I’m really inspired by the materials themselves. It’s not that I have an idea then I try to find the materials, it’s really the opposite. So, often I keep bits and bobs until I’ve got quite a good amount of them and the idea will come. Like for example the wine bottle-top necklace, that’s the original colour of the necklace. I’ve just been inspired by the texture, the shape, the colour and I’m just mixing them together. It’s about the same for the drink can earrings, that’s just the earrings, though they’re just a can cut in a rectangle and wrapped around a paper clip and it makes very beautiful, colourful and dangly earrings. I don’t paint them, I don’t engrave them, I just use the material as they are, I just give them another purpose.
And how do you actually bend the can like that?
I will demonstrate that to you a bit later, its very easy actually, you cut a kind of rectangle and you wrap it around the paperclip but there is a special technique to make sure that its properly attached. Its cut at a good size so it’s not sharp at the back and its stays flat but there is no glue at all. It’s a paperclip, can, and you need a plier to squish it. That’s one of the most popular workshops that I teach to people. How to re-use their cans.
You create lots of different outcomes, do you have a favourite? Or most successful?
I really love working with old cutlery. It’s a very different technique compared to the inner tube or the other jewellery. It’s quite violent in a way because I have to hammer on my anvil quite a lot because the cutlery is either sliver plated or EPNS and could be very hard. But its quite enjoyable, in a way its relaxing and it makes beautiful pieces of jewellery like my earrings.
What you’re wearing, is that a spoon?
That’s a spoon, I didn’t have to hammer those because I just cut the handle. But for example, this one, that’s the handle of a big serving spoon. So I’ve cut the round shape, and then I’ve hammered it on my anvil to have something nice.
You did that all by hand?
No no no on the anvil, I’ve just got a hammer and gone bing, bing, bing. It’s quite enjoyable. I really love that, and I really love those jewelleries and in England you’ve got a culture of beautiful tables and beautiful cutlery and plates and everything so there are so many beautiful cutleries to use here. Quite often people keep them in draws and they become dark and you can’t put them in the washing machine. So, it’s a nice way to use them, and often I have enquiries to make jewellery from the cutlery of a family so they can spread them around and still keep them instead of not using them at all.
When did you first start designing jewellery? When did you get into jewellery specifically?
Yes, I started that about, I’ve been here for seven years, so about fourteen years ago I was at university in France studying art and culture but more the management of projects and I didn’t have much money and quite often people were leaving things on the street that you could pick up. I was doing that quite a lot with my housemate and I started collecting things and upcycling them and offering them as presents to my friends and family for their birthday or Christmas present and everything. So I’ve started like that, and the first real, nice jewellery that I’ve made was this one (picks up can earrings), well not this one obviously but a similar one because its cheap, you just collect the cans. You wash them, you cut them, and the paperclips are really cheap too. They are really efficient, so that’s the first one I’ve made.
Were you always quite eco-friendly, always trying to be resourceful?
Not as much as I am now, I was always into art, but I never thought that I could make things myself, so I wanted to support art. Then I became more and more creative and I made more and more things. But everything changed when I arrived in Bristol seven years ago because first, I found a place in a coop shop very easily, so the little things that I was making on the side for my friends and family. I was able to sell them, and I had a very good answer from the audience, from the public in general so it pushed me to carry on making more and more things, exploring new materials, finding new designs and now I can clearly say that I am a professional up-cycler, and make a living from that.
How do you get your work sold in shops such as Blaze? How did you go about approaching a business like that?
I think I just came to the shop one day and asked how it was working, what was the commission and what was the deal and they asked to see my work and they liked it then agreed to sell it. I think it’s quite simple actually, I mean you can try this technique with all of the different craft shops. If they like your work that can work easily.
All the creators at Blaze seem to produce work that’s all handcrafted, not manufactured at all
I think Blaze is a very good gallery shop for that because it really shows a really nice range of makers and artists who have really good techniques and really good quality products and also its very well managed by artists themselves. As there are several, they can all have a different view of what should come in the shop, how to keep it nice with different choices, it’s not just one owner of the shop deciding everything.
How are you involved with Blaze? Do you have any sort of role or is it just that you sell?
No I’m not part of the co-op, I’ve been inquiring about that when they had the space but as I’ve already got my own studio already it was not really interesting for me to have a studio there and have the smallest commission. It was just easier to give them the commission and bring stock when they need some.
How long have you been interested in working with sustainable materials?
As I said about fourteen years ago, it’s really because I didn’t have any money and with my housemate we needed to find furniture for the house and we found many things on the street and little by little we’ve been collecting things, mending them, customising them, things like that. I think it was really the beginning and little by little I’ve been more and more into upcycling materials and looking for new things and being eco-friendly in my work.
Do you think that was just because it was a cheaper or easier alternative or was there a motive behind it?
No, for me I would love to say that I’ve always been very eco-friendly, but to be honest no. My family was not really into that, it was not my background, it was not my culture. So, everything came when I didn’t have any money and I had to find solution to make things, to offer things to people without having any money. Then it became an income and I became more aware of that and then also about local food and supporting local business and everything. It’s a whole thing it’s not just about using re-used material. Now I can really say that I’m trying to do my best every day in all of the aspects of my life. But fifteen years ago, no, I was a much younger university student without money and trying to do my best.
Do you think there’s been perhaps a stronger demand for you work as we’ve now progressed, especially in Bristol with a lot of people wanting to find things that are eco-friendlier?
Yes, but to be honest is had started at around twenty-fourteen, twenty-fifteen when Bristol was the green capital of Europe, and it’s funny because I arrived here with my creation, and I found a really good answer from the people directly. People were quite keen on supporting a local artist with ethical and sustainable products and they were okay to spend fifteen pounds on a pair of earrings made out of drink cans. So that was really good. In France I don’t think it would have worked as much as how it is here in Bristol which is really alternative and really arty at the same time. I can imagine now that more and more people are aware of climate change and the need to reduce our consumption, so it might possibly bring me more customers, but it was already like that a few years ago. What I notice a lot in the markets and fairs that I can do is that more and more crafters that I met years ago are now trying to go to more eco-friendly products.
Interview conducted by Madeleine Brooks, Kos Tsianavas, John Westcott
Delphine (Phipolle) is a jewellery designer who focuses on reusing materials to create unique designs; she has always been interesting in using sustainable materials since studying in France. The first pieces of jewellery she created were made from paperclips and cans to create earrings which she sent to her friends and family for presents; they are a staple in her collection today. Delphine enjoys creating pieces out of detailed silverware, which she believes England has a strong culture of.