Hello! I'm Lea, the one woman show behind Fine van Brooklin jewellery. Enchanté, so lovely to meet you!
Here you can look into the story of Fine van Brooklin jewellery so far. This year (2023) marked 10 years of running my little business.
Every jewellery piece you see on this website was made by me at my cozy atelier in Helsinki. I've had ateliers in several locations over the years but nowadays I'm happily settled in the beautiful, historical Katajanokka district right by the sea. I have a cute private room in a larger community space with a friendly atmosphere, and I am extremely happy to welcome individual visitors or small groups there any time by appointment!
I personally search and handpick the materials I use. Some of them I buy online from trusted sellers in Europe and the US, and others I've found from vintage stores, flea markets and independent bead shops especially whenever I get a chance to travel around Europe. The search for beads, chains and decorative findings is an ongoing project. I have a third eye open for Fine wherever I go!
I photograph the jewellery mainly on the window sill of my apartment in natural light, using vintage sheet music, magazines and other old papers as background for the photos. In addition, I run the online shop and try to keep up with updating Fine van Brooklin's social media on Facebook and Instagram regularly. All computer related work I do from home, I avoid taking my laptop to my atelier. That place is dedicated for jewellery making and meeting people!
I never thought in my wildest dreams that I could ever call myself an artist. I wasn't gifted at drawing, painting, sculpting or even sewing or knitting. I did enjoy embroidery though, I was always very precise about little things, so in some way I was still good with my hands. Then it came to be that after years of studying languages and speech communication at the University of Helsinki without discovering a genuine spark for academic research, I started to look for a creative outlet for myself. I had had a part time job at the jewellery department of a big department store in Helsinki for several years, so I was very familiar with handling different types of jewellery and accessories in general and enjoyed it. At first the idea almost felt like a joke though, to start making jewellery of my own because I craved to make something that I hadn't seen anywhere else. To be honest, I was in quite an existential crisis at the time. But I happened to travel to New York for the first time right when I was playing with this crazy thought in my head and something happened to me there. Everywhere I looked, I could sense a lively creative energy. Everybody seemed to be making something and that need to also make something with my own hands and my own vision grew stronger. I bought my first basic tools and some beautiful gemstone beads form that trip and back home in Helsinki I began experimenting. Very quickly, something clicked.
At first it was just a hobby, I made jewellery mainly for myself and sometimes as gifts for my family and friends. Then one day a colleague of mine at the department store asked me to make the same earrings for her as I was wearing that day. She became my first paying customer. After that I sold one bracelet here and necklace there, bits and pieces every once in a while. Sitting at my table covered with beads in the corner of my living room I was enjoying myself and concentrating better than I ever had at the university or at the department store. Little by little, the hobby had started to turn into something real.
My 1st edition copy of Mika Waltari's Fine van Brooklyn (1943)
Who is Fine?
I came up with the name Fine van Brooklin by simply looking at my bookcase. My favourite Finnish author Mika Waltari wrote a novel called Fine van Brooklyn in 1943, telling the story of his trip to see the monoliths of Carnac in Bretagne, France when he was a student. Fine is a beautiful Dutch girl staying in the same village, and basically driving all the young men of the area out of their wits. I always thought it was a fun coincidence that out of all the villages and historical sites in France I had also visited Carnac when I was a young student living in Poitiers for a year. And although van Brooklyn was just the surname of the book's Dutch main character, it also hinted towards New York City, where my inspiration for jewellery making had risen. Somehow I had always felt a certain closeness to this mysterious name so I ended up choosing it as the brand title. I decided Fine would become my alter ego, the adventurer that would do what she wants and take my jewellery to exciting places. After some brainstorming with a friend we decided to alter just one letter (Brooklyn -> Brooklin) in the name in order to avoid any copyright issues. The slight change made sense also as a way of bringing the name to the 21st century, giving it a modern twist. After all, I wasn't making Mika Waltari jewellery, I was making my jewellery and Fine van Brooklin would be their ambassador from now on.
