Wales-born, New Zealand-raised, and now Melbourne-based Welfe Bowyer is essentially a self-taught jeweler; yet his previous life studying architecture means that he’s always been interested in creating three-dimensional entities and experimenting with materials and techniques. His self-named label WELFE produces jewelry that only uses the highest quality materials—ethically sourced gemstones from Australia and around the world, conflict-free Australian diamonds, and solid precious metals. The resulting treasures—which he hopes are all heirloom pieces—are uniquely textured, bright and bold and somehow, also subtle.
Bowyer says—especially in his just-released Solar SS16 Collection—this contrast is entirely intentional. “Under the naked eye a piece might seem quite delicate and tranquil, but look at it closer and it can be quite intense and dynamic,” he tells CH. “The Solar collection is made of up of almost primary colored gems—topaz, rhodolite garnet, citrine, and peridot—which creates some bold and playful combinations. The contrasting tones of the warm citrine yellows and garnet reds, juxtaposed with the cool topaz blue, engage with the solar theme of fiery bodies in the cold vacuum of space.”
The Solar collection has an other-worldly, outer-space vibe. The Solar stacking rings (made from 18ct gold, featuring an Akoya pearl and Australian blue sapphire) evoke an image of planets floating past one another across a star-filled sky. Bowyer says the range is all about “summer heatwaves; staying up all night tracing the stars and their movements across the sky.” The stunning Gem Cluster Ring was quite a challenge, Bowyer says, “As each gem is set at a different angle, and the desire to have each stone reflect and influence the colors of the other surrounding stones. So understanding how to get light behind each gem and how they reflect light into each other was a satisfying problem to solve.”
Texture is a common theme in Welfe collections, whether it be natural imperfections or layers in a stone, or finishes created by hand. Of his process, Bowyer says, “First, I design a unique overall form or shape that has a level of intrigue to it, and then develop layers of detail using variations of geometry, gemstone shapes and organic textures.”
“I’m always experimenting with unique textures,” he continues. “My current signature texture is inspired by erosion. So the first process is to create the overall form, geometry, structure of the piece, which I create out of wax. The second phase is to subtract from it; I have a special custom tool that I have made which allows me to carve tiny amounts of wax, one hole at a time, while simultaneously melting it. This is the cast in metal, giving the final form of the piece. It’s very time-consuming but the result is worth it, as I have total control over the look and shape of each tiny detail. I’m also interested in how they continue to wear in over time, as they take on a new life.”
Images courtesy of WELFE jewelry, lifestyle images by Jo Duck