Annelies Planteijdt

Annelies Planteijdt

Annelies Planteijdt

Interview by Yu-Chun Chen


“With my work, I am always balancing between ‘it is something, and it is nothing.” – Annelies Planteijdt

Natural, unpretentious, and authentic. The more time you spend with Dutch jewellery artist Annelies Planteijdt, the more you realize that these adjectives can apply to both the person as well as her works. Annelies is one of the most gentle and modest people I have ever met. My fond memory goes back to the time when we would have a good conversation over a cup of coffee and a nice piece of cake together. This interview brings me back to those days as she talks so openly about her upbringing, daily life, works, and inspiration.

Annelies has been working since 1983 and has never ceased to amaze people with her neck jewellery done with passion, perfection, a strong concept, delicate craftsmanship, and esthetic forms throughout the years. With her unarguably wonderful neck pieces which embody static as well as dynamic forms, she connects the two-dimensional graphic character perfectly with the three-dimensional human body.



Talk about yourself

I am a jeweller. I live in a small and quiet village in the southwestern Netherlands where I have a big workshop. I am living and working in the same place which is very nice. For me, living and working are one and I like the feeling that I don’t need to go somewhere to work. Sometimes I like to work in the evening, then I can just go into the studio without having to get on a bike.

(Annelies shows us around her studio with a webcam. The 120-square-meter well-lit space is divided into two big rooms, with ongoing artworks laying on the large working tables and a lot of books. The back door opens to the back garden for us to imagine the nice spring days there.)

I have been living here since 1987, but it doesn’t feel like 30 years have passed already! Before here, I lived and started working in Amsterdam for 10 years. Sometimes, I do think about going back to Amsterdam, but there you won’t have the possibility to have such a big workshop. Now, I live here and use it as the base for me to travel to places, which is more flexible as well.


How long have you been working in this field?

I started to work on my own since 1983 after graduating from Gerrit Rietveld Academie. Actually, I already started to make jewellery since I was 15 by taking some evening courses, then went to Vakschool Schoonhoven, and went further to finish study at Gerrit Rietveld Academie.

I have always loved making things. When I was 6, I started to make presents for the whole family for Sinterklaas*. I took it so seriously that I named it my “work” besides school. Some works I made when I was 15 from silver survived, but the older works made from cardboard and other materials are gone.


*Sinterklaas (St. Nicolas) is a traditional Winter holiday figure in Dutch-speaking Europe (the Netherlands and Flanders). Every year, he is celebrated in the Netherlands on the 5th of December and the 6th in Belgium.


Have you always known that you like to make jewellery?

Yes, I started to make jewellery with beads and thread when I was 10.

My mother and grandmother each had the same jewellery box with different jewellery in them and I was always very fascinated by those boxes. Now, my grandma has passed away and passed her jewellery box to my mother. It’s like a piece of family history.

When I was 12, I already dreamed of being an artist because I had the idea that being an artist means you can always do whatever you like! I always dreamed of being on my own and doing my own things without obligation. And the best thing I could think of was being an artist!


How does one become a good artist?

When I work, I try to eliminate all kinds of daily life issues in my head that are disturbing and distracting. When I am out of the studio, those thoughts about life, money, problems, etc. would still come back to me, but when I am working, I try to put them aside. I still try to work without any obligation and distraction.

I am working under a kind of tension, but at the same time, I am relaxed during work.

It’s about tension and “de-tension.” I try to go as far as I can in my thinking and making.


How do you stay focused? And what is the most difficult thing?

My trick to stay focus is this: to do and pretend that I have no problems.

When I work, I try to think, “This is the only thing that really counts.” But at the same time, the most difficult thing is also to stay focused and to put everything aside.

When I have to do other things, I try to finish them before I start working or to put them aside completely. When I go into the workshop,“I think I am ready with other stuff. Now focus on my work,” because for me, the work is fun, especially the thinking process. The thought works only when you have the feeling that you’re free, free from all kinds of considerations.


What is the road that must be taken to become an artist?

I would say, do what you like and continue.

Do what you can do best and what you like best.

If you don’t like what you do, then you cannot do it for a long time.

It is important to do what you like so you can go on.


What makes you persistent on this path?

This work is still the most beautiful thing I can imagine doing. I am always curious about what my next work/series of work will be and how my thoughts and concept will develop. That curiosity keeps me going.

