Apis Atelier uses old-world jewellery techniques to create imperfect modern heirlooms made from bronze. Based in Cape Town, Nicola Hemmes is the driving force behind the brand, using her love of nature and adventure as her inspiration. Her wonderfully rustic designs have a timeless charm that is often hard to find in jewellery today. We caught up Nicola to learn more about her collection.
How did you start your brand?
“Photography and a love of adventure took me to Hawaii and other islands, sparking a desire to create something tangible from these beach memories. Back in South Africa, I took a silversmithing course and Apis was born after I won a scholarship to the 2015 Emerging Creatives programme at Cape Town Design Indaba.”
When did you first fall in love with jewellery?
“I remember playing with my mother’s jewellery box as a child and being mesmerised by her gold chains, charms and talismans, which were passed down to her from her mother and grandmother. That was the seed from where it all started to grow.”
What inspires your designs?
“Apis, meaning “bee” in Latin, takes its greatest influence from nature. Inspired by my travels, ancient mythology, symbolism and the ocean, mementos found are born as the bones for this tactile jewellery line. Imperfection is our charm, our talisman.”
Do you use any specific techniques to make your jewellery?
“Cast in ancient bronze using the lost-wax process, Apis is a celebration of old world techniques. Every piece is handmade, sometimes hammered into shape. These textural pieces return to an earthier sensibility that's tactile and visceral, engaging the body and soul.”
How do you ensure your jewellery is ethical and sustainable?
“Our goal is to create long-lasting, timeless pieces that are functional, don't end up in a landfill or discarded after one season. Solid bronze is durable, easy to clean without the surface wearing down, and can be worn and treasured for years to come.”
What celebrities would you love to see wearing your designs?
“I would love to see Kristen Stewart wearing my jewellery. I love her androgynous, chameleon style and how she’s hung onto her classic silver padlock chain necklace that has become a part of her. No matter what she wears, it works and it’s her story.”
How do you want someone to feel when they wear your jewellery?
“Powerful, brave, inspired. My aesthetic around jewellery is more like sculpture, not fashion. It’s something more classic that you collect, keep and hold on to: an object of beauty, of symbolism, of a story that you can pass on. A modern heirloom.”
If you could only wear one piece from your collection, what would it be?
“The Sea of Cloud Earrings. The hurricane-like shell studs with detachable Dune Shell are inspired by the Coriolis force that creates the spiralling wind pattern in a hurricane. Dress up or down, they are a force of nature and make me feel brave.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“My mother and grandmother always said, “Cheap is Expensive”. I’ve come to realise the truth in this gold nugget of wisdom and how much we throw away on fast fashion, when we should rather invest in timeless, modern heirlooms that can be passed on.”
What’s your favourite quote?
“It always seems impossible until it’s done” - Nelson Mandela