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fLrnz’s bErkeleY kelleR oN jeWellery as fAmily histoRy

Words by Rosie Dalton
Photography via FLRNZ

FLRNZ is the kind of jewellery brand that keeps cropping up in the ears of your best-dressed friends – subtle at first, but ultimately undeniable in its appeal. Pronounced ‘Florence’, the New York-based label is still in its infancy, but is quickly becoming one to watch in the accessories space. Distinct from the finer detailing that characterises so many jewellery brands on the market right now, FLRNZ pieces have a weightier look, but with an effortless feel about them.

Berkeley Keller is the brains behind this bold aesthetic; a designer as much inspired by Renaissance sculpture and family history as she is by the function of accessories for modern women. As a result, her striking silver pieces lend a dramatic touch to simple wardrobe staples, while also boasting an inherent wearability. They are perfect for the modern working woman and, as such, OTC wanted to learn more about the designer’s process and inspirations.

ROSIE: How do you go about sourcing your materials for FLRNZ and why is this an important part of the process for you?

BERKELEY: I work with casting companies that use all recycled metals, and resell my scraps to put back into future pieces. The jewellery industry is a notoriously tricky place, but I do my best to find sustainable sources and suppliers.

FLRNZ is the kind of jewellery brand that keeps cropping up in the ears of your best-dressed friends – subtle at first, but ultimately undeniable in its appeal. Pronounced ‘Florence’, the New York-based label is still in its infancy, but is quickly becoming one to watch in the accessories space. Distinct from the finer detailing that characterises so many jewellery brands on the market right now, FLRNZ pieces have a weightier look, but with an effortless feel about them.

Berkeley Keller is the brains behind this bold aesthetic; a designer as much inspired by Renaissance sculpture and family history as she is by the function of accessories for modern women. As a result, her striking silver pieces lend a dramatic touch to simple wardrobe staples, while also boasting an inherent wearability. They are perfect for the modern working woman and, as such, OTC wanted to learn more about the designer’s process and inspirations.

ROSIE: How do you go about sourcing your materials for FLRNZ and why is this an important part of the process for you?

BERKELEY: I work with casting companies that use all recycled metals, and resell my scraps to put back into future pieces. The jewellery industry is a notoriously tricky place, but I do my best to find sustainable sources and suppliers.

“I have a ring that my grandmother designed for my mother, made from the gold which used to fill her teeth.”

ROSIE DALTON: And what was it that first drew you to accessories design?

BERKELEY KELLER: I’ve always loved adornments and metal, so designing jewellery feels like a natural extension of my sculptural background. I got my first taste of jewellery making in Florence, Italy (which is where the name for the brand comes from) many years ago. There I was inspired by the rich history of the Renaissance, as well as the timelessness of the signet ring. Just as I’ve stripped down the name Florence to FLRNZ, the first piece that I created for my debut collection FORMA 01, was the Sigillia ring, a stripped down, personal take on a classic signet shape.

ROSIE: I love this historical influence, but do you have a favourite accessories-related memory from your childhood?

BERKELEY: I’ve always loved jewellery and the women surrounding me have worn some remarkable pieces. I have a ring that my grandmother designed for my mother, made from the gold which used to fill her teeth. The first time I saw that piece and heard the story, I was blown away by the power that radiated from it; the way that family dynamics and symbolism were wrapped up in a glorious accessory, to be worn on the hand.

ROSIE: And why are you so drawn to working with silver in particular?

BERKELEY: The weight and history of silver is so important to me. It sounds silly, but I’ve always been very attracted to shiny things, and there’s nothing I love more than the look of a high polished piece of silver becoming well worn with all the dings and scratches of a fully lived life.

ROSIE: Some of your jewellery is stamped with iconic coin prints. Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration behind these particular earrings?

