Creative Sessions EP. 1 Ward Strootman / Unveiling Nature's Art

Creative Sessions EP. 1 Ward Strootman / Unveiling Nature's Art

Dive into our Creative Sessions, where we connect with talented creatives, sharing their stories to inspire and educate, one conversation at a time. To kick-off our first episode, we interviewed artist and jewelry designer Ward, whose creative journey is rooted in a family legacy of diamond cutters, and who now creates sculptures and installations using natural stones, minerals, and crystals, aiming to preserve their natural beauty while telling unique stories.

How did your artistic journey start?
It all started when my grandad was a diamond cutter, and my great-grandad had a diamond factory. My mom started working with my grandad and really became part of the company. She studied gemology at the GIA, the Gemological Institute of America, where she started taking colored stone courses, also focused on diamonds. She fell in love with the beautifully colored stones, besides diamonds. After her education, she started working with my grandad again and designed jewelry using these colored stones. She did that for a lot of big brands. Later she opened her store, 25 years ago in Amsterdam, mostly working with a lot of colored stones, using 18 karat gold. I increasingly became interested in the stones myself, pursued that by studying gemology at the GIA and fell in love with them as well. I started doing a lot of designs with my mom and always loved to explain where the stones came from. I took that into the whole jewelry design process. I used rough materials in the designs, instead of cut stones. Later on, I came across beautiful big crystals. I thought, "Why can I not design a big piece of jewelry?". So instead of working with cut stones, I now work with rough stones on a large scale, using bronze as an alternative to the gold we use in jewelry design. It became like a big piece of jewelry, which I’ve also been able to showcase in installations. A piece of jewelry is worn by people, and in this case, the house is to wear the piece of jewelry. So I work with architects to implement the sculptures in ceilings or walls or make them come out of the ground. So they become part of the architectural environment, which I love to do. So that's where my journey started as a sculptor, as a jewelry designer, and also as an artist making wall installations, all related to natural stones, minerals, crystals.

Is there one thing that fascinates you the most about gemstones?
I'm in love with all the geometry within the stones. When the crystal forms, you have a specific chemical composition, and this chemical composition has a specific crystal habit. So the atomic structure starts to repeat when the crystal forms and those formations are always in perfect geometric shapes. So you see perfect 90 degree angles, you see perfect hexagons, triganol crystals which are totally unpolished, but perfectly formed naturally, which is almost unbelievable for many people, and which inspires me to feel like it's an art piece already. But then I use them as the base of my sculptures and my inspiration for the wall art pieces.

And what inspires you to create in your process? In which way do you fuel your creativity?
The creative part comes from a piece that is already beautiful, but where I identify areas for enhancement. I want to embrace the crystal's natural beauty, also with fossils, and do storytelling around them. This really inspires me to create something that enriches the story of where it comes from, how it was formed, and to make it stand out in a new environment.

How do you create harmony between your own idea of the gemstone, of your own artistic vision, and the stone's natural beauty?
I always work around the mineral, I never harm it. It will always remain the key element of the sculpture or the wall piece. And the same we do in jewelry. So we have a cut stone, and we always work around that in the design process to make this stone stand out. It's a challenge to make the crystal, mineral, or fossil stand out without actually destructing it but it’s what preserves its essence.

What stories are you trying to tell with each piece?
Each piece has its own story because of the formation dates, origins, and how it was sourced by me. So it's always different because the stones come from diverse locations. The additional story is how I choose to create around them. That makes every piece unique. So all pieces are totally different and can never be replicated. They look to tell different stories. And as you have a look at my gallery, there is a variety of different sculptures, yet there is a synergy. So you see they are interconnected by techniques and use of materials, however, they are still totally different visually. And that's what I have been creating to show what's possible and also as a collection of pieces from specific continents to show their individual stories, which can be looked at in the big picture, with all pieces together.

Do you see an intersection between your art and the world of fashion?
There is a big connection if you look at the use of materials. I think you guys are a good example of having textiles that are not commonly used and making them accessible. And that's what I do as well. I try to make a piece that is extremely old and formed, that people have never seen before, to make it accessible and create something that makes sense. So people can imagine how it would look in their house. I think you guys do the same with fashion, to show how you can style it in everyday attire.

Is there also a connection between your jewelry design and your sculpting?
Yes, I work on combining jewelry with sculptural pieces. I've been working on a series where I scope out marvels, for example, and for the final finishing, the sculpture becomes a piece of jewelry. So the jewelry can be worn, and it's mostly exclusive pieces for special occasions. You can take it off the sculpture and wear it instead of putting it in a safe and never seeing it until the moment you choose to wear it. And if you look at the designs of the sculptures, you can see a lot of similarities in the jewelry.

How does your own taste in fashion influence the way that you design jewelry?
I would say color-wise, yes. But not all pieces of jewelry are designed for the same purpose. Some will be worn at really exclusive occasions, like the red carpet, and some will be worn on a daily basis. And I think that's the same with fashion. You have your essentials, and then more iconic pieces.

Is there any advice that you would give aspiring artists who want to do something similar or be a designer in any creative way?
You do not have to start with expensive materials. Creating can be done with anything. So I would always say just start, there is no excuse not to. Besides the creating part, it's also important that you focus on creating your own specific identity that people can recognize you for. Once you have that, you can start doing the whole branding around it. So especially with designing, you want people to be reminded of you. Make them understand what your style is. That way, it makes your art more commercially attractive.


Where do you see your art in the future, and how do you see it evolving over time? Also, looking back to where you started.
I would say it evolves more into monumental pieces at beautiful public locations, big squares in big cities, and more towards education. So how do they form, where are they found, and making people aware of what nature is able to create. I would also love to connect certain charities to the pieces, and that's something I can do in the locations the stones were formed. Once it's sold, I would like to give a donation to charities from those regions where the crystals, minerals, or fossils are found and give back to the locals. A lot of beautiful stones come from poor areas. So I would love to do something like that, it would be really beautiful. I would also love to visit those areas with my clients that buy these pieces, to show them the difference they make. That's something I would love to do. It comes from nature, so then you have to give back as well.

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