Meet the Designer behind Van Cappellen Jewelry

Words: Crush

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Liesbet van Cappellen is the creator of the Van Cappellen Jewelry brand and is forging her own way in the local design scene. Liesbet studied at the CPUT and Ruth Prowse School of Art before deciding to open her own workshop. She works with a variety of materials to create her range such as silver, gold, brass, copper, woods, plastics and all kinds of gemstones, and she designs for both men and women. You can find her stunning pieces at the Watershed Market at the Waterfront, as well as MeMeMe at 117A Long Street. You can also browse her website and order directly online. We chat to Liesbet to find out what inspires her design and pushes her to perfect her craft…

So Liesbet, we know that your Love Letters range is all about story-telling and wearable history. Tell us, what jewellry means to you?

To me jewellery tells a story, a life story, or a family story that has been passed down for generations. It is something that grows with you and your family. Jewellery can also give you comfort and take you back to a memory from when you were a child. For example, I’ll never forget that my mom always wore an oval ivory ring when I was a child. Jewellery that has been passed down from generation to generation is something so special, and has so much meaning to the whole family. I just hope that one day my jewellery will be part of someone’s family story.
Liesbet-Van-Cappellen-1000x2 Liesbet-Van-Cappellen
We spotted Karen Zoid sporting one of your ring necklaces in her new music video with François van Coke… how does it feel when you see a stranger walking around with something you created?

It is super special! It almost feels like seeing a long lost friend, and what makes it even more special, is when that person wears the piece all the time.

I have just come back from Kamers vol Geskenke in Johannesburg; I have been showing at Kamers events around the country for the past 3 years. A lot of the same people come to visit these shows and often people come up to me wearing a piece they purchased previously. It is such an overwhelming feeling to see the joy they still have in the piece when they show it off, and especially when they tell me that they wear it everyday. When I hear and see that, I have a little voice in my head that whispers, “ Mission accomplished!”

What does it mean to be a stylish woman in today’s South Africa?

The design world in South Africa is so vibrant and alive; it is extremely exciting to be a part of it. There are still so many opportunities and aspects to the design world that need to be discovered and that still need to grow. To be a small part of it, and its development, is basically like living the dream.
What kind of woman/man do you have in mind when you design?

This is always a little difficult to answer as I feel like I design for everybody. In the beginning, I always thought I designed jewellery for the younger generation, girls between 15 and 35. I thought my jewellery would be given as a gift, or bought as a little treat for oneself. But when I started doing big trade shows, I noticed that my jewellery spoke to so many people, across many generations. Even men showed an interest and asked me to create a men’s range. That resulted in me launching a whole new men’s range this year. My business actually grew around these people; they are the inspiration behind it. Every single piece in my collection is customisable, and that makes it really fun. I can work on designs with my clients, which makes them unique. I just love giving my pieces a personal touch – it breathes life into them.

As someone who lives and breathes design on a daily basis – where do you look to stay inspired and curious about the world around you?

So many things around me inspire me. People are my biggest source of inspiration. Often it’s a story that I hear, or advice that someone gives me, that sparks that light bulb. I find inspiration in small things, like going to the park with my dog, or having a gin and tonic with my friends. These day-to-day activities really get the juices flowing! I am also very lucky to have very creative friends around me – if I ever feel stuck with a certain design I spend some time with them and something always pops into my head.
Take us through ‘just another day at the office’…

Just another day at the office… that would be Feier and myself, at the workshop. I met Feier at Ruth Prowse, where we both studied. We immediately became good friends, and now we share a workshop. She is extremely funny and when we are at the workshop together, we sing, dance and laugh the whole day! I sometimes have to step out of the workshop to go to visit the girls at the shop I opened in the Watershed at the Waterfront. The shops there are owned by some of the best designers in Cape Town and it is overwhelming to see it all come together and work so well. My staff are also always vibrant and happy. I am very fortunate to work with my team; they always put a spring in my step and inspire me.

Tell us about the most influential person in your life?

That would have to be two people – my mom and dad. They both have an amazing sense of design. I love talking to them about my everyday challenges. They always have something to say, good or bad. And following their advice has never let me down.

Does your Belgian/Flemish background influence your designs and provide inspiration?

I am not sure whether it is my Belgian background that influences me, or that I have been fortunate to have travelled as much as I have. I think the fact that I have seen as much as I have, and experienced so many different cultures, has really shaped my sense of design.

I lived in America for a year and ‘Love Letters’ grew out of that. Again, it was the small things that I felt when I was there that inspired the range. I really missed the personal touch of family and friends. We had so much contact through Facebook, Skype and emails, but I always felt a little distanced. I thought of old romantic movies where, in the old days, people relied on hand written letters. You would have to wait next to the post box for days or weeks until he wrote back. I always thought that the feeling of receiving something as personal as a hand written letter after an excruciating wait, must be the most wonderful feeling in the world. So hence, the love letter range came about.
What was the first piece that you ever made? How has your design aesthetic changed over the years?

The very first piece that I ever made was a silver ring with a striped pattern that looked like a bar code – my sister still has it, I think! The second one, was a silver ring that I made for Mother’s Day, with an orange resin heart. My style used to be very colourful and playful. My designs always included some kind of rubber, resin or plastic. I was, and still actually am, very drawn to realism. My thesis project at Ruth Prowse was about the 60s. I made flowers and peace signs – Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles inspired all of my pieces. I even made a piece that represented the landing on the moon! It was great fun to be a ‘hippie’ for a year! Nowadays I think my jewellery is realistic, but has been toned down a bit in the sense of colours and playfulness. I do sometimes miss it though, and then I will design a piece that takes me back to that time…

What is next for you?

Next up is Europe – I am going to Belgium to find some outlets. I launched my brand new website and online store as well. I’m looking forward to seeing how my work is received in international markets. Also, I will be launching a children’s range – so, busy times ahead, but all very exciting!

And now, a little more light-hearted – some quick-fire questions. Answer the first thing that pops into your head.

Best advice ever received? ‘Make mistakes’.
Favourite movie moment? “Did you say… Billy… I love you…?” from 2 Weeks Notice. Hugh Grant asks Sandra Bullock if she loves her boyfriend… not the best movie, but a line that
has my sister and I rolling on the floor laughing every time!
One thing you can’t live without? A hammer, my favourite tool.
Doing the cooking or doing the dishes? Cooking!
What’s your signature dish? Lasagne.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be? Salmon… anything with salmon! | FacebookTwitter | Instagram

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