October 2021

Lap Of Luxury

Elke KramerElke KramerElke KramerElke KramerElke KramerText: Tristan Ceddia Images: Christopher Morris

Elke Kramer is somewhat a poster woman for young designers in Australia. Since 2004 she’s produced an aspirational line in her name that has reinvented the look of and feel of new jewellery in Australia. With a strong aesthetic flowing from her personal style, Elke’s latest range Shake Of Ophelia sees new shapes, coloured resins and tassels that give off a feeling of bohemian decadence like only she could. Tristan Ceddia talks to the lady herself while she’s in the midst of launching her latest collection.

Tristan Ceddia: Where does your story start as a jewellery designer?

Elke Kramer: It’s not a very exciting one really. I was asked by a friend of mine who had her own label at the time to design a collection to accompany her range. Stores saw the range and wanted to place orders, so suddenly and unexpectedly I had started a small business and had to produce the range locally and fill the orders….

TC: The tale complementing your latest collection Shake Of Ophelia tells the story of a ‘young, beautiful and eccentric girl, born into a life of luxury and privilege at the turn of the 19th century’. Did you begin this collection with this girl in mind or did her story become apparent during the design process?

EK: The story definitely developed during the design process. The specifics of the character became stronger over time, and creating a character was definitely a way for me to start visualising the whole look of the collection. I don’t ever have the over all concept exactly in my mind when I begin designing, it definitely develops, and I find by the time I get the samples back I am able to put the story or concept into clear words.

TC: Do you create a story to go with each collection?

EK: There is always some kind of story that needs to be explained , mostly for press purposes. It’s not always character driven though. I think this is the first time I have really based a collection around a certain kind of woman. I feel I have to have some sort of story or context around the work though, It helps people to form an understanding of the ideas behind the collection.

TC: While distinctly yours, to me this range is a step away from the shapes of your last few collections. Do you find yourself moving in the similar tangents for a few seasons before reinvention?

EK: Definitely. I was ready for something new and I think my customers were feeling this too.
I didn’t sit down and plan a reinvention, thats for sure, but I was feeling personally bored with the shapes of past collections, so when I began designing, I was looking to work with shapes and styles that I hadn’t worked with before.

In terms of moving in similar tangents, I find that each winter collection it is a often a progression of the previous summer collection, which only feels natural to do. It is tricky and expensive to develop new moulds every season, so it is cost and time effective to give old styles new life by working with new colours and finishes for winter collections.

TC: If one collection you have birthed could define you as a designer which would it be?

EK: I think personally it would be my first one Exaltation of Skylarks, not because it was literally the birth of my jewellery label, but it felt like it was the beginning of creating the graphic forms which I still design with today. perhaps others would think it was my Tromp’e l’oeil collection that defines me, it was the biggest and most elaborate of my collections to date.

TC: You push your the materials you work with for each new collection you design. In a previous collection Look Twice you had resin objects with small pieces of copper cast in them. Do you spend a lot if time experimenting with materials?

EK: I wish I spent a lot more time on it, but I have to be honest it is hard to constantly source new materials and have my makers feel confident working with them before releasing them as samples. New materials need to be played with and explored before I feel confident they will not break and cause problems with production.

There are always styles that I design that don’t make it into a collection because there hasn’t been enough time to develop them, which is sad, but we try to keep working on them and add them in to a later collections.

TC: What’s draws you to resin? You seem to be constantly finding new uses for this material…

EK: I was initially drawn to the way resin can replicate other materials. With resin I can achieve the types of finishes and textures that I ideally want to use for my jewellery.

When I first started working with my makers,we worked together on experimenting with resin finishes, they had never used resin before, so it was a new and exciting development for them, and they have become so good at working with it that I have very few limitations with designing with resin now. I could safely say my jewellery label would not be the same without it.

TC: What is the most treasured piece of jewellery that you own?

EK: A ring from my grandmother – sounds very cliched, but it holds the most meaning for me of any piece I own.

TC: You have begun to complemented your collections with bags, scarves and other adornments. Do you have plans to create more items in this vein?

EK: I would love to keep branching out and creating other accessories to include with my jewellery. it does become hard to get the support from stores when you try and branch out into making other accessories though, as people end up buying from you for specific reasons. So its more a love job making other items to include as you never really get the sales support. But that’s ok, I think it also helps to enhance the story of each collection, it also allows me to broaden my designing, which keeps me inspired and interested in the process.

TC: Your brother runs infamous Los Angeles bookstore Family. Does creativity run deep in your family?

EK: My parents have always been very encouraging and supportive of what we wanted to do. My family all do different things, David who runs Family is literary and musically focused, while my other brother Benji is academic, studying to be a lawyer. I have inherited some of my mothers creativity, so I guess it runs in the genes to some level, she is a very talented painter and has the most amazing eye for colour.

TC: What can one expect to see next from Elke Kramer?

EK: Hmm, I’m moving into a new studio as we speak, so hopefully you’ll see a reflection of a happier and more organised me in my collections… (laughs).

Elke Kramer

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