One of the things I teach my Geography students about is the shift we are experiencing within the global economic system. This shift is one from industrialism to post-industrialism. It involves the rise in prominence of the tertiary and quaternery sectors of the economy and the embracing of flexible production systems. Creativity is a bankable asset these days. This is connected to the reemergence of an appreciation for artisanal products and the unique.
Without all the technical lingo this simply means that the market for jewellery (and other goods) has changed. More and more people are seeking items that reflect their personal tastes and are made specifically with them in mind. The big jewellery chain-stores cannot capture the imaginations of this market and this means that value is placed in the role of the small-scale jewellery designer. This is where designers like Mareli Els come in.
Mareli took a spontaneous leap and studied jewellery design at Stellenbosch University. She has since been a winner of the De Beers Shining Light Award more than once and has started her own design business in Grahamstown. Not bad for making a decision on a whim. I visited her in her studio to chat about her designs and philosophies. Mareli loves to experiment with design and technique. She freely admits that sometimes mistakes turn out better the original plan. It is for this exact reason that she keeps a record of the process used on each piece. She uses a lot of silver in her work and is trying to change the idea that gold and diamonds are the only way forward. That combination and the perpetuation of traditional ideas leaves little room for creativity and innovation. I had a look at some of the pieces in her studio. At the moment she is producing pieces that include enamel. One of the techniques she has created produces a lace-like pattern through the use of a skeleton leaf as a stencil. She is also producing pieces using a fold-forming technique. One of them is pictured in the image above. It has an organic shape like a shell or a seed pod and the silver is marbled through the use of an oxidizer. The outcome is both fragile and beautiful.
Mareli currently has her jewellery for sale at The Corner Shop in Bathurst. She also does custom pieces and offers customers the opportunity to be included in the design process. It just so happens that I have recently developed a love of silver jewellery and I rather like the enamel techniques Mareli uses. I may be paying her another visit soon. I advise you do the same.