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Once a fine artist, Husam transitioned to jewellery by way of a fascination with alchemy. Inanimate objects found on bicycle explorations around London take on unexpected character as they come to ornament his studio.
Born to a Lebanese mother and a Palestinian father, Husam grew up in Germany. Despite his background, he resists outside attempts to exoticise his work based on these origins. Yet Husam finds non-obvious similarities in his jewellery to the work of Hussein Chalayan or Zaha Hadid, citing a less prominent connection between sin and the body
Husam’s “frozen roses” and twisted, thorny stems wrap round the wrist and neck with the sensuality of unruly vines. His modern surrealist world has just grown to include a debut fine jewellery collection, which we are exclusively previewing on Avenue 32.
How did you come up with the “frozen flowers” idea for your jewellery?
It was right after the second storm of the Financial Crisis - The news was so depressing. I came to a point where I’d suddenly had enough. Even though I love reading and following current affairs, I didn’t want to read the news any more, it no longer had a relationship with my actual life and was just making me depressed.
Perhaps I was just reaching out for something really pure. The rose bush outside of my studio was flowering and it just made more sense to me than anything else. I thought I’d just take my ideas from the nice fresh rose bush instead of doing something dark and moody. For Autumn/Winter, the idea of doing something frozen offered itself. When I was designing, at one point I just picked a flower and wrapped it around my wrist and thought: “well, why can’t we just do it like that!”
Can you explain your interest in alchemy?
I remember in my first year of university I was studying jewellery and I was also reading Harry Potter and it was totally a propos to what we were doing. We were grinding down the stones and using the powder, just like at Hogwarts! I think alchemy plays a huge part in the material: you see it melt, you see it flow, and you see the colours. Also there’s the idea of destroying things. You’re destroying them but you’re also re-shaping them and keeping the essence of the object intact. So this sort of flowed into my work.
Can you explain the objects that make up the atmosphere of your studio?
I do find myself cycling around with no particular aim. I feel like I’m preparing for the next collection in a subconscious way… almost searching for something. I don’t really know what, but it happens automatically. I have that a lot, where I sort of collect stuff but don’t know why I’m keeping it until it reveals itself. I guess working for me is about finding out why I’m attracted to things. Sometimes I’ll only know afterwards. So you just let your head spin out and let your mind search.
Curious people love coming here because you just open the drawers and there are all these mysterious things (like old photographs, brass wiring or an old worn out pair of jeans, all pictured). I don’t really hoard them though, I do let them go.
Where’s your favourite place?
I am very sensitive to the spaces I’m surrounded by. London is very good for me –I think that’s why I came here. It’s such a multi-layered place.
Wherever I am I love watching people. I’m embarrassingly obvious about it. I always have a little sketchbook and I like to make portraits of people on the tube, watching what they wear and how they wear it. Almost fantasizing about what they’re trying to do with how they are expressing themselves – who they’re trying to be and who they dream of being. I love seeing what people touch that they have on. I am always interested in what natural relationships you have to things around you.
Who alive or dead would you love to have round for dinner?
Hmm… at my Last Supper. Can I invite Jesus? I think he was kind of an open minded guy. Anyone that doesn’t judge people and hangs around with every type of person bad or good, I’m interested in meeting. I’m totally atheist by the way.
How did your collaboration with Pringle come about?
A friend of mine was working with Alistair (Carr) at Pringle. He was looking around for a jeweller to work with at the time. My friend only ever wears my jewellery, so Alastair kept commenting on her things, and asking who had made them and she mentioned me. So I guess in the end Alistair thought “maybe I should give that guy a call.”
It was great to get to work with him. We did sunglasses first –really special one-off limited edition pieces. We stamped each pair “1 of 10, 2 of 10” and so on… He is very good at leading and still having us work very much together, there was no restriction. When you collaborate with someone you really need to understand that person but for it to be healthy, everyone has to have some space to put in their bit. This is how it felt working with Alastair: aesthetically, we clicked.
Husam el Odeh's new semi-precious jewellery collection is scheduled to arrive on Avenue32 next week. Pre-order now to be the first to receive your handmade piece.
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|Master Size (IT)||36||36.5||37||37.5||38||38.5||39||39.5||40||40.5||41|
|ITALY / EU||IT/EU||36||36.5||37||37.5||38||38.5||39||39.5||40||40.5||41|
|UK||6 5⁄8||6 3⁄4||6 7⁄8||7||7 1⁄8||7 1⁄4||7 3⁄8||7 1⁄2||7 5⁄8||7 3⁄4||7 7⁄8|
|US||6 3⁄4||6 7⁄8||7||7 1⁄8||7 1⁄4||7 3⁄8||7 1⁄2||7 5⁄8||7 3⁄4||7 7⁄8||8|
|Inches||21 1⁄4||21 5⁄8||22||22 1⁄2||22 3⁄4||23 1⁄4||23 5⁄8||24||24 1⁄2||24 3⁄4||25 1⁄4|