A exciting new collaboration between artist Nina Torr and designer Tharien Strydom has marked the start of something quite special. We’re talking about LOMA Studio: a new-age jewellery design outfit using playful shapes to create statement pieces. The merging of these two talented creatives has resulted in a range that’s unique and unlike anything we’ve seen before – unisex, wearable pieces of art that would elevate even the most simple of outfits. Here we find out more about this dynamic collab.
Firstly, how did you two meet?
Nina: We met at the co-working studio Moederskip in the heart of Pretoria a few years ago (2011). Tharien was overseeing a gallery/store where I had some artworks up.
What brought about your collaboration?
Tharien: To give some background as to what we usually do – I run the laser-cutting studio Swagger Collective and Nina is an illustrator. I approached Nina about a possible collaboration about a year ago, but we had no idea what form it would take. At first we thought it might be decor-related, but after chatting a bit we decided to try out jewellery. We were both a bit tired of jewellery that is very obviously laser-cut, but at the same time it’s such an incredible resource, so we set about trying to make use of the machine as a tool, rather than a style – in a way, trying to disguise the laser-cut quality a bit.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Tharien: We began by creating a secret Pinterest board for reference material and eventually started drawing up and testing out our own ideas. Nina likes to look at reference material outside of the field she’s working in, so she looked at a lot of Calder and Miró for forms and ideas. In the beginning we also tried some designs that looked a lot like Nina’s illustrations, but we eventually realised that the collaboration was becoming a thing in itself, so the designs evolved into a slightly more naïve and bold style, which we think reads better for jewellery.
Can you talk our readers through your process?
Nina: At first we thought we could simply design something and then make it, but after getting stuck and not making anything for weeks, we decided to just have a craft night. We each bought some trimmings and tassels and just had dinner and wine and tinkered. Because Tharien has a laser-cutter, we could then easily try out shapes on offcuts and immediately incorporate it into our tinkering. Seeing what the other made then sparked new ideas and responding to scraps and materials lying around would then spark other ideas. Then we would wear our new pieces to work the next day!
We love that you design pieces for both men and women, and it’s also great to see a lack of gender constraints. Is the intention that all your products be worn by anyone?
Nina: Very much so. One of the things that has been very fun is making jewellery for the band Academie. Jean-Louise always wears these epic neckpieces on stage and we saw Alex wear a small Adriaan Kuiters brooch, which we found quite striking. We started wondering what other jewellery would be suitable for men, so we looked at military attire as a starting point, which is where the lapel/external shoulder pad came from. We offered to make stage jewellery for Academie if they’d model for our shoot, so it’s been a nice exchange. While we were doing the photoshoot with Rita-Mari Ludike we also started playing around more with who wears what in order to make the photos interesting. After a while we realised that it’s up to the person whether they want to wear it or not, so it’s unnecessary to limit the designs to specific genders.
What kinds of emotions would you like those who wear your pieces to experience?
Tharien: We’ve often heard the term ‘you should wear the clothes/jewellery, they shouldn’t wear you’, but we quite like the idea of jewellery wearing you. Some of the pieces are statement pieces that start conversations. They’re nice for days when you’re feeling confident, or want to feel confident. They might transform a plain T-shirt into something exciting. Other pieces are more subtle and simply strengthen clothing that is already interesting. We like thinking of jewellery as a kind of armour. It might mask the way you feel or emphasise it. It depends on what you need to help you through the day.
What would be your biggest design splurge?
Nina: A Dokter and Misses cabinet.
Tharien: A Juliette Over Head lamp by Emerging Creatives.
As a successful design studio, what advice would you share with new creatives wanting to break into the industry?
Tharien: Make sure you tinker and experiment with materials and ideas. Don’t get too caught on just designing – the making has an enormous influence on the success of a design. Also, if you’re on a tight budget, try to exchange work and services with other creatives. It not only builds your network and works out to be more affordable, it also helps each of you build up your careers. Collaborations open new doors and will inspire you in the most unexpected ways.
What is on your 2017 design horizon?
Nina: We think one of the reasons the brand works is because we don’t think too hard about what needs to happen next. Play or experimentation is an essential part of the process and that guides us to what needs to be done, so we’re not sure yet!