Spotlight on the Creators: Just Trade
For a long time, we wanted to work with Just Trade, a collaborative, innovative and ethical brand which works with artisans around the world to create handmade jewellery and accessories. Our exhibition Tracing Freud on the Acropolis brought us a golden opportunity to collaborate as we put a number of Snake jewellery items from Sigmund Freud’s collection on display.
We are very excited to introduce our Snake Jewellery range made by skilful and knowledgeable artisans in Peru, and are so honoured to be in partnership with Just Trade, a brand that have producers, communities and the environment at the heart of their practice.
We asked Laura Cave, the Founder and Director of Just Trade to tell us about the project:
When Iveta (Freud Museum Retail Manager) approached us back in February to ask if we would be interested in developing a range of jewellery for the upcoming Tracing Freud on the Acropolis exhibition, I jumped at the chance! It was really helpful to visit the museum so I could get a close-up look at the artifacts that would inspire the jewellery collection. I was also able to get a feel for the type of visitor and therefore potential customer who would be looking at the ranges we develop. I studied Psychology at A-level, but that was a long time ago, so was excited to revisit the world of Freud.
What was your first impression on seeing Freud’s collection, study and thinking about the brief?
Situated on a beautiful tree-lined road in North London and set amongst other impressive properties, Freud’s house has generous proportions, a beautiful garden and an overwhelming sense of calm – exactly the type of place you might want to go for therapy! What struck me most about Freud’s study was his interesting and impressive collection of antiquities and artworks. I wanted to know the story behind everything and was delighted that the exhibition curator, Marina Maniadaki, was only too happy to oblige.
Marina enthusiastically explained how, in 1904, a last-minute change in travel plans would find Freud at the Acropolis in Greece, a trip that was to haunt his thinking for many years to come. This also helped to explain why his collection of antiquities contained several pieces of snake jewellery, which was widely popular in Greek culture at the time. Often associated with healing and the god Asclepius, snakes were also a symbol of fertility and believed to ward off evil. The decision was made – snakes were to be the inspiration for our new jewellery collection.
How did the project develop?
Back in our workshop in Peckham, my colleague Ruth and I got to work. We did some material tests and experimentation with the brass half round wire and sheet. We quickly decided that the best group to work with for this project was the Hope Jewellery Project in Peru as they had both the right skill set to develop the designs further and access to the most appropriate materials and tools.
To give a bit of background, Hope Jewellery was founded in the early 2000s to provide fairly paid, meaningful work opportunities for women living in the shanty towns of Lima, Peru. Many of the women have had limited education and often, the only work available to them is working as housekeepers in more affluent areas. This could easily involve 2 hours’ travel each way on top of a whole day of cooking and cleaning for another family, while leaving their own children unattended or with relatives. Having part-time work that they can do from home or close to home means they can tailor their work schedules to family life. Just Trade was founded to provide a route to market for Hope Jewellery. We didn’t start Just Trade with a product range in mind, we started with a group of people who needed work. When developing a new product, the following factors need to be taken into account: what skills does the group already have? What skills can be taught? What type of work is needed (full-time/part-time/homework/studio work /flexible work)? What materials are available locally? And, of course, who is the final customer? All these considerations mean that careful thought needs to go into both design and price.
Ruth and I introduced the Freud project to the core team of metal artisan makers in Peru in a workshop held via Zoom. Two of the women were chosen to lead this project, Lizet and Naty, who surprised us all with her in-depth knowledge of Freud and was fascinated as I did my best to recount the stories that Marina had told me. After the workshop, the women continued experimenting with material and techniques to create a range of textured jewellery from sheet and half round wire. Textures were created by hammering or by rolling metal through a mill with a selection of fabric offcuts.
We held a further workshop via Zoom to review all the samples that Lizet and Naty had made, refining details such as the size of the drill bits used for making the snakes’ eye holes and confirming the exact lengths of the chain and style of earring hooks to be used. The next iteration of samples was sent to the UK for review by the buying team and curator and we spent a wonderful afternoon in Freud’s garden, trying on all the jewellery and selecting the final range.
We decided that bespoke packaging would play a key role in the final product as it would help to tell the story behind the jewellery. We are really pleased with how it has turned out! The colour of the cards reflects the theme of the exhibition, and the illustration is taken from a book published in 1905, which demonstrates how Greek women wore snake jewellery. The inspiration behind each piece is also described. These gorgeous earrings, for example, were inspired by the two-headed, ant-eating snake that was born from the blood dripping from Medusa’s head when she was beheaded by Perseus! For more light-hearted tales behind this collection, you will have to visit the exhibition itself!
We at Just Trade have loved working on this collaboration with the Freud Museum and we hope that you love the results.
Shop Freud’s Snake Jewellery online.
Interviewed by Iveta Rozlapa, Retail Manager