BERKELEY: I have always had an obsession with antiquity and specifically with the Renaissance. Although I don’t have any Renaissance coins (I wish!), I was lucky enough to have a family member with a small antique coin collection, from which I’ve drawn endless inspiration, going so far as to cast exact replicas of some of my favourite pieces to incorporate the designs into my work. I’m planning a future collection focused entirely on my interpretation and manipulation of ancient coin imprints with a contemporary twist.

ROSIE: Your pieces have a wonderful weight to them as well — is this an important consideration for you in the design process?

BERKELEY: I intentionally crafted all the pieces in FORMA 01 to look heavy and weighted, but feel light. The act of adornment is very physical, and for me it’s all about the balance between weight and lightness, transforming your body and its character through what you put on it. I would never want to wear a piece of jewellery that dragged me down, but I love the idea of something that looks heavy, but feels light on the arm.

ROSIE DALTON: And what was it that first drew you to accessories design?

BERKELEY KELLER: I’ve always loved adornments and metal, so designing jewellery feels like a natural extension of my sculptural background. I got my first taste of jewellery making in Florence, Italy (which is where the name for the brand comes from) many years ago. There I was inspired by the rich history of the Renaissance, as well as the timelessness of the signet ring. Just as I’ve stripped down the name Florence to FLRNZ, the first piece that I created for my debut collection FORMA 01, was the Sigillia ring, a stripped down, personal take on a classic signet shape.

ROSIE: I love this historical influence, but do you have a favourite accessories-related memory from your childhood?

BERKELEY: I’ve always loved jewellery and the women surrounding me have worn some remarkable pieces. I have a ring that my grandmother designed for my mother, made from the gold which used to fill her teeth. The first time I saw that piece and heard the story, I was blown away by the power that radiated from it; the way that family dynamics and symbolism were wrapped up in a glorious accessory, to be worn on the hand.

ROSIE: And why are you so drawn to working with silver in particular?

BERKELEY: The weight and history of silver is so important to me. It sounds silly, but I’ve always been very attracted to shiny things, and there’s nothing I love more than the look of a high polished piece of silver becoming well worn with all the dings and scratches of a fully lived life.

ROSIE: Some of your jewellery is stamped with iconic coin prints. Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration behind these particular earrings?

BERKELEY: I have always had an obsession with antiquity and specifically with the Renaissance. Although I don’t have any Renaissance coins (I wish!), I was lucky enough to have a family member with a small antique coin collection, from which I’ve drawn endless inspiration, going so far as to cast exact replicas of some of my favourite pieces to incorporate the designs into my work. I’m planning a future collection focused entirely on my interpretation and manipulation of ancient coin imprints with a contemporary twist.

ROSIE: Your pieces have a wonderful weight to them as well — is this an important consideration for you in the design process?

BERKELEY: I intentionally crafted all the pieces in FORMA 01 to look heavy and weighted, but feel light. The act of adornment is very physical, and for me it’s all about the balance between weight and lightness, transforming your body and its character through what you put on it. I would never want to wear a piece of jewellery that dragged me down, but I love the idea of something that looks heavy, but feels light on the arm.

ROSIE: Why do you think this is so important for right now?

BERKELEY: This feels very resonant with this politically charged cultural moment. As a woman, I want to wear jewellery that has a strong statement; that feels like it protects and empowers me.

ROSIE: I love the various forms that your rings take. How do you go about developing your different shapes?

BERKELEY: Trial and Error! I make preliminary sketches based on sculptures that I’ve seen, paintings that I love, and the artists that inspire me, but for the most part I let my hand wander and make forms with wax spontaneously, adding or subtracting as needed. I can’t count the number of pieces I’ve abandoned halfway through, only to return to them months later and find some new angle or possibility.

ROSIE: Can you run us through the journey of one of your pieces, from concept to creation?

