The Jewellery Design|Silversmithing department of St Lucas School of Arts Antwerp approaches jewellery from the perspective of the relationship between the individual and the object. Jewels are not only worn for their decorative qualities, but also express how people give shape to their lives. A jewel can function as a social signifier, as an expression of human vanity, as a repository of personal memories, or as an artistic means for the maker.

The department pays close attention to jewellery’s underlying purposes and explores their characteristics. By explicitly relating the discipline to social sciences like sociology, theology, material anthropology, or “design cultures,” students learn how to establish connections between jewellery and current trends in science, economics, culture, and society.

A complex and fast-changing world needs people who can handle creative processes. To be able to meet this complexity, it is necessary to be independent, to formulate your own positions, and to remain true to yourself. The department is well aware of this reality, and that is why it focuses heavily on the development of the students’ identity.

We not only impart an attitude of responsibility and an investigative mindset to students, but we also teach them to trust their instincts. The department believes it is important to stimulate concentration and creativity by means of physical exercises. Movement sharpens the individual’s attention and awareness, and as a result, new, unexpected images can almost literally be “experienced.” Both the force of intuition and the conscious mobilization of our bodily energy make it possible to open up other, deeper layers of the imagination. The introduction of body and meditation exercises is not only new for the department, but is also exceptional within visual arts education.

For students to be able to respond appropriately to the issues of our times, the department will confront them with the various facets of the discipline in its entirety. The curriculum is intentionally thematic: A team of permanent lecturers determines the content and organization of the curriculum. Several guest lecturers are also involved in each project, whether practitioners or theorists. Through discussion and dialogue, these lecturers stimulate the students’ learning process; they teach them how to connect theory and practice, whereby students literally acquire the theory “in their fingers.”

Each project starts out from a specific context. That can be a target group or a social phenomenon, a collaboration with companies or interaction with other disciplines, or it can proceed from the functional or inherent aspects of jewels.

Acquiring new techniques and handling different materials are also part of a project. Technique and material are indissolubly linked to image and content. Making becomes thinking. In this way, students also explore technical aspects from the perspective of content, and learn in a short time how to generate ideas and how to realize them.

Students carefully document important stages in the work process by making use of various media such as photography and film. The presentation and documentation of works are developed at length in the conclusion of the project.

Thanks to this thematic methodology, students very naturally link their own design process to different work methods and research strategies. It ultimately involves a “total experience” composed of both reflection and intuition. The training imparts different frameworks, but the student is free to choose. An academic training implies that students find their own criteria and can work independently. This helps develop an open attitude thanks to which graduates can work with others and find their own way in the world.

“Speaking Jewellery” is the latest research project of the Jewellery Design department of St Lucas Antwerp. Students, lecturers, and researchers here explore the communicative qualities of the contemporary jewel. The “power of speech” of a jewel lies hidden in and among all the references that it carries with it. These references make the jewel readable and ensure that it attracts people, from a statement on the catwalk to an atmospheric attribute in a film, from a royal symbol to a magic grave relic.

In contemporary jewellery, references to material, form, wearability, function, value, price, rarity, etc. are often overlooked or barely mobilized by the designers themselves. And yet, thanks to jewellery’s long history, these references are familiar to a broad audience. Contemporary social references such as sustainability and ecology are not at all or hardly communicated in a visible fashion in jewellery or its display. The denial, neglect, or omission of these references seems to the researchers to be one of the reasons why contemporary jewellery today is seen as hermetic.

The research project Speaking Jewellery therefore analyses the “language” of jewellery and the references that it has carried with it since time immemorial, and updates them by means of artistic projects. We look at which elements we as researchers can once more deploy to let the jewellery tell a story about itself and its genesis, its manufacturing process, and its meaning. How can we let the jewel “speak” again? In each artistic project, the research team turns the spotlight on an archetype from the history of jewellery.

The research team consists of Liesbet Bussche, Hilde De Decker, Hilde Van der Heyden, and Pia Clauwaert. More information:

Lecturers: Hilde De Decker (jewellery design) | Hilde Van der Heyden (jewellery design) | Max Gielis (technical assistant) | Lex Pott (product design) | Liesbet Bussche (researcher) | Liesbeth den Besten (history of jewellery)

Laura Braspenning, head of the jewellery department
Laura Braspenning (1980) has been active since 2002 as an independent designer. Her design and research practice is characterized by design interventions that can define and confirm social cohesion and the identity of specific target groups. Besides the realization of designs, in her research she also focuses specifically on the development of new methodology to document and share (design) knowledge. Over the years she has developed several social design projects, jewellery and products wherein rituals, history, and everyday life are always important.

