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 Grounded in Nature   

Helga's Blog

dutch jewellery designer la leipsig


Stories from the daily live of an active metalsmith who tracks down
her muse with camera and sketchbook.


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Saying goodbye to a faithful companion

chicoChico our faithful friend is no more.
He broke his back but not his spirit.

We were the 4th place where he could live. At that time a little bit older than 1 year. He had an awesome time with us. Perky, passionate, playful and curious but also incredibly affectionate towards us.

Playing with sticks was his favourite game. One that became fatal. He jumped so high he developed an acute hernia with paraplegics as result.

Only 6 weeks of absolute rest could perhaps bring cure. With his nature an impossible task. We had to take the hardest decision and let him go to join our loved ones at the other side.

Chico helped me in a rough period of my life. At least he took care that I came out of bed to make a walk. On this daily walk my Abundance in Nature series emerged. More and more I got an eye for Nature and its healing power that is embedded in the seasons.

Everything comes, everything goes. As does Chico.

inner-star chico zilverTo give my feelings a place, I ritualize. I still make my daily walk, when I see a stick I pick it up and take it with me to the Maas (the river). There I throw the stick in the water, it feels liberating. I know that it will flow to the sea, the place which offers comfort.

The other way to make it tangible is to work with my favourite material. With a small tool I started to stroke the clay as if it was Chico. The result is a relief that resembles his pelt. You can see this texture on my little inner star (19 mm high). Now I can wear it or hang it on the picture frame with his photo.

I know this type of sorrow is a small sorrow but, a dog can be more sometimes.

Riem van Chico

Drawing made from Chico's leash.

From massive silver to elegant pendant

Lately I have been challenged by a 15 mm thick piece of pure silver. It was given to me without limitations, only with the remark to “make something out of it”.
A challenge I can appreciate.

silver-pendant-foldform15 millimeter thick silver isn’t direct working material. It needs to be worked to be able to do something with it. And I wanted to FoldForm with it so it had to be a LOT thinner!

I decided to hammer it down. Pure silver is soft enough to do so (on the 1st picture you see the dimples of the hammer in the soft silver).

Well... it was quite a challenge.

It took numerous hammering sessions and a lot of annealing (making silver soft by heating it up to 400C) to end up with 3 mm thick silver. I now know how the goldsmiths in Egypt must have felt and I even have steel tools.

If you want to see me hammering, click this link to my YouTube channel  (film made by JP my son).

After 3 mm I started to use the rolling mill to end up with a 0,5 mm thick silver strip, this is picture 2. 

From a relative small part of this strip I cut of a piece (3rd picture) so I could make a FoldForm pendant which Esther now wears with pleasure. (the last 2 pictures)

What I am going to do with the rest of the silver hasn't been decided but I will definately tell in a next blogpost.


What is FoldForming?

Through folding and forging thin metal you can quickly get large objects that resemble forms in Nature. It is done by using natural characteristics of metal which by a hammer blow develops a certain stiffness. Pieces made with this technique develop a structural strength even when you use pure silver.

This technique is developed by Charles Lewton-Brain.
He explains it in depth on his website

The guiding power of Fire

- This is the 2nd post in my series about the 4 classical elements. By writing about the elements I try to understand what these important building blocks of Nature have to do with my jewellery -

vuur-fire 4elements symbolicThe second element I want to discuss is FIRE.

I started making a sheet with words that historically belong to this element  (at the end of this post ). With the words as a guide I investigated how they belong to my work. What fuels me? What sets me on fire? Where is my enthusiasm?

My biggest inspiration source, in a very basic way, is Nature. I believe that everything that grows can tell you something, if we only we would listen. Perhaps we have lost this ability a bit.

By observing and listening to Nature I try to find out what is important for me. I do this through drawing, writing and photography, often with a macro-lens to make close-ups. Then I share it here on my blog to inspire you to have a look too.  Or make your own discoveries. What you like!

Another passion of me is working with Metal Clay.
I find this relatively new material so fascinating that I keep on exploring it. This curiosity fuels my actions, I’m truly inspired by it and I want to actively research the possibilities. I try to find suitable applications for the characteristics of Metal Clay, to find solutions that are difficult or shear impossible to achieve with the traditional metalsmiths way.

These 2 passions, Metal Clay and Nature, meet each other in my jewellery. In my work it magically works together, the malleable Metal Clay is an excellent medium to express my thoughts about Nature.

The funny thing is that developments I encounter working with Metal Clay are parallel to my personal developments. It starts when I see something in Nature that I can relate to my own feelings and grow processes. The moment I understand what's happening I am able to express it in metalclay.  That's how my collections grow.

I would very much like to infect you with my enthusiasm for nature, and the personal development you can get through it, so you too start to observe the small signs in Nature, and like me learn how to shut down the noise and hear her voice.

I also would love to hear from you. What is it that fuels you?
Where lies your passion?

