An old pocket watch, a baroque-style porcelain angel, a delicately carved ivory brooch, a small Venetian mask, and a large piece of mother-of-pearl. Discarded at one time, and hidden away in a drawer of the family home or even flogged off in a car boot sale, they have been turned into the most improbable centre piece of unique necklaces, each made 'to measure' for the personality and character of its new owner.
Every necklace is built around one or several centre pieces and each is the carrier of special and personal memories and emotions. In an investigative process, in which 'Little Glass Clementine' collaborates with the future wearer, the design is created by complementing heritage jewelry with rescued pieces from Clementine's large collection of precious and semi-precious artefacts, which are then woven together to form a single necklace. The ensemble is in this way given a new lease on life, prolonging each individual story and history for at least one more generation.
Quite different to her current occupation, Clementine James until not too long ago saw her professional future as working and campaigning against climate change in the charity sector. And rather than she searching for a way to make a difference through jewelry, it was jewelry that found her: As a teenager she adored the ambience among sellers at markets such as Portobello and Camden in London. Practiced in making small gifts for friends using pieces of washed up sea glass, she soon became part of the marketer community at the two aforementioned markets, and managed in this way to pay her way through university.
The inspiration at the root of Clementine's creativity comes from her travels in Asia, where she saw women coming up with the most unlikely combinations of otherwise common items, which had been turned from something lacking all artistic interest into a unique piece of worn beauty. They would not wear any of their adornments discretely, but would compose them into ensembles that by Western standards are rather large, too large, with none of the off-the-drawing-board regularities we are accustomed to. Their creations would accompany them in their everyday life--while tending to their fields, fetching water, or doing their laundry. Beauty as an inseparable ingredient of life, with each piece telling the story of its wear and wearer as time passes.
Clementine James considers herself a sculptor, rather than a jeweller. Instead of using a hammer and chisel, she works with stones and silver wire as her tools of choice. Never having received any formal jewelry training, her approach to the creative process is on many levels 'different', and to not a small degree akin to how London's famous Saville Row tailors interact with their clients. Yet, these parallels describe only incompletely how she works, and in reality her approach is unique. To start, every single part of a creation–other than the heritage pieces–have been found at a thrift market or similar venue, where people congregate to make a quick buck by flogging off for cheap what is use–and valueless to them. It is only logical that no two necklaces are the same, and there are not–and never will be–wholesale suitable versions that resemble one another like identical twins. At heart, Clementine is and remains a grassroots activist. A fact that transcends into every aspect of how her creations come to life as the luxury products they are, and resurfaces in her gestures as she talks; in her passion to rediscover the value in what others consider rubbish; in sharing her technique with people of all ages rather than preventing anyone from knowing; and, most distinctively, in her collaborative design approach with clients which is quite opposite to how fashion as an industry functions.
The image she repeatedly conjures up when talking about her creations is that of a 'chest of drawers'. Even if you think you know from the outset what to expect, in reality you never really quite know unless you look into the drawers and discover the hidden away treasures. With the life stories hidden in each item that is added to one of the necklaces, the process of weaving them into their new resting place with the help of only brass or silver wire is detailed and intuition driven. At the peak of the process, what until only a few minutes previously looked like a disorganised tangled mess of metal threads and unidentifiable objects, suddenly emerges as a unique whole that represents as much the personal history and vision of its future owner as the skill, creativity and craftsmanship of 'Little Glass Clementine'.
To know more about 'Little Glass Clementine', please visit her website at http://www.littleglassclementine.co.uk/
Pamela Ravasio is an ethical fashion journalist, researcher and consultant, and the publisher of the research-based eco fashion Blog 'Shirahime 白姫' (http://shirahime.ch).