Montreal-born, NYC-based photographer-turned-designer Erin Wahed conceives of pieces that intrigue with their abstract and architectural quality. Her jewellery line, Bande des Quatres, has already garnered star attention and rave reviews for its unique designs. Each design is a collaboration conceived by Wahed and her mother, world renowned Canadian jeweller Janis Kerman, who answered some of our questions.
What inspires you and your designs? Art is my biggest source of inspiration. I draw from all kinds of styles, periods and media – from photography, to sculpture, painting, architecture, graphic and industrial design.
Can you tell us how architecture plays an integral role in inspiring many of your designs? The Bauhaus movement was the inspiration for the debut collection, with Lazlo Moholy-Nagy playing such a large role within my own photography style. It was only natural that this aesthetic would find its way into the core of Bande des Quatres. As a result, when naming the pieces, it was only fitting to name each ring after a Bauhaus Master. This has become the tradition for all of our collections. While we were developing the first collection, the tie between the Bauhaus and architecture was so strong that the seeds were planted for Collection II. With Architects and their works as our inspiration for Collection II, three-dimensionality as well as illusion occupied our psyche while working out the construction constraints of each piece. We introduced a new element to Bande des Quatres with this collection by adding bracelets. Collection III introduces multi-part earrings, building on the previous two collections, which featured bracelets and rings. This collection is inspired by modern abstract photographers such as Artie Vierkant and Jessica Eaton, who are constantly pushing the medium of photography further by making the viewer wonder about what they are looking at when viewing their work. This sense of wonder is ever-present in Collection III with the large shapes used within the rings and bracelets.
How did Bande des Quatres get started? Being exposed to jewellery as a child watching my mother work, I knew that I would never have the patience to hand-make jewellery, but it always fascinated me. Bande des Quatres was conceived on a family vacation when my mother and I were designing jewellery that would accessorize the outfit I planned to wear to my senior thesis exhibition at NYU. The Van der Rohe and Moholy-Nagy ring were created for that very purpose. The ring really pushed me to develop the brand and the debut collection of Bande des Quatres.
Can you tell us a bit about the design process that goes into creating your pieces. The design process begins by deciding on the theme and pulling references. The theme is always based around art. We only design one collection a year, so I spend quite some time pinpointing the specific theme I want to explore. From there, we sit together and start putting pen to paper. Then you could say we play dress up! We use paper models to see how the pieces could look when worn. From there, we move onto product development, where the paper models are transformed into metal. Once the pieces are finalized, I name them based on the theme and the artist that most inspired that specific piece.
What’s it like working with your mother? Working with my mother has truly been a gift. There is really no one better to collaborate with.I’ve never had a knack for drawing. It’s always been all about ideas for me. She can read my mind in the sense that I’ll point to something and say, “I like this part of it,” and she’ll know exactly what I’m talking about and translate it. That works very well and it’s not something that would work with just anyone. I think you have to have that intrinsic family bond to be able to communicate like this. My mother has been a working jeweller since she was 15 years old. I am heavily inspired by her pieces and the way in which she creates, but never thought that I would find myself being a part of the jewellery world. I tried to make pieces in her studio when I was younger and never managed to develop the necessary level of patience to complete the actual construction. Little did I know that one day we would design a piece together that would ultimately lead to the jumping off point for Bande des Quatres. Each design is a true collaboration. I take on multiple roles: I’m the co-designer and creative director, I lead the brand’s marketing strategy, I do all the PR work and I’m the photography director and producer. My mother is the goldsmith and co-designer.
Can you talk about the latest collection? Building upon the aesthetic and identity of previous collections, Collection IV is inspired by minimalist artists – those whose creations are stripped to the bare essentials. Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt and Alexander Calder are just a few whose work moved us to design these pieces. This collection introduces new shapes, textures and materials to the repertoire of Bande des Quatres. The polygon fits seamlessly with our sharp and sleek design approach while the use of rubber in necklaces and bracelets adds a new dimension to the element of illusion apparent in previous collections. By offering these pieces at retail prices between $75 and $450, we hope to welcome new members into the Bande des Quatres family.
To find out more about Erin and Bande des Quatres, visit www.bandedesquatres.com. Select jewellery is stocked in Montreal at the Museum of Fine Arts Boutique, 1380 Sherbrooke St. E.