Exclusive contemporary jewellery with a cutting edge is synonymous with Copenhagen-based designer Josephine Bergsøe. For her, designing jewellery has always been her calling in life. After completing her apprenticeship in 1989 she opened her shop just one week after and never looked back. Her jewellery has been displayed in art galleries and museums across the world, including Denmark, Berlin, Beijing, Stockholm and New York.
She has even been commissioned to make jewellery for the Royal family of Denmark and her international clients include the Meryl Streep and Halle Berry. And we can see why. Her beautiful designs are laden with gemstones and have adistinctlyt organic and wearable quality to them. We chat with Josephine about growing up sailing the Nordic ocean, never competing with nature, and why, for her, having the ability to create is true freedom.
When did you fall in love with jewellery?
“At the age of 3, my grandfather showed me a photograph of a beautiful Maasai woman. She had a shaved head and was wrapped in red beads. And I just knew: either I had to become her, or I had to pay tribute to such beauty. And of course, the latter was the easiest.”
What drove you to create your own line of jewellery?
“To me there were no alternatives. I opened my shop the week after my apprenticeship ended in September 1989 and I've worked ever since.”
"I loved the freedom at sea, and I loved catching the oceans treasures, and transforming them into something wearable."
How has your childhood influenced you as a designer?
“I grew up in many different socialist communities. We didn’t have a lot of money, but every summer we sailed on the Nordic oceans on my father’s homebuilt catamaran. I loved the freedom at sea, and I loved catching the treasures of the ocean and transforming them into something wearable. At night on a deserted island in Norway I would sit with the days catch, and put seashells and pebbles on strings. And I was taught an important lesson: never compete with nature. I could add, and transform, and even make small abstractions. But nature itself is complete, and to try to make something look naturalistic never worked for me.”
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
“I do my best work at the bench. Everything starts up with an idea, but being zen and just letting it flow is magic. I’m never short of ideas, inspirations come from all over, from man-made creations to music and nature's wonders. To me the challenge is to select and use our limited time best.”
"Having the tools within yourself and being able to create whatever you dream of, is to me, true freedom."
How did you get into the jewellery industry?
“Since the age of 10, I was lucky enough to attend a private school, where I was taught about art, and I could work with sculpture, painting, jewellery etc. At the age of 18, I had creative skills but no handcrafting skills at all. Then I met the finest jeweller, who let me serve an apprenticeship at his workshop. It was four years and to him I owe everything. Being a craftsman makes my work so much more satisfying. Having the tools within yourself and being able to create whatever you dream of, is to me, true freedom.”
How do you ensure your jewellery is ethical?
“I’m very concerned about my use of materials. I work with signals and hidden meanings, and I don’t want them to be blurred by bad influence from exploitation, pollution and abused people. All my gold and silver is recycled, all my jewellery is made by hand in my workshop in Copenhagen, and I know most of my gem-suppliers. Ten years ago, I initiated Fairtrade Jewellers to bring some knowledge about our possibilities to both consumers and makers.”
"If you cannot feel it, don’t do it. And if you have any doubts, it is not good enough."
Values are hugely important to us at JewelStreet. What are your core values?
“I see my jewellery as small story-telling sculptures. All things you adorn yourself with tell a story. It’s a huge privilege to be allowed to transform people’s highlights, sadness, love, victories into small wearable objects. Always be honest to whatever impulse you get and never ever try to make something look like something it’s not. If you cannot feel it, don’t do it. And if you have any doubts, it is not good enough.”
"I’m very proud of all my clients, they are the reason I can live a life meaningful to me."
Do you have any clients you are particularly proud of?
“I’m very proud of all my clients, they are the reason I can live a life meaningful to me. But of course, my significant clients such as Meryl Streep, Halle Berry, Jeremy Irons, and especially Susanne Bier, have a high impact and blesses my work-life.”
What is the most meaningful piece of jewellery you have ever received as a gift?
“When my children were small, I left them for a period to cross the Atlantic Ocean with my brother. My eight-year-old gave me a necklace with her finest plastic beads, her sibling’s drilled teeth, our dog’s brass tag (with our address and phone number), and my wedding ring (which I'd taken off, due to the work on the boat). That was the essence of a meaningful piece of jewellery for me.”
How do you want someone to feel when they wear your jewellery?
“I hope they feel that the jewellery expresses something important about them. That it is both personal and expressive. I hope they feel like I do when I make it: curious, understood, provoked and beautiful!”
What drives you to continue creating jewellery?
“This is a journey, and I enjoy every step. To make jewellery is for me like meditation and exploration. My aim is to continue on this path.”
Bergsoe jewellery is available to shop on Jewelstreet here.