Crafter, maker, artist?
My first studio space was in a collective where all the others were prominent photography artists. It was a major discovery for me to have a place like that outside of my home. In the shadows, jewellery had become more like a side job than just a hobby. I had gotten my bachelor's degree from the university and was still working at the department store at the time. Over at the photographers' studio the company of insanely creative (and genuinely nice people) artists was new to me and very inspiring. To my astonishment, they also said nice things about my work. One evening they invited me to an exhibition opening in a gallery and the afterparty was in a nearby bar. At some point someone new joined us in our table and sat next to me. One of my photographer friends introduced us to each other, saying "This is Lea, she's a jewellery artist." I could feel myself blushing out of surprise and gratitude. A real artist had just called me an artist, something I would never have had the nerve to say about myself. However, after that I have encouraged myself to use this title about what I do. I am self taught, I have no design training for jewellery, or anything else for that matter, so I am reluctant to call myself a designer. And when I think about it, the way I see jewellery, it's wearable art. My relationship to jewellery goes somewhere quite deep, beyond fast fashion and mere decoration.
The vintage way to go
Vintage materials played a part in Fine van Brooklin right from the start but over the years their role has become the leading one. For me there are two major reasons for this. I tend to be inspired by things that are more or less 100 years old, be it art, architecture or style in general. I have a soft spot for the 1970s as well. Old beads and jewellery bits carry that history, and I just find them exceedingly beautiful, not to mention often better made than their modern counterparts.
Also, the world is drowning in stuff, it doesn't need any more stuff but I am a damned maker of stuff! It's a constant battle between me and myself. So in order to justify my making of stuff in the first place, I try to find as much wonderful vintage materials as I possibly can to bring it out into the world of the modern user. It really makes most sense as I find the vintage materials already more beautiful than anything else. I don't always succeed in finding everything I want as vintage, and things like earring hooks, wires and jumprings are always new. But it makes me glad to realise that my usage of vintage materials is higher and higher every year.
I also strongly recommend having your old jewellery fixed if it's broken. I have been repairing, altering, upcycling, re-imagining my customers' old jewellery ever since the beginning and gladly keep doing so, whether the piece was made by me or not. Jewellery is to be worn, not to be kept hidden away broken in a drawer.
As humans we have inherited a natural desire to ornate and embellish ourselves. Jewellery of some kind has been worn since eternity. We are allowed to decorate and express ourselves just as we like but I think I'm not the only one fighting a battle of conscience when it comes to consuming. What I can say is that by buying sustainably produced jewellery from a small business you are supporting diversity and a rich, creative culture, a world not entirely dominated by billionaires and megastores. My aim is to create jewellery that never ends up on a landfill. You know exactly who made your jewellery and who to contact for help if you break or lose something, or come up with an idea for a custom made piece.
If you are a jewellery lover you have a kindred spirit in me. I can have endless discussions about jewellery with you and I tend to remember what you bought from me even if it was years ago. I have a hunch about what you might like now and I'm genuinely interested in what you wish to express through your style. On the other hand, if you know nothing about jewellery but desperately need something to wear or buy as a gift, I am only happy to help you out!
Fine van Brooklin jewellery exists because through quite a bit of trial and error and crisis as well, I finally discovered what I was good at and what felt like the right way towards expressing myself. Through my work I truly wish to bring beauty out into the world and encourage real appreciation towards jewellery as an important accessory and personal treasure. However, in order to remain here, the key factor is you. Your every single purchase sets off a happy dance for me and is absolutely essential for the continuation of my work. I humbly thank you for your trust!
Indeed, ten years ago (2013) I quit my job and Fine van Brooklin turned from a hobby into a profession and a way of life. Although this choice has been far from an easy ride, there really is nothing more I would rather do.
Endless thanks and all my love,