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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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Cambia - Inner Bark

Today I show a photo-blog of my progress in the Inner Bark series.

They are inspired by the Popular I always meet during my morning walks with the dog.

It all started with taking pictures and making drawings, lots of them!

De bast van een populier

Then I made many tests in porcelainclay.

In the end I even made a little tree trunk sculpture to show the bark pattern,
ofcourse in small scale.

I did take pictures of everything and with them I made a small booklet.
In it I wrote all the thoughts and ideas connected to the collection.
It's nice to have a little drawing book when you develop a new line.

cambium water klei

All this research led to a new collection.
I call it Cambia and is connected to the water element.

"The sapflow of a tree brings nutricion to the leaves, carries the nutricion so the tree can grow."

On request of a customer I developed a bracelet in this line. It is wonderful to see how the pattern is repeated in each element. Like the natural flow of a waterfall.

Left you see earrings with gold to accent the sapflow,
to the right a close-up of the bracelet on which I am working.


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Symbolism in Helga's jewellery

Many jewellers say they have a story to tell. Logical as you know that jewellery are small objects that can carry an incredible amount of meanings. Just have a look at king Ur’s pendant, many symbolism was hidden in this precious work.

In my jewellery I use nature in symbolised form to depict growing processes. The earth series stands for strength, responsiveness and a base on which you can build.

Earth ring, silver and gold

You cannot see how I investigate the symbolism. That happens in my studio or when I'm taking a walk with my dog. Also the photos I take for "Abundance in Nature" are used for this purpose.

A question from a visitor on an art market triggered me to start thinking about how I can explain this symbolism in a clear way. I’ll start with the 4 elements because I use them to divide my jewellery collection:

    • Water: Inner Bark – Day at Sea
    • Earth: Field – Moonlit
    • Air: Inner Star
    • Fire: Dragonseries

The teachings of the 4 elements is an important part of our classical heritage, Plato has written about it in Timaeus. Anthroposophy talks about the 4 temperaments, Jung calls it the personality types and in physics are the elements identified in the state of matter. I like to use this universal knowledge to get a better understanding of the elements.

Another way to understand an element is through observation. Water, for example, always seeks out the deepest point. A conscious research process helps to understand my unconscious form language. This is also the moment of connection with my own growth processes and a very personal side of the investigation.

Together they give me the information that I need to develop new jewellery.

As a reader of my blog you feel attracted to what I make, you pick up the unconscious signals. By carefully explaining what is behind my jewellery I hope you make your own connections and stories. Symbols are very personal and powerful, as is your jewellery.

The next month I start with the element water. The series that I'm working on, the Inner Bark, also has a lot to do with water and will serve as an example.

Inner Bark detail silver and gold


Next post: Words & Themes historically connected to Water


Why the king of Ur ordered a Lion-headed Eagle

Historic Jewellery talks but you have to listen carefully – part 1

gold pendant eagle lion Ur Mari I love to go to museums. Take my camera with me and be surprised by old ancient peoples and the remains of their culture. Jewellery is often one of the high-lights of a show. Made of gold and precious stones it survives all time.

People were attracted to it then and people are attracted to it now.

Just like me.

Pinterest gives me a chance to find jewels on places I haven’t been. This lion-headed lapiz lazuli pendant is one that I would love to see in person. But alas, it’s in the National Museum of Damascus, Syria. Not somewhere where I could travel to.

There are 3 reasons why I am attracted to this gorgeous lion-headed pendant:

  1. It comes from Mesopotamian, a culture which legacy is the invention of writing. They produced the oldest (found) epic poetry: the Epic of Gilgamesh.
    The middle piece of my Epic River necklace contains a small piece of the Gilgamesh written in cuneiform.
  2. Then there was a similarity of shape with my pendant “take flight”.
  3. I was also intrigued by a creature existing of 3 animals: A bird (air) a lion (fire) and a fish (water). I sensed a symbolism that I wanted to research further.

While doing my stroll on the internet I found these facts:

  1. The materials: Gold layers onto a tar base and Lapis Lazuli, a blue precious stone. Size H. 11.8 cm. W. 13 cm.
  2. In 1965 the pendant was found in Mari – Syria, during excavations in the Royal Palace of Zimri-lim.
  3. Dating of the piece is somewhere around 2500BC.
    So it has been hidden for 4500 years!
  4. It was excavated with a Lapis Lazuli bead with an inscription that reveals about the connection with the kingdom of Ur, another big city in that time. “dedication from god Gal-Mesannipadda, King of the City of Ur to Cansud, King of Mari
  5. In 2500BC Mari was a big city on the riverbanks of the Euphrates and a commercial logistic centre. It controlled the caravan route and got rich from the tolls.