BERKELEY: My first collection, FORMA 01, has been such a learning experience. I dove headfirst into this art form and, as of now I make everything by hand from start to finish in my Brooklyn studio. I begin by looking through my inventory of images and shapes that I find appealing, and sometimes I make basic sketches of what I imagine I can translate into a three dimensional form, but I really don’t figure out what works until I put file to wax and start to carve. Sometimes it takes me weeks to come to a conclusion, but once I’ve hollowed and sanded I take the completed wax to my casting company in midtown where they fabricate it for me in silver. I pick it up, bring it back to the studio, and polish polish polish… then voila!

ROSIE: What are some of the accessories moments that inspire you most from fashion or popular culture?

BERKELEY: There is so much going on right now across many different platforms, but I’m really into a few things in particular. 1) Ader Error. It’s hard to track them down in New York, but I think they are absolutely one of the most interesting small brands out there, I have some of their unisex coats and they are fantastic. 2) Mari Giudicelli shoes. I think they are possibly the perfect form to wear on the feet when you want to feel like a lady. I’m not into high heels, and usually wear sneakers, but a classy low heel is hard to find and goes a long way. 3) Everything that Gucci is doing right now; Alessandro Michele is a genius.

ROSIE: And finally what do you hope to move into over the coming years, or how would you like to see the label evolve?

BERKELEY: I want to make everything! I’m constantly inspired by the creativity of New York, the fusion of ideas that seems to circulate in the air and spread. I would love to collaborate with other brands that I look up to and respect, and I would really like to push my design chops and challenge myself further. It would be fun to create some apartment items; well appointed ceramics or rugs… I have lots of plans! But for now… just FLRNZ as jewellery.

ROSIE: Why do you think this is so important for right now?

BERKELEY: This feels very resonant with this politically charged cultural moment. As a woman, I want to wear jewellery that has a strong statement; that feels like it protects and empowers me.

ROSIE: I love the various forms that your rings take. How do you go about developing your different shapes?

BERKELEY: Trial and Error! I make preliminary sketches based on sculptures that I’ve seen, paintings that I love, and the artists that inspire me, but for the most part I let my hand wander and make forms with wax spontaneously, adding or subtracting as needed. I can’t count the number of pieces I’ve abandoned halfway through, only to return to them months later and find some new angle or possibility.

ROSIE: Can you run us through the journey of one of your pieces, from concept to creation?

BERKELEY: My first collection, FORMA 01, has been such a learning experience. I dove headfirst into this art form and, as of now I make everything by hand from start to finish in my Brooklyn studio. I begin by looking through my inventory of images and shapes that I find appealing, and sometimes I make basic sketches of what I imagine I can translate into a three dimensional form, but I really don’t figure out what works until I put file to wax and start to carve. Sometimes it takes me weeks to come to a conclusion, but once I’ve hollowed and sanded I take the completed wax to my casting company in midtown where they fabricate it for me in silver. I pick it up, bring it back to the studio, and polish polish polish… then voila!

ROSIE: What are some of the accessories moments that inspire you most from fashion or popular culture?

BERKELEY: There is so much going on right now across many different platforms, but I’m really into a few things in particular. 1) Ader Error. It’s hard to track them down in New York, but I think they are absolutely one of the most interesting small brands out there, I have some of their unisex coats and they are fantastic. 2) Mari Giudicelli shoes. I think they are possibly the perfect form to wear on the feet when you want to feel like a lady. I’m not into high heels, and usually wear sneakers, but a classy low heel is hard to find and goes a long way. 3) Everything that Gucci is doing right now; Alessandro Michele is a genius.

ROSIE: And finally what do you hope to move into over the coming years, or how would you like to see the label evolve?

BERKELEY: I want to make everything! I’m constantly inspired by the creativity of New York, the fusion of ideas that seems to circulate in the air and spread. I would love to collaborate with other brands that I look up to and respect, and I would really like to push my design chops and challenge myself further. It would be fun to create some apartment items; well appointed ceramics or rugs… I have lots of plans! But for now… just FLRNZ as jewellery.

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