Ted Noten‘s Haunted By 36 Women show at Amsterdam’s Galerie Rob Koudijs exhibits his characteristic avant-garde flair. Inspired by “archetypal perceptions of women”—the femme fatale, the girl next door, the fashionista, the suffragette—the collection includes assemblages and rapid-prototype pieces such as rings and brooches. With the role of the muse up for renewed discussion, we chatted with Noten about how he fell into jewelry design, his feminine inspirations and what he’d design for the First Lady.
JC Report: Your CV mentions that you were a bricklayer, a nurse and a traveler before you began art school—how did you make that transition?
Ted Noten: The step from traveler to jewelry maker was a beautiful coincidence. A German guy on the streets of Athens was selling self-made artisanal items made with simple tools and beads, shells, etc. I was paralyzed by watching his working hands—and the control he had. It was like his hands were speaking their own language. He noticed me staring at him and asked me very generously if I wanted to learn this skill. Three days later I sat beside him on the streetside selling my own stuff.
JCR: Are any of the 36 women inspired by real women in your own life?
TN: No except for the Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher.
JCR: Can you explain what you mean by “archetypical perceptions of women”?
TN: To me, “archetypical” refers to images that have been built up throughout history in different cultures all over the world. So, for example, the femme fatale description is understood all over the world.
JCR: Does humor play a role in your work?
TN: Hardly. I am very serious, more of a hypochondriac, but it seems that I trigger humor in the mind of others. I have more of a feeling for absurdism.
JCR: Do you have a favorite piece, or one that you are particularly fond of?
TN: They are all favorites, otherwise I wouldn’t show them. But there is one that makes me sentimental—mom’s brooch, of course.
JCR: Accessories are often the most noticeable part of a woman’s wardrobe—what kind of response do your pieces evoke?
TN: It makes them greedy.
JCR: How can we get our hands on your pieces?
JCR: Speaking of female icons, Michelle Obama has been equated to Jackie O and has also been said to be “bringing back the brooch.” If you were going to design a piece for her, what would it be?
TN: I see flowers and a big heart in the middle—honesty, love and a big inspiration for the future. Maybe you can contact her and say I would be willing to design a piece for her.
This interview was conducted by Charlotte West.