Q & A with Nick Von K

By Megan McDonald December 30, 2011

It’s rarely heard that a young guy takes up an age-old, dying artisan craft, let alone with passion. But modern journeyman Nick Klarwill launched his unisex Nick Von K line in September 2010 and has experienced the steady arc of success in just a couple years in the market, which includes collaborating with Nicole Miller.

The New Zealand jewelry designer is known for his compelling and distinctive hand-carved architecture of semi-precious stones, handsome metals, deer antler and mammoth tusk; all married to precious metal necklaces, bracelets and rings--some even with clever names, like this one called Two Birds with One Stone:


I especially like the idea of pairing his work with something pretty, to take the edge off.  Or put the edge on it.  As Nick puts it, his pieces are “elegant yet slightly macabre!”

I’m really lovin’ these pieces. In fact, Santa has arranged for a couple to be delivered to me.  So, if you’d like to see Nick’s work up close….

But first, my interview with Nick, here:

Q+A with Nick Klarwill

Q::  It’s clear in your work that you take painstaking attention to carving detail, which results in powerful statement pieces. However did you hone this precise talent [and/or how did you get introduced to it]?

A:: I design my work in Bali. I have spent many years finding local carvers who can understand my design ideas and have the skills to achieve the detail I require.

I use different carvers who specialize in the different materials involved in my collections, and only one or two who can carve wax to the level required for silver mastering.

Some ideas can get lost in translation as their culture is so vastly different to western culture, and so therefore their aesthetic is also vastly different. Some motifs are easily understood, while others take a lot of explanation and constant monitoring during the carving process to achieve a good result.

I find the best way to successfully design is to travel to Bali where I can sit down with the carvers and go through the idea thoroughly with them--often using pictures and drawings as I find this better than verbal communication, which can be a barrier.

The hyper-real detailing of some of my designs is a result of this combined process.



Q::  Congrats on your recent coup with Nicole Miller’s Pre-Fall 2012 
Artelier Collection at New Zealand’s Fashion Week–how did that come about?

A::  Nicole Miller picked up my range in 2010 while she was in New Zealand headlining NZ Fashion Week.

Then, in April 2011, we launched the new Nick Von K range at her store in Soho, where we also shot this video all about it.

She cited me as an influence for her new 2012 Artelier Collection but so far we haven't collaborated together directly on design.

For her 2012 Artelier Collection, Nicole Miller cites inspiration as Nick Von K’s jewelry and the Sharon Stone character from The Quick and the Dead.  A western vibe “without being cowboy,” remarks Miller.

Q::   Anything in the works to create a line [range] with her?

A:: I would love to work on a collection with Nicole!! She is incredibly creative and our aesthetics would be a very interesting mix.

She is famous for her beautifully feminine and elegant evening gowns, but Nicole also has a very boyish/punk edge to her so I'm sure we would create something really amazing together.

Q::  Take us behind the scenes of this amazing art video titled: Beautiful Alchemy:

Beautiful Alchemy from Maxy on Vimeo.

A::  Beautiful Alchemy is the brainchild of Dan Max and myself.

Maxy photographed the jewelry for my very first interview (in Black Magazine) and since then we have become good friends.

We had an idea to shoot a small film, and then next minute it spiraled into a huge production involving over 20 people and costing way more than expected. Such is the film industry!  But the result is pretty awesome.

I have to also thank Matt Wilson from Kaleidoscope, who directed it and did endless hours of post-production work--his efforts really made the footage come to life.

It was shot in New Zealand's native forest, and as you can see from some of the shots we managed to lug an entire film set down into the forest, including a dolly, six-meter camera arm and dolly tracks which were set up on the forest floor. The shoot took two full days, plus extra pick up shots on location and in studio. We also managed to find a musician who wrote the music directly to the footage, for full cinematic effect.

It's called Beautiful Alchemy due to the alchemic connection of the creative people involved. There were a lot of different creatives working on this film and they all came together with a single vision. This is reflected in the cohesion of the final result.

The story is about transformation, the legendary alchemists' goal.

A piece of jewelry is delivered through the forest to a God-like creature. He then blesses the piece and crushes it into balls of glowing light. The light then flies through the forest.

At the same time, elsewhere, a large cocoon is breaking open and a newborn forest nymph is being born. She is very fragile in her newborn state, shivering on the forest floor. The light flies through the forest faster and faster, eventually heading directly for the newborn and exploding into her.

She is then transformed.

The transformation process is something very close to my heart.

For the last 15 years I have studied with a meditation group, learning a lot about many things, including the process of transformation.

We can all transform ourselves and our lives if we choose, and there are many ways to facilitate this, including the meditation form that I practice.

I hope in some way my jewelry also transforms those that choose to wear it.

Q::  What moves you about the natural worlds and world between life and death?

A::   I see nature as a realm of ultimate creativity. The variety of life forms that are built on pure mathematics with flamboyant flair are endless, and I am always inspired by what I find in the natural world.

Combining animal and plant motifs with inanimate materials like silver and stone brings together life with the lifeless, and this also leads into my theme of life beyond death.

Personally, I think that death will be the greatest adventure, just as in the Mexican tradition of The Day of The Dead. This spirituality sees death as simply a transition between worlds, and that there is another existence after death to be understood and colourfully celebrated.

So in this way I play with images of death, to bring humour and life to the subject, and a tone of my own personal philosophy to my jewellery.

Q::   Who is the Nick Von K client?

A::   The Nick Von K aesthetic is one born from my own personal style.

Basically I started the Nick Von K label by making jewelry that I would personally like to wear, and I then put it out to the world to see if others wanted to wear it, too--and I've been pleasantly surprised. So perhaps the Nick Von K client is somewhat like me?

Working with Nicole Miller, however, broadened my perspective, her customer is typically very feminine and elegant and seeing them respond to my collections at the launch in New York made me realize some people will enjoy just a touch of my style, to counterpoint theirs. In this way I now see that the Nick Von K customer can be someone who I never expected, someone with a closet passion for "life n' death n' rock n' roll!"

For even more fashion news and notes, follow Heather Dunhill on Twitter @heatherDUNHILL.

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