When I was studying at the GRA, every year I wanted to change major. I had all kinds of different dreams, but in the end, I always came back to jewellery, thinking that it’s my favorite. Also, now if I have to think of doing something else, it’s, of course, more difficult already. And anyway, I don’t want to change!


What is the quality about jewellery that always brings you back to it? What do you love so much about jewellery?

I don’t think it’s for the fact that it’s “jewellery”; that’s not the most important. It’s the making of something, a free way of exploring the world, the scale of the work, in relation to people, the exchange of thoughts, the fine working process, and the metal (especially gold) that fascinate me. I am attracted to it, but I can’t really say why. I don’t wear jewellery myself, so it’s not the “wearing” of the pieces that interests me. It is that I can put all my interests and my fascination of how things work and  move and behave in certain circumstances into this work. I love the work itself and the contact with people in different countries. I am not only sitting in my workshop but also having contact with all kinds of people by showing my work around. All these qualities about jewellery fascinate me.


It’s also interesting that the contact includes people wearing your work!

When I see people wearing my work, there comes something extra to it which is really nice. For me, the work is flat when I make it (they are kind of a ground plan). However, when somebody wears it, the wearer factor comes in and presents an effect you can never imagine while making. It really fulfills my work. When the museum buys the piece and shows it, it’s more about the concept. When somebody wears it, the wearing is part of the concept: the wearer experiences the transition from one dimension to the other, which is more personal to the people. And when they appreciate the concept and also put my piece as the ground plan at home, that’s of course great.

I’ve always liked to discover how the material works and the reflection of the metallic material. The color is also a reflection. When I was 6, I was already fascinated by the reflection of the metal and color. So, I chose to play the silver flute because of the material (at least that’s what I think now), not only for the sound. This seems to be something rooted in me. I am like a magpie that collects shiny stuff. I always find shiny things on the street as well, like coins, money, small golden stuff, etc.


In the last show at Galerie Marzee, you laid each of your necklaces next to one object. Are those objects also something you collect? (Video Link)

These objects came into my house at different times. In this collection, I was trying to combine jewellery and objects of another dimension, such as music, graphic design, and simple-found objects like marbles. With them, I tried to make the linkage between things and ways of thinking, between my jewellery and my surroundings, and found common elements that are in the jewellery as well as in the objects. Every piece has a ‘relation’ with an object. They are having a dialogue.

In the text for my exhibition at Galerie Marzee, they wrote, “These new pieces chart her personal environment.” The objects are a kind of ground plan of the surroundings. And together with these objects, the jewellery pieces are the ground plan of the thinking, as a diptych. In this way, it’s a kind of three-dimensional ground plan of my surroundings. It’s like an archive, not only of paper but of objects.


The piece that I really love was the piece laid with the mirror ─ so intriguing! The two parts of the piece seem to mirror each other, but they do not. It seems so trivial but yet so powerful, which really makes me wonder. You were talking about the reflection earlier, and here, the mirror, the piece itself, the metal, the material they all reflect.

In English, the word “reflection” has two meanings. One is like “the reflection of sunlight on the surface” and the other is “serious and careful thought in one’s mind, an inner dialogue.” So here, it’s both.

In fact, I hate mirrors because always when I look into the mirror, I see myself yet I have another image of myself. The image of myself in the mirror does not correspond to the image that exists in my head. In that way, this necklace seems to be the reflection of the square, yet not a real square. It has one extra strip so they are not equal. It’s bigger, but you don’t realize it. One is colored (like makeup) and one not. In this way, it’s the distortion of a reflection. Your inner life is always different from what you show to people (at least in my case) and you can never express yourself completely to others. It’s not possible. In that way, you stay always a bit inside yourself. And that’s the same thing with the mirror; it doesn’t reflect most things.

I have a mirror in my workshop (the same one that comes with this piece). I use it only when I try on the pieces to see how it hangs on the body, but I would immediately go away from there. I don’t like to have mirrors in the house. I don’t look too long in the mirror.


Where does your creative work usually take place?

For getting new inspiration, it could happen in the morning when I wake up, on the train, in the kitchen; it could be anywhere… But when I really have to focus, I do it in my workshop where I have my work and everything around me. When I am in my workshop, I feel the obligation to come clear and really make something out of it.

