Designing The Nouveau Collection 2.0

It's official - Erstwildians are absolutely enamoured with Art Nouveau.

Last year, right in the middle of the pandemic panic, we released what would go on to be our best-selling Erstwilder original collection ever - well, at that point in time! The first Nouveau Collection, brought to life beautifully by talented artist Elena Leong, was such a success that we just knew that we would need to return to the opulent, ornamental Art Nouveau style at some point. And a year later, almost to the day, we did just that. 

So, in celebration of this year's highly anticipated follow-up release, we've asked Elena to give us an overview of some of her designs, as well as the inspiration behind them and an insight into her 'process'. How exactly does she so expertly progress from idea to sketch, sketch to spec, and spec to luxurious, layered jewellery and accessories?!

Here is Elena in her own words...

My briefs for Erstwilder usually come with suggestions for designs, which give me the basis from which to form ideas. I thought I’d share with you the process and sketches for some of the designs for the Art Nouveau 2.0 collection.

Each accessory design usually starts off as a rough scribble in my sketch book, which is then refined on tracing paper until I'm happy with the drawing. I use tracing paper as its easier to make changes (and I make lots so the drawing might look a little messy!) If the drawing requires geometric shapes, I might create the shapes on computer first and then put that together with the drawing. The pattern behind the head of Le Chat Noir was created this way. The drawing then gets scanned onto computer where I translate them into instructions (spec files) that will tell someone how to laser cut and put the resin pieces together. 

Here I show the progression of sketches, with the last sketch in the series being the one that was used.

Fox

The brief was for an elegant fox brooch, with a simple foliage semi circle or moon shape.

It took a while to come up with an elegant fox design, but the end result was so right, that it is my favourite of the collection. I had two different styles of branches, but the straight branches had a more Art Deco feel, so the curved branches were chosen to better reflect Art Nouveau characteristics.

You can find the finished design here: The Prowling Fox Brooch 

Chrysanthemum Flower and Bud



The brief was for something inspired by William Morris’ “Pimpernel” wallpaper design.

William Morris’ designs often featured chrysanthemum flowers, with their leaves draped protectively over the flowering center. I tried a couple of rough sketches to capture this feeling. The chrysanthemum bud rough sketch needed opening up to show the bud better. The chrysanthemum flower shape that looked less like a cabbage was the one that got refined and used, with the final result the November Reign Brooch & Earrings.

 

Palm Fronds



For this Fronds of Fortune Brooch design as well as the Rose inspired version Flower and Thorn (see below), I wanted to capture the feel of an Art Nouveau tile design, with its typically simple shapes delineated by a border.

I had a play around with sketching different fronds patterns, before settling on the final version. I was unsure at first what sort of border to have around the fronds, but knew that it needed to be framed somehow.

Roses



I started off with a couple of different flower sketches, but then saw the elegance of having two identical halves of a drawing that fitted together.

During the design specification phase, to get even more accuracy, I traced only one half of the vector art, then copied, rotated and then joined them together. This is a technique I often use when the two halves of a design is intended to be identical or reflections of each other in some way.

Tree of Life


Usually when sketching a necklace design, I know roughly what will go in each layer at the resin specification stage, but the complexity of the Tree of Life made drawing all three layers in one go very hard to visualise. I ended up drawing each layer separately on tracing paper and then putting them together and tracing over them to get the final result. It took a few revisions to get it right, as I needed to ensure the design was well balanced across all three layers.

Then for the brooch version, it was a case of modifying the necklace sketch to be smaller and simpler.

Peacock Feather



Peacock feathers are not hard to draw, but it took me a few iterations before I found the right kind of "feather" for a resin accessory that was still in the spirit of the Art Nouveau movement. I also needed to make sure it would work as a brooch, necklace and earring design. The above four sketches are versions I drew before the final approved sketch below.  

Have you enjoyed this insight into what goes on behind the scenes to bring these wearable art pieces to fruition? Let us know in the comments 😊. And if you haven't yet added any Art Nouveau inspired designs to your wardrobe, now is time. The full collection can be found here.
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