Eric Loubser is the co-founder of Tinsel and Tinsel gallery in Johannesburg, a space dedicated to contemporary jewellery. His heritage almost guaranteed him an affinity for jewellery design. “I grew up in my mother’s studio and I learnt how to do things at a young age, so the technical side of jewellery making
came easily to me,” he says.
Loubser’s mother is contemporary designer jeweller, Liz Loubser, and his wife, Geraldine Fenn, is also a jeweller and artisan. “Our styles are very different, but our philosophies are generally the same — jewellery for us is a passion rather than just a job, so we spend a lot of time talking about it and bouncing ideas off each other,” Loubser says.
Many jewellers attribute an inspirational piece or design that sparked their interest in this kind of career — not Loubser. Instead, it was the promise or chance of creating something new. “It was more about seeing that there were
so many possibilities in jewellery design that didn’t always get explored,” he says.
Loubser studied art at Stellenbosch, which he credits for the different styles and a more experimental approach to his work. “I like doing things that are quite classic in terms of style and proportion, but have a bit of a twist that makes them more interesting,” he says.
An element of surprise surfaces in most of his work, such as the use of unusual stones in unexpected shapes and colours. We loved the green stone that turned out to be a sapphire! In many of Loubser’s rings, the stones are set off-centre or are mismatched. The designs have an unexpected and beautiful charm.
There’s also a sense of the organic in Loubser’s work: from a fluid, curved piece of coral set in the centre of a drop earring, to the delicately tied thread-ends securing the stones alongside it. It’s a sense of organised chaos or skilled imperfection — a design direction that is fast gaining popularity.
“I used to get clients wanting more commercial designs, but now people are
more and more open to expressing their own styles, rather than just conforming to what’s out there or in fashion. Once a client understands all the possibilities, they also start enjoying the design process,” he says.
“I try to keep the client as involved as possible, to make sure they have all the
information to make the best choice — I want them to have the piece that’s most right for them. That’s my favourite part of the process — talking to the client and getting them excited about possibilities they didn’t know existed,” he says.
At the end of the day client satisfaction is the most important thing for Loubser. “That goes hand in hand with great craftsmanship and good quality materials,” he says. “That’s the difference between having a passion and just doing a job.”
tinsel.co.za; tinselgallery.com; ericloubser.com