In 2017, I had the show at Marzee in June, but in January, I only had a very vague idea about what I wanted to make. One day, I was in France on holiday, and I woke up with many ideas which had become the basic idea for the exhibition. However, to work out the ideas, I still needed to go back to the studio and “make” it. You have to make it real otherwise the ideas only stay as ideas which could sometimes seem beautiful but might be worthless.


Do you sketch a lot?

I sketch a lot and also write things down in words.

When it comes to the real material, I am kind of “lazy” – I don’t want to work for nothing. So, when I start making, I do it directly in gold (or in the material I need) so I can see and feel if it’s right and how it really hangs. The realizing of the pieces takes a few months, but the thinking and collecting ideas ahead is a much longer process.

Back in 2016, I went to Berlin for one month where I collected a lot of ideas. But after that, I still needed to come back to my studio to “materialize” the ideas. My work still requires material although sometimes I’d like to make things without having to materialize them. I still haven’t found the solution for it.

Sometimes I’d like to work like a writer who does not need tools, utensils, and studio space. But when I only write things down or make sketches, I am not happy with it. I cannot “describe” my ideas. I have to show how it hangs, falls, works, and moves. It’s not something that you can do in words, design, or sketches. I have to make it three-dimensional otherwise it doesn’t work.


What’s on your working bench at this moment?

There are three pieces. I am taking apart some old pieces to re-make into new work. (See Link)

In 2015, I was invited to the exhibition “To Recover” at gallery Klimt02 in Barcelona, where they ask artists to revisit their old works. It was an interesting and practical way of working to give new life to old pieces. In fact, I had already started to work that way since 2011 with the series “Beautiful City – Moments.” I re-used elementary particles for the new work.

Sometimes people ask me for my older works. I work in the edition of five, so I can make one design maximum up to five times. Sometimes I make two when there are two exhibitions in the same period. And when a sold piece is my favorite, I make it after some time just for myself, to see it again and show it.


What’s your most important tool?

Of course, it’s the hammer!

The hammer is slightly round on the head so that you can see the hammering on the surface and it gives a kind of skin and reflection to the piece. So, you don’t have to polish the piece anymore. The polishing is in the hammering. (See Link)

But sometimes I hate this hammer because I tend to hammer all my pieces!

Like in the mirror piece we mentioned before, I tried to make the elements half hammered and leave half un-hammered. That was my solution to not hammer all my pieces. In the mirror piece, the mirrored part is the un-hammered part. So, it doesn’t reflect itself; only the mirror part reflects. I had to think about the surface where I used the skin of the elements as how they came out from the rolling mill. They get the surface from the mill and eventually also from the user. It was challenging for me (because hammering was so natural for me) trying to find the new beauty of “skin.” In the beginning, I felt that it was too “easy.” But later it became one of my favorite pieces.


Which was the first gallery that showcased your work?

My first exhibition was at a gallery in Middelburg when I was in the second year of the academy. It was a show presenting some school projects.

After the academy, when I really started my own work, the first gallery that showcased my work was Galerie Nouvelles Images in Den Haag, and then it was Galerie Marzee in the same year, and a few months later, also at the Galerie Ra in Amsterdam. Those three galleries were the first ones.


Has it been important for you that the galleries want to show your work? Did that give you a boost in going further with your work?

Yes, sure! It’s a kind of recognition and stimulation for me to “finish” a series of work. An exhibition creates a point to go for and look forward to. Like I said before, I go into the studio to materialize my ideas and the next step is to show them at the galleries as a whole concept to really finish as a group of works. However, I am a bit spoiled in a certain sense, because I have always had places to show my works, so I don’t know how it is to make works without showing them. Of course, it’s demanding as well, but I like the challenge. Otherwise, I might be kind of lazy. But I think I would be still making things in my room like when I was a child.

Showing in the gallery gives me the challenge to bring out the best of myself. When I have a show, I must have the feeling that it is the best I can do right now. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have the need to finish something. Not until a piece is finished, you wouldn’t know if the piece is okay. “Finishing” is really important; that’s something Giampaolo taught me. When you don’t finish the work, it is NOTHING. When you show works to the public, you show your own opinion and criteria towards things, how far you would go for something. The whole process of thinking and developing work is the most interesting and most important to do, but when you finish it, you are completing the piece. It is the max of that moment. Then this whole process is caught IN the pieces. Sometimes, there is even a surprise in the finishing and then it goes beyond my imagination. That’s the best thing that can happen to me, the surprise in the end. This is why I want to continue. But it doesn’t happen all the time. That makes it challenging. That’s what I am aiming for, to make the best circumstances trying to make that happen. And when it happens, I immediately forget how it happened. I can’t keep it; I can’t do it again; so, it starts all over again. At that point, I don’t learn. I just have to try again.