This is interesting: the king of Ur wants to give a gift to a king who is important because he guards the trade-route along the Euphrates. The king of Ur can’t go to Mari to show respect so the gift must represents this to his collegue.

Using the analogy’s of powerful animals to express a meaning is very common for nature oriented peoples. They still stand close to everything that lives around them. Let’s unravel which animals they used and what these symbols could mean:

  1. A lion is king of animals, strong and passionate, a fire sign. A king is also head of his people.
  2. Birds are animals of transformation they connect heaven and earth. With wings you are not bound to the earthly physical state you are. You are above mankind. It could be that the King of Ur wants to refer to the godly state kings have in that time.
  3. The gold fishtail puzzled me a bit but drawing on the fact it’s a water sign and Mari & Ur are along the Euphrates, I guess it expresses the connection between the cities.

Fact is that there is a cuneiform tablet that tells about Anzud a giant bird with lion head and connected to the god Ningurso. The image of a lion-headed eagle must have ment more to them. It’s part of their mythology.

So the king goes to his goldsmith and explains the situation. Together they decide it has to be made with the most precious materials: Gold and Lapis Lazuli, the heavenly blue stone. 

The goldsmith, inspired by the symbols, carves wings out of Lapis, sculpts a lion head and a fish tail out of tar. Then covers it with many layers of gold. The cylinder shaped Lapis Lazuli bead is inscribed with the dedication. Together they are sent with a caravan to the Northern city Mari as thoughtful gift for the king Cansud.

A gift worth giving.


Let go of the "noise" to reveal the grow structure

When I am fascinated by a plant, I want to observe it. It starts with taking pictures of the whole plant but it doesn't take long before I put the macro-lens on. Being so close on a plant reveals many beautiful shapes. Sometimes I even need to sketch it, so I understand how it grows.

Today I found a branch of a Poplar in my neighbourhood. It was windy weather and on the ground were many loose branches. I took one home while I let the wind play with the leaves. They make such a lovely murmurous sound.

This is because the stem of the leave is a laterally flattened petiole. The flat petiole allows them to tremble in even slight breezes, and is the source of its scientific name Populus tremula. 
(it's the same tree who's bark inspired me on monday's art retreat at home)

poplar leave

Another thing I like is how the petiole is attached to the branch:

poplarbranch growpoint

The remarkable point between green and brown branch is the spot that marks new years growth. The brown is from last year. I like to see this kind of spots close-up, they are beautiful.

Sketching is another way of understanding a plant. Here I drew the lateral petiole to analyse how it's build. Often I use a magnifying glas to see it all.

 poplar leave sketch

Seeing those growing spots without the leaves reminded me of my own growing process. If you look back and remove all the "noise" you see what you have accomplished. You get appreciation for what you did.

Like in winter you can observe a tree's structure much better without the leaves.


Poplar branch


On wikipedia you can read more about this tree family: Poplar

On my Facebook La Leipsig Jewels page more images of this beautiful tree.


About Take Flight and putting affairs in perspective

Silver pendant: Take Flight


During the lastest art show, Beesel Creatief, it was not uncommon that people listened fascinated to my story about the background of my jewellery. They recognized themselves in the process, it touched them. That was a nice feeling and brought great conversations.

It’s not easy to tell a coherent story that expresses the emotions and thoughts that are involved when I create a piece of jewellery. This requires thought and clarity.

Lately I have many new ideas and I want to convey them in a clear way. I'm forced to sort them out, to create structure and maintain clarity. During the structuring I noticed something: every piece can be related to one of the 4 elements.

Earth. Water. Air. Fire.

They are the building blocks of nature, my biggest inspiration source.

Every time I make new work, one of these elements predominates.

My most recent work, the pendant/brooch Take Flight, combines even two. It's earth viewed from the air, so you get a perspective. By standing "higher" I get a wider picture and need to have a clear focus.

I will start paying more attention to these 4 elements. I have a suspicion that they are going to give me new clues in understanding my jewellery.


Next post: Symbolism in Helga's jewellery

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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