The Timeless Appeal of Christa Reniers
Christa Reniers designs jewellery with one person in mind: herself. And yet, some of her pieces have become timeless classics for women of several generations. How come?
Women of all ages carry pieces in their ears and around their necks and fingers that were once a bright thought in Christa Reniers’ head. The self-taught designer has been an important part of the Belgian jewellery scene for more than two decades, and has recently opened a flagship store in Antwerp’s bustling Nationalestraat.
But what might seem, from the outside, like a thorough study of the evolving tastes of her consumers is actually the result of an internal struggle: Reniers designs with nobody but herself in mind, and the birth of every piece is a painful, unexpected and uncontrollable process. What is pushing her forward?
TLmag: I understand that you’re now focusing more on the gold pieces instead of the silver ones.
Christa Reniers: Actually, silver is also very important for us.
TLmag: Do you know what the market response is like for both materials, in terms of percentage of sales?
CR: (Laughs) That’s something for our financial analyst. I’m only focused on creation and styling and production. I know nothing about sales!
TLmag: Your have a workshop in Brussels, but now you moved the main workshop to the Antwerp shop. Why?
CR: It’s because above the shop there was a big room with a lot of light, a very nice room where we can invite people over.
TLmag: Your latest Cracked Ring now includes diamonds. Is that the Antwerp influence?
CR: We don’t think about that, really. The “crack” in the Cracked Ring is usually black, and at a certain moment we thought of putting black diamonds in. We thought it would be nice, and the result was indeed good. When I create I don’t think about other people. It’s only about what I want.
TLmag: So basically shoppers are attracted to the brand due to a kindred personality?
CR: Not really! We have all types of women, from the classic to the alternative, of all ages. That’s strange! I make them for me, but it attracts other women, too. There are even people who tell me: “Hrmm… that piece is not very Christa Reniers.” They always associate me with organic motifs, simply because I’m self-taught and I like to sculpt. That’s why the first pieces were very organic, because I sculpted them myself and I didn’t know how to solder.
TLmag: And how does your creative process work now?
CR: I find creating very difficult. Sometimes nothing will come for a long time. I always think “It’s over, nothing will come again”… and then, at a certain moment, I don’t know where it comes from, something comes to my head. It’s always in my head, I never sketch anything beforehand. I immediately start sculpting something in wax. I don’t sketch things, because you can’t try on a sketch. I like trying things on my fingers, holding them in front of my ears. I don’t think about influences… I’m just very glad something is good at last and the process is over! It’s very frustrating. Sometimes I’m at my desk and nothing comes, and I eat and I eat! (Laughs)
TLmag: That’s a bit masochistic! I heard a designer describe the process of creation as childbirth —it’s horribly painful, but then you see the amazing baby and forget all about the pain, and you’re so happy that you’re tricked into having another one.
CR: Yes! That’s a good comparison, really! After I’m done, I am relieved. Especially when I want to wear it. Sometimes I make a piece and I’m not sure if it’s really good, but when I want to wear it immediately, I know it’s good.
And yet the interesting thing is that you don’t know if your pieces are going to be timeless. Some of the things I made 20 years ago are still selling. The rings never grow old —the Black Star and the Cube Cascade, for example—. That’s what I really want to reach. I don’t want to do fashion jewellery, but timeless jewellery.
The Christa Reniers Antwerp shop is located on Nationalestraat 19