Anne Hasla has figured out what makes a piece of jewellery more than something sparkling that hangs around your neck. By taking inspiration from the mountains in Valle, Pablo Picasso and street art, Hasla creates jewellery that makes you move closer and actually look. There is a clear Norwegian identity to Hasla, and when looking closely you might even see a little bit of our Nordic nature in the intricate designs. I spoke to the designer about how the pandemic made her find her inner rebel, why it’s important to make jewellery for everyone, and how to deal with copycats.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on a collection called Elements. I wanted to explore the primary shape of things, the basics. I have always been interested in art and have studied art history. Picasso and Braque's work with cubism has been a major inspiration. They wanted to break up the shape of something into fractions and then set the fractions together again at sharper angles, while still trying to maintain the feeling of the initial shape. I love the paintings where the objects were seen from several angles at the same time, so you could have the most objective reproduction as possible. Through a cubist approach to form and shape, I want to visualize the main forms in our lives.
I find the reference to cubism very interesting, as I see an attention to detail and "odd" shapes in your jewellery that is not as common for accessories that are only meant to be glanced at or draw attention to an outfit. Would you say that your jewellery is closer to art than a mere accessory?
I’ve wanted to work with cubism for a very long time. To master the technique, you must analyze an object from several angles, and break down the shapes. It is much more demanding than it may look like in a finished item. The result is characterized by “odd shapes", as you mention, and hopefully objects that lie between art and design. I am very fond of the limitless way we think about art, and the compromises we make to get a good design that can be worn by many people. I absolutely want the jewellery to be something more than an accessory. It is important to us that we make pieces that can be worn for a long time.
How has the corona pandemic influenced your work?
It has been a combination of several things. We had the launch of our latest collection when the country closed down and had to think of alternative ways of getting the jewellery to our customers. It was a stressful time because of the uncertainty, but also because we had to lay off employees. Creating jobs is very important to us, and we value everyone who works with us. Beyond that, we were definitely inspired to think differently, and I experienced a huge creative boost. I started sewing and made clothes for my children and myself. I also started doing street art. Since I live in a village, I had to borrow old barn walls to spray on. It was nice to be forced to calm down a bit, and reconnect with my hobbies. I will definitely bring with me what this time taught me further into the design process of new collections. I want to try to work with artistic expression in several areas. It stimulates creativity!
I love to hear that you did street art. It’s so far away from jewellery designing, both in intention and scale, but also in reputation. Street art is lawless and robust, while jewellery is precious and exclusive. Has any part of street art tricked its way into Hasla?
With jewellery, I work within a fixed framework. It's a long way from the drawing board to a finished product. There is so much that needs to be adjusted along the way. Street art is a medium that’s completely opposite. I begin by cutting stencils, which is time-consuming, but at times meditative. Then when you are spraying, you have only one attempt. It is all done in a few minutes. That is extremely satisfying! You can make a large mural in one night. I love the rawness of the spray against uneven brick walls, and the contrast to the exclusive products I usually make. I'm probably a little lawless deep down. I would rather ask for forgiveness than permission.
As a Norwegian designer, do you think it is important to represent your home?
For me, it is natural and important. It has created a clear and distinct identity for Hasla. I have used our hometown, Valle, as the main inspiration in the previous collections, but now I am ready to explore new places and arenas. With Elements, I am moving away from nature as the formative source of inspiration and want to bring the jewelry into a new universe. But I still keep the pieces in the spirit of Hasla, and with our clear Scandinavian DNA.
When it comes to creative industries, especially those who design, accusations of copying other creatives are sadly quite frequent. I know even for myself, when it comes to writing, I find myself thinking "is this allegory something I came up with myself or something I stole from another writer?". For jewellery designers, who work with trends, I can see this being even more difficult. How do you balance the line between imitation and inspiration?
We live in a time where copying has become very common. It has no consequences, so many brands and designers just keep going. Jewellery often becomes generic and soulless when more people follow the same trend. It often ends up as an accessory with a design that doesn't last. As a jewellery designer, it’s a true balancing act to pick out trends you believe in and being true to your own aesthetics and beliefs. One must show a contemporary expression, and stay current. Its sometimes very demanding to come up with two collections a year. One has a lot of doubts along the way. I hope I can stick to my DNA, with clear sources of inspiration, and references to nature, art, and my own experiences. For my own part, I think it works as long as I like what I do. The Hasla team is close-knit, and we are very dedicated to our job!
Hasla has been very transparent when it comes to the production of your jewellery and your ode to
sustainability. Do you think the rest of the industry can follow suit?
Sustainability is important to us. We have chosen to be open about all our production. We have good factories that we are proud to work with! We produce in precious metals, and all our metal is recycled. Metal is a sustainable material because it is never thrown away. Jewellery is also not part of "fast fashion", and our collections live on for several seasons, some we even have with us for several years. There have been several positive changes in the industry in recent years, and it is the consumers who has the power to make demands, and we experience that they do. Sustainability is becoming more and more important for our customers.
How important is inclusivity for you at Hasla?
Diversity and inclusion in design have been on our agenda for a long time. I try to be more inclusive when I plan collections and try to make more unisex jewellery. We experience that our jewellery is becoming more popular among men, so we adjust with different chain lengths and expand our ring sizes.
For the industry in general, most people agree that diversity is important, but the focus is still narrow when it comes to gender identity, skin colour and body type. We, like the rest of the industry, must continue to work on this, and be aware of it.
If the Norwegian fashion industry was a meal, what ingredient is Hasla?
Hehe. Maybe cilantro? It is my favourite spice and lifts most dishes! Just like jewellery lift most outfits
What makes Norwegian design unique?
We experience that Norwegian fashion has had an enormous development, and that there is so much good Norwegian design. The down-to-earth, simple and elegant make it very appealing to many. Sustainability is an important common denominator for Norwegian brands, and it has become increasingly important in recent years. There is a lot of creativity and innovation in Norwegian fashion.