Irma Yasandikusuma is an innovative and exciting young jewellery designer – she talks to David A. Carol about Bali and bling.
Irma, where did you grow up, and what’s your connection to Bali?
I was born in Geneva, but I’m Indonesian. Since a young age, I’ve been visiting every summer to see my extended family. I only have one sister, but a lot of Indonesian cousins. This year, some friends joined me, and it was the first time I got to experience Bali on my own terms.
How was Bali different with your new independence?
It was the first time I felt really connected to the local people. I ate at local restaurants with our Balinese driver and visited jewellery artisans. I discovered a part of the Bali that I had always wanted to discover. I went to the Ubud Village Jazz Festival and was happy to discover great Indonesian artists and musicians. There’s something about the energy, spirituality and creativity that really touches me and I can’t wait to experiment more there.
Any major surprises on your last visit?
I was surprised to discover that there is a lot of Latin culture in the bars and restaurants across the island as I love salsa! I danced from the age of four, but I had to stop because of an accident playing basketball. Yes, I’m small but I used to play basketball. Now, I’m going back to dancing as an inspiring hobby.
When did you know you were meant to be a designer?
I was always in a creative frame of mind; my mother was the same and still is. From an early age, I always loved to dress myself the way I wanted. As I’ve always loved to draw, I decided to become a fashion designer, and studied at Studio Berçot in Paris. I always felt passionate about the discipline.
How would you describe your jewellery?
I always try to tell a story, and the jewellery is a symbol of that story. It starts with something that touches me. For example, my last collection, “Souvenir”, which is in Souq Bali right now, combines emotions felt in Paris and Bali during the summer of 2012.
What type of materials do you use?
With my jewellery, it’s less about gold and silver. I’m into fabrics, and at the moment, I use a lot of cords. It’s similar to creating clothing in that there’s a lot of sewing, but also painting. The cords become a canvas and I love to combine them with semi-precious stones.
Where do you source materials?
In Paris, I have a supplier. Some stones, I find in Jakarta at a special market. Sometimes, you are dealing directly with the people who source them from the mountains of Indonesia. It’s really enriching because they can add more to the story, and more charm to the piece.
Who do you make jewellery for?
I make jewellery for myself. It’s a form of self-expression, and a way to feel completely free in my life. It’s touching when other people want to wear my work. It’s like sharing my love for creation. I don’t want to create to please. I have to be true. It’s not always easy but to me the most powerful quality that you can have as an artist is for your creativity to be truly valued and respected.
Do you take special commissions?
If someone asks me for a special piece, I first ask them for a picture. From that image, I then ask them their favourite colours and the type of seasonal feeling they’re after before proposing a composition. Usually, people trust me.
I like how you use Tumblr to share your inspirations.
When I think about a collection, I need to feel inspired. You can always tell if I’m being creative because my Tumblr is very active. Two years ago, I began to get into photography. I improved my skills and became passionate. I particularly appreciate when people understand the link between my inspirations and my jewellery.
Who are the models that appear in your collections?
Most of the models are my close friends. They’re all from different countries and ethnicities, and they really are a part of my creativity.
I love the photos by Daniella Beneditti. How did that collaboration come about?
She’s from Colombia, but I met her in Paris. I was introduced to her through a Parisian designer. We both wanted to meet each other and as I was touched by her photos I asked her to work together on my last campaign. I was deeply happy.
Are there any other designers that you’d really like to work with?
My dream would be to work with Dries Van Noten. I love the way he combines prints with unique shapes. He has a style identity which I feel close to. One day, you never know.
Where can people go to buy your jewellery?
There are still a few unique pieces at the Galerie Insolite in Geneva, and pieces from my “Souvenirs” collection are at Souq in Bali. I’m also working on an online store, I think it’s a nice way to have your own boutique.