Last year was quite a busy one for us as we completed three different collaborations, including the recent Good Vibrations collection. What's great about collaborating with fellow designers is the opportunity to learn about each other's ideas, crafts and culture. One such special collaborative project we did was with Zurich-based Iranian designer Lida Noba.
How did our collaboration happen halfway across the world? Technology! I won't take time to extol the wonders of the internet and social media as you guys already experience it first hand, but it's amazing how it brought together two designers on different continents to produce a collection that beautifully merges each of our unique cultures.
Above: abalone earrings with mirror inlay, and kabebe and abalone headpiece.
Lida and I were introduced by our mutual friend, Valerie of Vera, last year when Lida was looking for someone to help create accessories for her latest fashion collection. Valerie reached out to me because of the geometric/tribal look of our jewelry, which was what Lida was looking for, along with the shine and iridescence of our shells.
Lida's collection, Monir, is inspired by Iranian culture and tradition, particularly the brilliant works of Iranian mirror artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. I did a bit of research of my own and got my mind blown by how AMAZING these mirror artworks are. Check them out and get your mind blown, too:
Can you believe that's all mirror?! Needless to say the thought of incorporating mirror into our inlays got me feeling more than a little anxious. If you've seen how our shell inlay is made you'll know how much grinding and polishing is involved to make our pieces as shiny and smooth as they are. Would we be able to do the same with mirror?
Above: Mirror headpiece by Hoda Seraj; earrings in yellow mother-of-pearl and mirror by us.
The next few months were spent experimenting with materials and developing new techniques, with Lida and I exchanging texts, calls, and emails every week or so. I won't lie, working together this way did have its challenges, and sometimes what one was trying to say would get lost in translation, but we weathered through.
In the workshop we were working out different ways to add mirror to the inlays, but it never quite turned out right. We were at the point of abandoning one particular design when our lead artisan was able to come up with a technique that could incorporate mirror pieces in one of the most intricate designs we've worked on to date. Since we couldn't grind the mirror pieces with our shell, we had to add the mirror separately after grinding and polishing, a method that required extra care and precision to make sure everything fit exactly right. Not an easy task when everything is done by hand! See it below:
Above: Mirror and abalone inlay earrings. The most challenging design!
This collaboration challenged our own crafting methods and pushed us out of our comfort zone to create a collection that marries traditional Filipino craft to Persian aesthetics so beautifully. In Lida's words:
I’m always amazed by the mirror art works of Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. The characteristic of her work lies in her play of colors, light, geometry, and reflection.
I met Susanne, a designer based in Cebu City, Philippines, through a mutual friend. Her handcrafted, bold and daring accessories were the reason for our long-distance collaboration. We both have a passion for craftsmanship and love for our heritage.
I am very proud of this collaboration and learned a lot from it. And if I've started taking our craft of Cebuano shell inlay for granted, this collection definitely made me see it in a new light and re-appreciate its intricacies and respect the skills of our craftsmen. Thank you so much for trusting us with your project, Lida! Here's to more collaborations in the future!
Above: Yellow mother-of-pearl and mirror inlay earrings (left); all shell inlay earrings (right).
Photos © Lida Noba
Photography • Janette Gloor
Model • Lea of Visage International Management
Hair & Makeup • Laura Moser