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All that glitters Using precious materials and age-old techniques, jeweller Karla Mertens creates unique pieces that are as beautiful as they are personal. Clients come to her workshop in Leuven in search of gifts, to rework existing pieces, and to commission bespoke jewellery – including remembrance pieces containing the ashes of loved ones. “I make pieces to order for clients, and each one tells its own story,” Mertens says. “Lots of people come to me to make a creation to hold the ashes of a loved one – a partner, a parent, a child. I take the time to listen to their story then go away to reflect and come up with my design. My designs always come from a place of meditation and silence.” Her creations are all handmade, using a variety of stones and metals including white, yellow and rose gold. She uses a technique known as lost-wax casting, a moulding method thought to date back more than 5,000 years. She also uses the chasing and repoussé method, in which steel rods known as punches and
TEXT: SALLY TIPPER | PHOTOS: COURTESY KARLA MERTENS
a chisel forge a three-dimensional form from a sheet of metal. For a customised piece of jewellery, a client will visit the shop three times. “The first time they explain what they’re looking for – a remembrance piece or a wedding ring, for instance. I show them my various styles and explain my techniques. They come back after I’ve had time and peace to seek the right symbol, the right stone, that perfectly fits the person. The third time, I hand over the finished piece. When I give it to the client, it’s really important that they see the love in it.” Mertens’ parents were also jewellers, and after graduating from Sint Lucas design school Karla Mertens.
in Antwerp she spent nine years working in their shop. Twenty-one years ago she opened her own atelier in her home city of Leuven. “I love to work with all metals and stones,” she says of her work. “Everything depends on the client. A piece of jewellery must compliment the wearer – it’s not necessarily about luxury but about the concept. I think it’s wonderful if someone gets pleasure from something I’ve created for them. It inspires me to keep going. What I want is that when someone comes into my shop, they are someone different when they leave.” Web: www.karlamertens.be
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