The Royal Jewellers S01 ep12 : Leo Devroomen Jewellery [London]
Interview with Leo Devroomen
LONDON- Leo Devroomen - Dutch goldsmith based in London David Thomas was the golden boy of the Goldsmiths Hall. I was very lucky to meet him. He had just left the Royal College, and he had no money and he employed one very young apprentice craftsman and I went to see him on a Saturday morning on my day off. His mum told me where he was, it was pure accident. David said sit down and see if you can make these rings. My break came because David could not really afford me and he thought "I'll get him a teaching job at the Colledge here in London at the Central School of Art and Design". It had only just been set up and they were looking for tutors. He was teaching there himself and they needed someone to show the practical side and that was the best type of education that anybody could ever have.
Leo De Vroomen is a goldsmith first and foremost who loves making jewellery,
loves doing what he is doing, loves making jewellery and loves directing other
people to make jewellery. That is what we are all about and we are probably
one of the few people that still do that today.
KM: When did you know that jewellery was your thing?
Well I was not a great academic.
KM: this was here in London.
No, No No this was in Holland, my father was bulb growing, my two brothers
are still bulb growing. I suppose I was artistic and I wanted to use my hands
and I was not going to go the academic road as I said before so I wanted to
make things with my hands.
KM: Yes, but when did you first see and realise that this was something of
interest to you.
Very simply, pure accident, I was with a very close friend who lived in a little
claustrophobic village, he had an uncle who was a goldsmith in the Hauge just
a few miles up the road and we went to visit him one day on the Saturday and
we spent the whole day with this guy and I was totally fascinated by all this
KM: How old were you then?
I was about 16, 17
KM: So this was really like a humbling....
Humbling, yes, I had never seen gold, never seen anybody making anything
with metal. I had seen people hammering boxes together for putting the tulip
bulbs in but I hadn't seen anybody making metal work and doing small metal
work, I was totally fascinated by that. And this guy let us mess around in his
workshop, rolling down bits of silver. He showed us how to solder and I got
fascinated. So we visited him again in another week. So he then said, if you
really want to do this I can get you a job in a, in a one of my suppliers as an
KM: Gold smithing in Holland, how different is it from Gold smithing in London
Much like Germany where it is very much an industry, you know factories
KM: So it is more about the construction, and the engineering side of the
jewellery rather than the emotional side.
You know the Italians have a flare for it, the Germans in my opinion have a
very good engineering ability in the field of jewellery.
KM: when did you realise it was more than that?
Again it was purely by accident. When I was working in that factory in Holland,
it was a small company. I learnt to make little things not just once but ten
times, it was mass production, really using your hands, sensibly, economically
and not wasting time, so I learnt a lot. Because I said just now that I love
languages, I thought I am not going to sit at this workbench all my life, I want
to do something to do with export perhaps so I went to Switzerland. I ended up
in Toune near Bern, in a beautiful part of Switzerland on lake Toune.
KM: So what was it like in Switzerland, what was it like in that workshop?
I learnt precision. I learnt all this, what you call it, anal kind of approach to
So then I thought I would do the same trick, I am going to England
KM: Yes, Why England, England had absolutely no reputation in jewellery.
To learn English. So I got to England and that is where my luck really started .
And I got replies from really weird people. Ronson Lighters said to me would I
like to come and make prototypes for their lighters, 18ct gold lighters. No,
horrible, 18ct gold lighters, no thank you very much. Some other guy from
Hatt. ?????... Gardens, for mass production 9ct crap wanted to employ me
and one interesting guy wrote to me and he was making costume jewellery and
he wanted a model maker. So I said that is something a bit more challenging
and interesting. So I went there and I was working with lead and tin and all kind
KM: At least you were getting the idea of shape and texture.
I was getting some form. Anyway there was a goldsmith from the royal college
of art and design who used to work there in that place in his holidays and he
just left college. His mum lived just outside of London in a little town Hampden,
Hampden Hill and I was struggling with speaking English and speaking to
these guys, and they said if you want a better job why don't you speak to
David Thomas. David Thomas was at the time a top guy in England, the
golden boy of the goldsmith’s hall. I was very lucky to meet him, he had just
left the Royal College, and he had no money and he employed one very young
apprentice craftsman and I went to see him on a Saturday morning on my day
off. His mum told me where he was, it was pure accident. David said sit down
and see if you can make these rings, David and I got on very well, we made
jewellery together. David was in the heydays of Goldsmiths Hall, they were
going all this British weeks around the world, and I was helping David to put his
collections together. My break came because David could not really afford me
and he thought, this smartly though, well I'll get him a teaching job at the
College here in London at the Central School of Art and Design, it had only just
been set up and they were looking for tutors. He was teaching there himself
and they needed someone...
KM: To show the practical side.
..to show the practical side and that was the best type of education that
anybody could ever have.
KM: So you actually went and taught there.
The great thing about teaching is that the one that teachers learns more than
the one that is being taught.
When I was at the Central School of Art and Design, and did teaching, I taught
myself how to make metal and the way to do that is to use the ancient
technique of " ?????" and you know what that is. You put metal on a bed of
pitch and you hammer and you shake and you move it, and you can actually
move metal and that is why we actually got volume into our work. But that
stems from my obsession from my love of the discipline of gold smithing. I
used to go to the museums in Amsterdam and see that wonderful silver work
where they used that "?????" you know this very decorative beautiful silver
work that is available at home??? by some great Dutch Silversmiths and I
thought I am going to do this in jewellery and build and let it flow, you know,
because metal just naturally wants to be flat and straight- it is a hard material.
I formed it, and that is why I love gold.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Leo Devroomen Jewellery , London ,