Don’t hesitate to discus or tell it in the comments :-)


Previous post: WATER

Egyptian goldsmiths inspired by Blue Water Lily

Historic Jewellery talks but you have to listen carefully – part 3

Part of the reason why I am doing this series is that I want to research what the oldest goldsmiths did.  Unfortunately I didn’t encounter any ancient images of my profession during the writing of my post for the beautiful jewel from Mesopotamian.

Egypt however, has more to offer.

In Saqqara I found the oldest evidence in the Mastaba from Vizier Meruka. The tomb is from the 6th Dynasty (2500BC) when Farao Teti reigned. There you will find a relief on the East wall of chamber A3 picturing goldsmiths. On the first line you can see how metalworkers first melt and then pour the gold and finally (of what survives) the beating of the solified gold into foil. The second line shows the production of collars and pectorals. (mouse over the image to see a line drawing)


The 2nd image is in Luxor  (Thebes) in the tomb of Nebamon and Ipuky from the 18th dynasty (1390–1350BC). In it is a coloured display of metalworkers. The drawing here is from N. de Gares Davies who made it in 1921.

Afterwards the mural faded and was damaged by tomb robbers! Lucky this painting exists. If you click on the image you can see it full-size on the Met-museum site.


Both read like a comic book. It starts with weighing of the gold and then the processing steps in making jewellery. Take note to the fact that in those days the craftsmen only had bronze tools!

One of the typical Egyptian craftsmanship was the ability to shape a hard stone like Carnelian or Lapiz Lazuli into an inlay to fit snugly within a cloison. Instead of stone they also knew how to make glass that they used as substitute for stones, a skill that was regarded highly.

lotus-ring-art-waltersTake this example of rings from the 18th dynasty (1400-1200BC) that are in The Walters Art museum in Baltimore. There are 2 gold rings with symbolised flowers.

The ring on the right with the red Carnelian and Lapiz Lazuli even has small buds of the flower in gold.

The ring left with the delicate granulation rim uses light and dark blue glass. The white is also glass with small purple speckles.

Both are made in the typical Egyptian cloison style.

The Walters calls them Lotus rings but the actual flower that inspired the goldsmith was the Blue Egyptian water Lily.

The Lily is known for opening up each morning showing the intense golden center set against the blue petals. An imitation of the sun in the sky while releasing a sweet perfume. In the afternoon it would close again only to open up the next 2 or 3 days. Because of this pattern, that reminds of the rising and setting of the sun, its religious significance was great.

lotus-lily-egyptianFor the Egyptians it was a symbol of re-surrection or rebirth and connected to the sun god Ra.

It still is the national flower of Egypt.

You can find a lot of stylized lilies in the art work of the Egyptians. To the right you see a sketch I made from an art work depicting a Lily.

Egyptian artists are well-known for their faithful representation of nature and at the same time combining it with the magical and spiritual.  I wonder if the ancient people made a distinction between amulet and jewellery?



You can find more images on my pinterest page

Sign up for my newsletter to follow these series



 Historic Jewellery talks but you have to listen carefully
 - an ongoing reseach by Helga about the origine of metalsmithing -

 1 Why the king of Ur ordered a Lion-headed Eagle

 2 75.000 year old shells considered jewellery material

Quantity Sketching 2014

Last year I enjoyed some leisure activities because of my intention word PLAY. It released me from doing everything with a purpose. It has been a good word for me to explore my motivations for creating.

Play was also a big part in my Summer Art Residence At Home. In it I re-discovered my love for sketching. It helped me to research my subjects deeper. Throughout autumn I noticed I was scribbling more onto paper. Eventually they showed up in some of my blogs.


Since December I am pondering about doing a sketch every day.
I like sketching but tend to forget to do it regularly.

I was even more inspired when I read John Muir’s blogpost about drawing called: Quantity, not Quality.  Among other very valuable advise he says that the best approach is simply to make lots of drawings.

John Muir is an illustrator with a deep love for Nature and shares his knowledge on his blog. He states that “journaling makes you a better observer, naturalist, and artist and opens a world of beauty and discovery”. I agree with him.

Then I read on Facebook that Elizabeth Agte was looking for a new challenge in 2014. I told her about my intention to sketch. A few people immediately asked if they could join. Which made me decide to start a facebook group so others can join me in my intention and that we can encourage each other.

I invite you to join me in this Facebook group called Quantity Sketching 2014 (inspired by John’s post). There we can share our drawings and challenge each other to keep on track.

As I love to use Pinterest I already started a board to collect my sketches in one place. I hope when you decide to participate that you have a digital spot where we can look at your drawings. It is also possible is to make an album in the fbgroup and collect them there. It is up to you.

I am not going to do anything fancy. I’ll take a few white sheets of paper, staple them together and start sketching on the first of January. It will be about quantity and I will see what it will bring me.

About La Leipsig

The jewellery which is sold under the brand name La Leipsig Jewels is based on Helga van Leipsig's observations of the nature in Limburg, a province in the south of The Netherlands.



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