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Here at Little Wed Hen we’ve noticed that current design trends seem to be moving away from the stark and the structured and towards techniques and materials that have their roots in nature. Delicate, rustic fabrics are all the rage, and edges and angles that are a little skew-whiff are winning out over their precision-cut brethren. Uncut gems are making a comeback, and hand-made paper and painstaking calligraphy are usurping their neat and tidy computer relatives. True, we don’t mind getting a little Tron or Metropolis every now and then, but there’s something to be said for design that allows for imperfections–and where those imperfections are what actually makes a piece such a delight. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the fact that we’re all longing for a world that’s a little softer, a little more natural? Whatever the impetus, California-based jeweller Christine Guibara knows all too well the allure of the natural and the organic, and with her stunning  portfolio of uniquely crafted fine jewellery, has been generating quite a buzz locally and online. We caught up with Christine to find out a little bit more about her creative process.

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Nature and nurture

Both of Christine’s parents have an artistic bent–her father sculpts, and her mother specialises in interior design–so it’s perhaps unsurprising that Christine takes such a creative approach to her work. Has coming from a family that emphasises creativity influenced the way in which she works? “I feel blessed to come from a family with so much creativity,” she says. “I have been given opportunities to create and think about art as a career path far more than most growing up, and have been able to see two parents do what they love and be successful at it.” Seeing her parents’ passion for their careers helped cement her own career plans, too. In fact, above her work bench is a quote by Confucius that says “Choose a job you love and you”ll never have to work a day in your live.” It’s an essential mantra for Christine. “I live by that every day,” she says. “I’m so thankful to have had that influence growing up.”

But it’s not just Christine’s parents who have guided her approach to her work. Christine takes inspiration from both the world around her, and from her not infrequent travels around the world. “To no one’s surprise, nature is my greatest inspiration. “I am humbled by what nature can design, and like to showcase this quality as much as possible,” she says. “Any work of art that takes billions of years to make is pretty spectacular!”

Christine also looks towards artists, scientist, and activists, whom she says “find that same magnificence and find their own unique way to acknowledge it.” Living abroad in Florence, Italy has also had a tremendous influence on her work, with the local one-man shops specialising in old world crafts in particular speaking to her as a jeweller. “With so much manufacturing, copying, and homogeneity in the world, it was wonderful to see that the personal touch still thrives.” It’s a personal touch that Christine strives for herself, and she prides herself on knowing the stories of her clients and of the pieces she creates for them.

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Connection and technique

Part of the way in which Christine creates an individual connection to each of her pieces is by selecting one-of-a-kind stones, and by her use of a technique known as water casting, where molten metals are placed into water, where they cool into new shapes. It’s an approach that results in very soft, organic pieces, and Christine loves the fact that this technique allows to create natural pieces that reflect the origins of her materials. “I have always designed around the idea of natural elegance.  Each piece of the earth, from the largest structure to microscopic, has incredible balance and aesthetic: the simple and the complex blend effortlessly together. Many artists, including myself, seek to emulate nature in their work, and I love that through watercasting I have found a way to capture it.”

“The process of fiery molten metal crashing into water is fantastic on its own, but to also create something so beautiful out of it is truly breathtaking. Watercasting creates something in an instant that is incredibly unique and beautifully formed, and I am constantly admiring each piece. Like snowflakes, the individual beauty of each and every watercasting keeps me so enthralled to do more.”

Christine points out that it’s almost as though she’s working in tandem with nature when she watercasts, as each piece takes on a shape of its own–a shape that is in some sense inherent–rather than being moulded into a particular appearance. “I value the natural forms in a way that is deeper than mere aesthetics,” she says. ” By preserving the organic style of metal and stones alike, I feel like there is an extra appreciation for what nature can create itself. Each watercast solidifies into an awe-inspiring form that would be almost impossible to make by hand.”

Watercasting not only has an aesthetic appeal to Christine, but an environmental one, too. “I am also really excited by the environmentally friendly side of it. With gold mining practices being very intrusive to the Earth, I am happy to have found away to mitigate my contribution to that. I use watercasting to not only renew my own studio scraps, but also watercast for many clients with their old pieces.”

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Material girl

Given that Christine’s emphasis is on the natural and the organic, we can’t help but wonder how she selects her materials. We know that she reuses her studio scraps or materials brought in by clients, but on what basis does she choose or discard other materials? “I hand pick each stone and watercast material with a very intense scrutiny, but also with a style that differs from most other jewellers,” she tells us. “While many jewellers are looking for perfectly round, non-included stones, I think inclusions and irregular shapes give stones character and life.  When I work with clients to pick stones, I encourage them to feel confident in choosing something they love regardless of perceived value. Many will choose a stone that happens to be less expensive but they love far more aesthetically.”

Christine works with a variety of different materials, including precious metals such as silver, gold, and platinum, and a range of precious or semi-precious stones. “I like to work with recycled or remelted metals, and I avoid heavily treated or synthetic stones,” she says. “I love to work with clients to redesign existing pieces, which recycles both metal and stones into something fresh.”

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A work in progress

We’re intrigued by Christine’s process, and are curious about the type of work she does for her clients. “I do many commission pieces in a variety of styles and price ranges,” she tells us. “I’ve made pieces that are a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.” While some commissions involve new pieces, many are reworkings of existing pieces. “Many people have come to me to redesign some of their jewellery, which I love for the creativity and recyclability of the work. Some clients ask for specific watercast pieces, some have a vision, and some like me to take the reins when it comes to designing. I enjoy having a little bit of everything to gain inspiration from.”

And one of the things that Christine takes a surprising amount of inspiration from is the relationships between her clients, their jewellery, and their loved ones. “One of my favourite parts about being a jeweller is being able to see into relationships in a special way.  I love when a boyfriend steals his girlfriend’s ring for a day so I can measure her ring size, or when I can do a reconnaissance mission into her jewellery box just to give me a glimpse of her style. That effort always shows in the relationship, and I love that I can be a part of that in some small way.”

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The life and times of Pi

Christine also gives us a line about love that has to be one of the best we’ve heard recently: “Love is like pi – natural, irrational, and very important.”

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Contact Christine

If you love Christine’s work as much as we do, you can get in touch with her via ChristineGuibara.com, her Facebook page, or her Etsy shop. Don’t forget to say that we sent you!

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