One summer afternoon I met Natalie Hijazi, a Jordanian contemporary jewelry designer. An easygoing, confident person, who believes in what she is doing, the ice was instantly broken by her sunny personality. Beginning her foray into jewelry design a few years ago when she happened upon an opportunity in the field she enjoyed so much, she has been growing in popularity ever since. On Campus had the opportunity to chat with this trend-setting young woman…
Name: Natalie Hijazi
Date of birth: 14/12/1979
Star sign: Sagittarius
Major: B.A in Fine Arts and B.A in Jewelry Making
and Design from Art Studio Fuji in Florence
How did you discover your talent for jewelry design? Did your mother’s jewelry influence or inspire you?
I first decided to study fine arts in order to learn the fundamentals of drawing, and to take courses in various techniques such as oil and watercolor painting, etching and sculpture, all at the Fine Arts Academy of Florence. I then wanted to do something extra. Initially I thought of graphic design, but I was discouraged as I didn’t feel it was a field that would give me the flexibility or challenge I desired.
Custom jewelry was a new concept at that time with only a handful of known designers, Azza Fahmey being one of them and a huge inspiration to me. So I enrolled in a year-long course where I learned how to design and make jewelry. It was a very random decision and a whole new experience, but it came naturally to me.
Did studying fine arts enrich your imagination or teach you to think and design in a certain way?
Fine arts definitely enriched my imagination and artistic confidence. And of course, I now can use the artistic methods and techniques in my pieces.
What did studying in Italy mean for you? What did you give Italy?
Italy opened my vision in every single direction; artistically and socially. It gave me a whole different outlook on life. I gave Italy rent!!
If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
I would be a human sponge: I’d absorb all other superheroes’ powers and a bit of everything else, offering me the exciting chance to try it all… and of course flying.
Do you think jewelry should be fluid, abstract and organic or classic and eternal?
I personally prefer contemporary jewelry; it gives you a bigger opportunity to experiment with unconventional materials and designs, even new shocking ones, while classic designs can sometimes be limiting: you can’t change them too much, otherwise they will no longer be ‘classic’.
The letter Noon (Nun N in Arabic) is prominent in your designs. Why?
I wanted to make the 1st letter of my name prominent. It’s stamped or etched into my pieces.
Is jewelry better designed by men or women? Who understands a woman’s taste better?
It is equally divided between both; it may have started as a male dominated field, especially in fine jewelry. But now women designers are rising, especially in the contemporary field.
Where do you get your design ideas from and why did you avoid using expensive metals and stones?
Somehow my ideas simply pop into my head. As for the materials, I’ve experimented with silver, gold and brass.
I found that clients responded more to brass, as it was a break from the ordinary and at that time a metal rarely used. I also don’t mind using stones as it is popular with the masses, but I simply prefer the more complicated techniques and artistic challenges of working with metals.
Did locals respond any differently than your international clients to your designs?
It depends; local clients prefer designs that are close to local traditions, whereas foreigners were more eager to buy the more unusual designs. I believe that locals tend to stay in their comfort zone, which is dictated by fashion trends, I guess.
Do you prefer seeing your pieces worn with jeans and a T-shirt or with a little black dress?
They go with both; I’ve seen them worn by different age groups, young and old, hip and classic. I wouldn’t want my designs to be limited to just one box.
Recently, one of your Gaza designs was “stolen”, changed and published. What were your feelings at that moment?
It wasn’t a big issue, really; I produced that design as a small, public tribute to Gaza, but when I learned that some publication used it without even informing me, and edited out my name, it wasn’t so much about the use of the illustration but that I felt this habit had to stop. If it was one of my jewelry designs or personal illustrations used, however, then I wouldn’t have taken it so lightly.
Is it difficult for you to let go of your pieces when they are sold?
Sometimes, but I always make a replica of the best designs to keep for myself.
Do you think Jordanian youth are aware of your creations?
Recognition is definitely growing and I’ve noticed that people have started to recognize my name. I’ve also seen my designs on young people out and about. The youth are more open to the fantasy touch that can be found in some of my designs, especially in the hand painted pendants and earrings.
What is your last thought before you go to sleep?
Its not about the jewelry, I assure you. It is the time for my mind to wander to other things.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
By then I’m hoping my jewelry will become a successful profession. Its success would be my personal fulfillment and pride.
Any advice to graduates of Fine Arts?
It is my personal belief that through serious practice in fine arts one gains a great asset, one that would be beneficial to a wide variety of professional fields. If one learns the fundamentals of drawing, he or she could pursue illustration, animation, art-directing, painting and design of all genres.
Any final words?
Wear my jewelry, enjoy it. I want people to love my designs; I don’t want my work to be perceived as yet another ‘piece’ of fashion, but to always be personalized miniature works of art.
Natalie’s pieces can be found at Lazuli in Um Uthaina or at Kempinski Hotel Dead Sea and Marriot Hotel Dead Sea gift stores. You can also contact Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org with any inquiries.