The innovative designer behind FESWA is changing the way we think about jewellery, creating sculptural pieces that have no need of a body to make an impact.
If you’ve always considered jewellery to be discreet and refined artefacts for the human silhouette, the jeweller Felicia Swartling’s creations will make you think again. FESWA, the name of her brand, is all about recreating and reconstructing when it comes to how we wear and view jewellery.
Following a jewellery design degree from Central Saint Martins in London, the young jewellery designer set out to “open up, question and provoke people’s conventional preconceptions about what jewellery stands for”. Looking at her creations, we must admit she’s doing a pretty good job of fulfilling her ambitions.
The sculptural pieces that she creates have a stronger resemblance to art than traditional body ornaments. The rings have a prehistoric and uneven character, the oxidized gold chains have a primal aura and the rustic pendants look more like they belong in a museum than on a night out. Then again, that is what Swartling is consciously trying to do with her creations. She wants us to view our jewellery as independent pieces that can stand on their own without a human body attached to it.
According to Swartling, she is constantly trying to enforce a dual aspect on her pieces, she wants each of them to have the transformative power to live on its own and be self-reliant with its beauty. The human body attached to the pieces is flattering – but not necessarily mandatory. This is not the type of jewellery you take off in the evening and hide away in your jewellery box. They are rings and bracelets that demand their own podium, audience and admiration.
We reached out to the woman behind FESWA to try to figure out what life is like for a jewellery designer, what if feels like to embrace traditional craftsmanship with an innovative mind – and how cool it actually is to play with a torch.
Tell us about how your journey as a jewellery maker began. Did you always know you wanted to become a jewellery designer?
“I didn’t know until I knew, if that makes sense. It started out as a flirt that I couldn’t resist and an urge to find out more. And the more I knew, the more I needed to learn, see and explore to nurture my curiosity. I picked up the torch for the first time seven years ago and, since then, my obsession, love and hunger for jewellery and its craftsmanship has grown beyond anything I’ve ever felt before, to the point were jewellery has become more to me than something that you just wear. It has become a part of me, almost like a language through which I can express myself.”
What’s the fuel behind your creative processes?
“I don’t think I ever stop processing – that’s my fuel. Everything is a continuous everlasting research and a creative process. You know when you see something and get that tingly feeling in your stomach – that is how I feel when I find something that sort of depicts it all. So I get addicted. “I don’t depend on or follow trends, I rather see my collections as a continuous exploration where pieces will be updated, developed and transformed into new shapes and silhouettes. I want my jewellery and pieces to be timeless. It’s more about generating alluring and eternal objects, where timelessness and conventional elements are combined with futurism to emphasise, provoke and deconstruct classic jewellery for an ageless clientele.”
What are your favourite methods and material to work with?
“The torch is my favourite tool. Melting, sand or cuttlefish casting, playing around with gold and silver and soldering – there isn’t really anything that beats it. It’s the thrill. You spend hours and hours sawing, filing, preparing and carefully putting together a piece, to then ensemble it all with a few solder joints, knowing that if I use my skills right, it will either be perfect or end up in the molten pile and I’ll have to start again from the beginning.
“I spend a lot of thought and consideration behin my use of materials – the quality, origin and production. It’s important to be aware of the powerful, intimate and immediate communication through the language of materials. Finding the right material becomes crucial to capturing and translating what I’m trying to convey in the most genuine way. As a jewellery designer, you’re in a way much closer to the audience than a painter, for example.
“The choice of different and contrasting materials and textures allows you to access and communicate with the audience in a way most artists can’t. I work with a large range of contrasting materials and textures in my pieces, such as oxidized silver and gold in organic and raw textures, freshwater pearls, furs and smoky quartz.”
What does the start of your creative progress usually look like?
“Sketches have never really been my thing – they’re too flat and I can’t fully visualise how the piece will sit, stand and function or feel on the body. My childish drawings do in some ways give me an idea of a starting point, but I tend to, as soon as possible, test out my new ideas, shapes and designs in either wax, air-dried clay or directly in silver. “My pieces are very sculptural and I want them to work, satisfy and allure as much as when they are adorning the body as when they are not worn. I want them to become autonomous objects of pure contemplation and admiration, like a sculpture.”
If you could describe your creative process with three words, what would they be?
“Thoughtful, messy and delicate.”
What are your next projects? Have you got anything exciting lined up?
“I will be releasing a limited-edition necklace series. It’s my own take on the classic faith, hope and love charms. Though instead of using the traditional symbols, which are a heart, cross and an anchor, I will deconstruct it with my own archetypes. They will soon be launched exclusively at JUS in Stockholm.”
Words by Camila-Catalina Fernandez
Photography by Felicia Swartling
Portrait by Seena Shamardi