How do you know a work is finished?

I make sketches out of material.

Like on the table now, I lay all the parts on the table how I would like to put them together. They lay there probably for weeks and I look at them hundreds of times. When the piece is not right, you’ll see it’s not right (you might not know the solution). Then I start changing them until I get the feeling that it might be okay. Then I try to finish the piece and look at it again. It’s not that all the pieces are evenly strong. One could be stronger than another. However, that’s not the problem. The piece has to be good in itself. When the thinking about the work is finished, then the piece is most of the time okay. The thinking takes the most time. I call it ‘thinking,’ but it is not only an active, conscious way of thinking. It happens more in the back of my head. I throw it in the back (in fact it feels like it is just a little bit outside my head) and let it simmer there for some time. It works for me there and then pops up again.


What would you like to do if you were not making jewellery?

If I weren’t choosing to do jewellery, I’d like to be a translator for different languages like French, Italian, etc…

If we talk about fantasy, then I’d fancy a job which you don’t need a workshop and you could live anywhere, like a writer or a poet ─ something which has to do with a language.


Apart from the jewellery field, which artist do you admire the most?

At the moment, I have a book on my table from American sculptor Eva Hesse. She is one of my favorites. I saw the overview of her work in Vienna some years ago and more recently a documentary. I do see some works of young artists nowadays which remind me of Eva Hesse’s work. I think her way of thinking is coming back. She fascinates me. Her diary about how she worked and her mentality towards work inspired me. And this leads to the other question you asked previously.


If being an artist is a mathematical formula, what would it be?

“ 1= 0 / one equals to zero ”

“It is something; it is nothing,” ─ Eva Hesse once wrote about her work.

For me, I work in the middle of something or nothing and always try to find the border of it. That’s the challenge. I always ask myself when a piece is ready: is it something or is it nothing? But I think when it is something and nothing at the same time, it’s ok.

Somebody once said that I am like a rope dancer who always tries to find this point of balance. With my work, I am always balancing between “It is something; it is nothing.”


Which of your work most represents you?

The first two gold necklaces I made in the last year of the GRA period represent me the most because out of them, everything has grown. The first necklace is static and the second is dynamic. They form the basic concept which I carry on to build my pieces with. Therefore, this is the most central and inner part of my creation and until today, it’s still counting. Before them, I had never made a chain. There, I tried and really found the key to my work. I found my ‘elementary particles’ and started to build with them. And that’s endless.


Do you have a most treasured jewellery?

Of my own work, that would be the “Loops” necklace. Two people who are very important to me, my mother and Marie-José from Galerie Marzee, are both wearing it very often: quite special that they both love this piece.

I have one ring which was given by my parents just before my father passed away. That’s special to me. It’s a ring from Emmy van Leersum.

I have also a piece from Lucy Sarneel, also very dear to me, because I love her very much as a person and as a jeweler. She gives me courage to continue my work.


Which jewellery artist’s answer to these questions would you be curious about? 

It would be Giampaolo Babetto, Dorothea Prühl, and Lucy Sarneel. When I feel blocked, their works are so powerful which give me the courage to continue.


What would you like to ask them?

What’s their secret to stay so powerful and to continue in their work?


If you are getting married, from who would you like to have your wedding rings made?

I never wear a wedding ring actually, but there is a ring I would love to have.

I’d like to have a Karl Fritsch ring (he makes only rings while I only make necklaces). Since he has made so many rings, I’d like to find a ring among them that I feel is just for me. It’s not the matter of choosing one ring but more of finding THE ring. I hope that one day I find my “right” Karl Frisch ring.

He still doesn’t know about this. He can just continue making and one day I will find mine among all of his rings!

I remember there was one he told me about, which had a black diamond with a big hole in it and the hole was more precious than the stone. I still have that piece kept in mind.



Photo Credit: vermetphotografie / Jean Beining


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