Estelle Dévé has long known how to design jewellery that feels extremely personal. London-based designer Dévé launched her eponymous jewellery brand back in 2008, at the time living in Melbourne, and has gained a following for her pieces that focus on bringing art, memory and jewellery in tandem.

One look through Estelle’s Instagram page and you can see the wide range of inspiration she draws on: everything from sculpture to photography to novels and history. She also cites her childhood in France as a major influence. Every collection is designed from an artisanal outlook – focusing on new and old production techniques and styles while retaining the famed “je ne sais quoi” known (mainly only) to the French female.

Estelle closed her brand after 7 years to consult for others but has returned to express herself under her own name in jewellery once more, this time in collaboration with Motley – a jewellery company that supports and outsources from independent jewellery designers. With Estelle’s focus on craftsmanship and Motley’s pledge to deliver great technique and sustainability, the combo have come out with a collection any jewellery-enthusiast (or anyone for that matter) would covet.

The collection features an edit of charms inspired by sculptures; chunky chains; gold vermeil bird motif rings and earrings, and with the collection being customisable, the collaboration allows its wearers to be art collectors of their own.

We caught up with Estelle to talk about the inspiration behind her new collection and how she sees design.

How have you found the process of collaborating with Motley?

Cecily who is the co-founder of Motley is a dear friend of mine. She approached me to design a range when she first launched Motley, but I was under a non-compete clause with my employer at the time. When I decided to quit that job she approached me again, which led to this collaboration. What I think Motley is doing very well is giving designers a platform to develop a range without the headache of having to deal with the production and distribution side of things. Motley gives them a wonderful opportunity to design something they love without the financial setbacks.

How does designing jewellery differ from other types of design?

Having designed other accessories in my last role I don’t think the design process is vastly different. What attracts me to jewellery in particular, and makes it my favourite product to design, is the notion of designing something that people will keep close to their hearts, something that will last and they will treasure for years to come.

What do you collect personally, other than charms?

I’ve been a collector for as long as I can remember. I started with stamps as a kid as that was an activity which allowed me to spend time with my grandfather. I then moved on to snow globes as a teenager, as I felt like it allowed me to travel the world without leaving my house.

As an adult, I don’t have a precise theme for my collection, but I tend to bring back a lot of artisanal crafts from my travels (mostly ceramics and glassware). I am very much attracted to things that have been handmade, especially if they have little flaws that shows a human side to them. Surrounding myself with objects I get to use on a daily basis but which bring memories back from the places I have visited brings happiness into my every day.

You’ve cited sources as far reaching as JD Salinger novels and the Paleozoic era as inspiration for past collections. What inspired this collection?

After having designed for other brands for the last four years, I wanted to put together a mood board of all the things that I had a personal connection to, as opposed to things that fitted the vision of my clients. There were a lot of images from Brancusi, Arp and Hepworth, as well as a picture of a charm bracelet my grandfather had gifted my grandmother when she gave birth to my dad. She gifted it to me when my grandad passed away last year, and I wanted to be able to do a version of it on which the charms will represent the work of my favourite artists.

That was the starting point for the range, and from there, I went on to designing the rest of the pieces. I’m sure she would have loved it, sadly she passed away a couple of months before the range got released, so I guess it’s my way of honouring both their memories.

If you could collect one piece of art yourself what would it be?

Choosing one piece would be difficult as there are so many that are close to my heart. If money was no object, and I had to choose one, it would probably be either Brancusi’s “Bird in space”, Hans Arp’s “L’Etoile”, Giacometti’s “Caresse”, or Barbara Hepworth’s “Mother and child”. Starting a collection of Picasso’s ceramics would also be a dream. 

What was it about Georges Braque’s “Birds” and Brancusi’s “Birds in space” that made them so central to your new collection?

I remember stumbling upon Brancusi’s “Bird in space” at LACMA in 2013 and being mesmerised. I think I stayed in front of it for a good hour, trying to figure out what made it so attractive to me. Following that trip, I released a collection under my own label called “Birds in space”, which was somewhat inspired by it. It was one of my most popular collections, and when I started putting a mood board together for this range -six years later- I found myself with the very same picture at the centre of it. It also featured Georges Braque’s cameo rings and some of Hans Arp work, which are artists whose work I keep going back to for inspiration. Trying to replicate the feeling and texture of their work, as a sort of homage, was the goal of this range.

What would people be surprised to know about being a jewellery designer? 

That most of my day is spent answering emails, like most other jobs. It is not as glamorous of a job as people imagine. In fact, working with raw metals is actually quite a messy, dirty job.

Shop the collection via Motley