine this with an unconventional freedom in use of material, and jewellery seems to be one of the most open forms of practice – its expanded field of conceptual investigation along with an attention to materiality and the wearer. “There’s just one main importance,” she adds; “that there is always a close connection between the body and the piece.” For Birgit, everyday wearability is a not a concern, as long as there is some form of interaction with the wearer. Primarily, she uses her jewellery practice to explore uncommon materials within jewellery.


Birgit began integrating and dedicating her final collection to wood while researching the presentation of nature in minimal art. The simplicity of the artworks made her research into essentialism: “I found it interesting to see how a subject can be reduced to its essence and still keep all its strength and impact.” Her pieces investigate the sartorial possibility of wood, specifically European Walnut, a type of wood that is “really nice to manipulate by hand.  The structures are reduced to its strengthened core, organic but designed, featuring both straight and curved lines. “To make sure that the collection would still feel balanced and harmonious, I decided to steam-bend the pieces to follow the main shapes of the female body.”


While her degree collection sensually follows the body of the wearer, the piece she did for her course’s annual Swarovski project took the shape of Arab interior panels – masking or protecting the wearer, while the wood continuously suggests power. “I wanted to create a piece that captured both that strength and vulnerability,” she says. “The grid [on the panels] is actually a pattern created following the shape of the Swarovski crystal.” Her piece ensured her a finalist spot for the Swarovski prize; getting support from an international corporation. “It was so lovely. I think the jewellery design course in general is very lucky with all their live projects, but for me this was one of my favorites. So I was extremely glad when it got announced.”

Despite the corporate approval, Birgit sees herself in much smaller sized studios, learning from artists and designers who work in specific artisanal fields. She is currently working on several projects, collaborating with Dutch graduates. “I want to further explore how materials can be altered in an art and design perspective, but I also want to learn more about the border between fashion and jewellery,” she concludes.