With her contemporary yet timeless jewellery brand, Quim, designer Katelyn Nelson creates beautiful, unisex pieces that are perfect for today’s ethos of embracing your true self.

Pieces by the designer who “loves to create and witness the ripple of effects when people encounter her objects” are now stocked in Zambesi Ponsonby. We spoke to Nelson about working with one of New Zealand’s most iconic design houses, her design muses and, of course, what’s in a name.

What’s the story behind the name Quim?

Quim means vagina. A beautiful four-letter word that rolls of the tongue, with a meaning that was completely lost to me and my peers. The word has a traditionally derogatory nature, harking back to Shakespeare’s time, but 400 years later it is time to reclaim this word and fill it with positivity and strength. Calling my label Quim is a subversion of the old and captures the spirit of the small rebellion I am creating through my jewellery.

How long have you been designing jewellery?

Three years with purpose, and experimental bits here and there since childhood.

What’s the story behind your journey to becoming a designer?

Designing has always been in my nature. I am interested in many different disciplines and on my journey, I have flitted around between spatial, graphics, fashion and sculpture. I studied fashion design at AUT and after gaining some experience in the industry, I made the switch to jewellery. It is really cool to combine my love of sculpture with my love of fashion and create jewellery that expresses my political ideas and musings.

Quim
The Artemis collection. Photo supplied.

Zambesi is your first stockist — congratulations! How did it come about to partner with one of New Zealand’s most iconic fashion brands?

Thank you, yes it is exciting! Zambesi is incredible. I got Liz’s number from my boss and called her for three weeks until she agreed to have a meeting with me. Then when we met she was really cool and agreed to stock me.

At the launch of Quim at Zambesi Ponsonby, we saw a lot of symbolism laid out with fruit, stones and other rustic objects that supported the image of your jewellery collection. What’s the inspiration behind this collection?

Ah yes, so cool you could come along to see it! The collection “Artemis” is about embracing traits often labelled as feminine and lesser, such as vulnerability and empathy, and holding them up as the new strengths in the world we are building. The jewellery is designed as amulets of protection for all genders, encouraging the unapologetic expression of the true self.

The display was in dedication to Artemis the ancient Goddess of the hunt and the moon. With the help of my wonderful friend, spatial designer Zammia Weatherall, we created a lux medieval feast with dark undertones on white plinths and placed the jewellery pieces amongst it.

Do you have a favourite piece from the collection?

Ah, it’s very hard to pick a favourite — they are like my children. But, I wear my Orbit necklace every day, so I feel most attached to it. I bathe all my pieces in the moonlight after I make them, so I feel that they all hold special power.

Quim
Orbit Necklace | Photographed by Lula Cucchiara

What makes Quim unique in the marketplace?

Quim Jewellery is for all genders, it is political, compassionate and bold.

I make all the pieces by hand in my Point Chevalier studio using local suppliers and recycling my metals. The jewellery has purpose and soul, nothing is copied, it has come from my experiences and unique perspective.

Where do you go for inspiration when working on a new collection?

I spend a lot of time in the fashion and design world, looking at trends and I enjoy spotting the movements. When I am designing, however, I have learnt that it’s best to avoid looking at external inspiration and draw from my own experience and personal taste. Occasionally, after the initial idea is born, I will delve into all sorts of deep research paths; as an example, with the last collection I fell down a rabbit hole of Gothic Japanese Video Game design.

There are always topics to research along the way, but it’s best for me to start from me.

Do you have any design heroes?

I love people who break the mould and challenge established ideas. Fashion Designer Claire Barrow and Photographer Masie Cousins spring to mind.

What don’t you leave the house without?

An extra jumper or three.

View more from Quim in the gallery above. Shop Quim’s new collection ‘Artemis’ in Zambesi Ponsonby or at quimjewellery.com.

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