Jordanian-British Julia Ibbini has been named the winner of the sixth Van Cleef & Arpels Middle East emergent designer prize for 2019 in partnership with Tashkeel. The 38-year-old designer was born in the UK and raised in the UAE. She studied at Leeds College of Art and Design in the UK, returning to the UAE after university and eventually opening her studio spaces in Abu Dhabi.
“Over the last year I’ve had some very interesting projects that have enabled me to expand my practice in ways I had never thought possible; space, scale, materials, concepts, etc.,” says Ibbini. “The Van Cleef & Arpels prize is obviously one of them, which opens up very different career avenues for me and I’m excited about moving my practice forward into new areas as a result.” Alessandro Maffi, managing director of VCA Middle East & India comments, “L’École Van Cleef & Arpels is proud to take Julia Ibbini under its wing and provide the guidance essential for young designers and innovators like her to become successful professionals in the field of jewelry arts. With the positive partnership with Tashkeel, we strive to instill an intellectual and emotional understanding of jewelry and encourage young talent from the Middle East to scale greater heights.” Ibbini will travel to Paris for a one week trip to L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels. In addition, 30,000AED is awarded to her to cover the cost of materials and production of her design piece.
Ibbini produced four “vessels” for the Van Cleef & Arpels prize. They are made entirely of layered paper and card. Each piece was designed using a series of repeating elements around a radial arc arranged using parametric curves to create the lines visible in the final form. Algorithms and computational geometry created hundreds of individual parts; a customized laser machine was used to cut each layer in archival paper and card. The designer explains that each vessel took at least a week to cut. Once cut, every single layer was processed and assembled by hand using glue and pins to make the final piece. Overall, the process took between 12 and 72 hours per vessel depending on complexity and size.
“I had never worked with three dimensional forms before,” says Ibbini. “I thought this would be a good opportunity to explore how far I could push my practice in that direction.” She explains that the final pieces “display ideas of contrasts and collaboration.” The organic hand drawn elements, arranged in a rigid structured pattern around a form developed using algorithmic calculations, yet built by hand, produce a complex, detailed, and precise whole. “Organic and imperfect at the same time,” she comments, adding, “It is the flaws, which come from the human hand that produce the beautiful end result.”
The designer shares that she nurtures her work through constant research. “Trends, ideas, techniques, concepts, topics across wide areas. I’m a bit of a sponge that way. When I’m not making work or researching, I’m out running, which seems to be the way I process my creative life,” she says.
The award-winning designer offers advice to others exploring a creative path, “Stay curious. Don’t limit yourself to your particular area of expertise. Look to other fields. There are vast resources available all over the internet. Connect with others to build community, but don’t compare–comparison kills creativity.”