In 2004 she completed her master’s at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. Afterward, she worked as a freelance designer. In 2008 she moved from the Netherlands to Antwerp, Belgium, and in 2009 she completed a master’s degree in cultural management at the University of Antwerp. Since then, Braspenning has worked as a designer and (design) researcher on several design projects in Belgium and the Netherlands. In 2011 she started as a lecturer in design research and as a researcher at the research group Social Spaces at the MAD faculty in Genk (now LUCA School of Arts). Since September 1, 2016 she has been the new head of the Jewellery Design|Silversmithing department of St Lucas School of Arts, Antwerp.

Max Gielis, techniques
Max Gielis works as an Antwerp-based designer and silversmith. After graduation from the St Lucas School of Arts in 1999, he developed a practice as a freelance maker for various companies and restored antiques, besides showing his own jewellery and silverwork in museums and galleries internationally. For some years, this has happened in combination with teaching commitments at St Lucas School of Arts and RHoK Brussels.

In his work, the passing of time and the residue of action have been ongoing preoccupations throughout the years, worked in a range of media ranging from body adornments to furniture objects. Especially in the silver works, there is also a prospection of how people are affected in their mutual relationships by their objects.

Liesbeth den Besten, history of jewellery
Liesbeth den Besten is a Dutch art historian based in Amstelveen. She studied art history and archaeology at the University of Amsterdam (1985). Since then, she has worked independently as a writer for newspapers and (Internet) magazines, a teacher (Rietveld Academie, Technical University Eindhoven, Reinwardt Academy), an advisor, and a lecturer. She has curated exhibitions for different museums and other venues in the Netherlands and abroad, such as Ontketend! Jewellery Unleashed (Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, Museum Bellerive Zürich, 2011–2012). She is a member of the board and publication committee of Art Jewelry Forum. She is the former chairwoman of the Françoise van den Bosch Foundation (2000–2016), after being a member of the board of the foundation from 1992 to 2000. She is the author of On Jewellery: A Compendium of International Contemporary Art Jewellery (Arnoldsche 2011, reprinted in 2012), and continues contributing to many publications. She was a member of Think Tank, a European Initiative for the Applied Arts (2004–2013).

“The role of jewellery is to connect with the body and the person wearing it, and to act as a signifier. This has been so since time immemorial. A piece of jewellery is not supplemental, on the contrary: in jewellery we see how object and subject coincide.”

Lex Pott, product designer, teacher in the Elements Project
Lex Pott (1985) employs a raw and intuitive method. In his work, he returns to the origin of the materials he uses most: wood, stone, and metal. He does not hide his designs under indirect layers, but reduces them to their very essence. He graduated cum laude in 2009 from the Design Academy Eindhoven.

Visiting Lecturers
Esther Knobel (Israel) | Evert Nijland (Netherlands) | Yuka Oyama (Japan) | Christoph Zellweger (Switzerland) | Gijs Assmann (Netherlands) | Erik Mattijssen (Netherlands) | Sayaka Yamamoto (Japan) | Boaz Cohen (Israel) | Boy Vereecken (Belgium) | Vera Siemund (Germany) | Dinie Besems (Netherlands) | Guy Cuypers (Belgium) | Ruudt Peters (Netherlands) | Pieter Boons (Belgium) | Tatjana Quax (Netherlands) | Helen Carnac (UK) | David Clarke (UK) | Theo Smeets (Netherlands) | Barbara Visser (Netherlands) | Gemma Draper (Spain) | Lin Cheung (UK) | Annick Schramme (Belgium) | Benjamin Lignel (France) | Ola Lanko (Ukraine, Netherlands) | Liesbet Bussche (Belgium) | Margit Didelez (Belgium) | Naomi Filmer (UK) | Beatrice Brovia & Nicolas Cheng (Sweden)

Management: Laura Braspenning


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The Jewellery Design|Silversmithing department of St Lucas University College of
The Jewellery Design|Silversmithing department of St Lucas University College of Art & Design Antwerp, photo : Johan Luyckx / Roger Laute
The Jewellery Design|Silversmithing department of St Lucas University College of