Ever tired of the idea of predictable jewellery? You know, the type where the rings encircle the finger, the earrings sit separately in the ears and so on? Well, then you should get to know Dilan Walpola. This 21 year-old artist and designer is shaking things up the only way he knows how, and challenging our ideas of what typical accessories should look like. The result is a beautiful and serpentine collection that we just had to hear the story behind.
First of all, could you tell our readers a bit about yourself? How would you sum up your creative background?
I'm the son of two artists: my mother's a painter, and my father a graphic designer. I was born and raised in Texas. From the time I was a small child I was encouraged to paint and draw, attended an art-based high school, and then moved to New York City to attend the Copper Union for Architecture. In January 2010 I was kicked out of of the Cooper Union and was homeless for 8 months. Then things started falling together and now I'm here.
What inspires you to create? How much of your influences tend to come from music, visual art or design?
For some reason I need to be creative. I always need to be drawing otherwise things just start piling up in my brain. So, designing is really a therapeutic exercise that unloads everything that is filling my head. Due to the breadth of my interests I think in different mediums which feed off each other and give me new perspective to materialize my work. It can be visualizing music, occupying art, or wearing ideas.
Claw Wrap Ring
When did you first start making jewellery? What do you think motivated you to do so?
Honestly, I started making jewellery as an experiment to stabilize my life creatively and financially during a time when I was homeless in New York City. But I always had a fascination with jewelry and this point in my life gave me the excuse to do so.
The architectural quirks of your jewellery are both beautiful and unexpected. How long has playing with sculpture and form been at the core of how you express yourself?
Most children are given play-doh as a child. It was the same for me. There is a primal connection when you manipulate clay in your hands. There is the plasticity between you and the clay; a push and pull and soon your hands are just a tool to uncover the form that's been buried. The architectural qualities of my work are just another refined extension of these discoveries where the clay may not be tangible but an idea.
Spinal Cord Cigarette Holder
We've also seen that you're ridiculously young. At what age did you notice your creative flair that maybe set you apart from most people in your class?
Haha, being young has its pros and cons; at least now I can drink legally! There wasn't a specific moment where I realized I was different but I do know that I first felt legitimate when I was accepted into the Cooper Union. It made me question myself. Cooper Union saw something and that something was good enough to be accepted. All I needed to do then was find out what they saw. Still haven't found it and I'm sure I never will. But the pursuit is pretty beautiful.
Which of your own pieces is your favorite/do you wear the most?
The Talon Clip is pretty much a staple in my life. Its understated beauty that after while becomes a appendage of your body.
How much do you think New York influences you? Do you feel like you could have become the artist you're growing into without the city?
Texas made me a craftsman. New York made me an artist.
Double Wrap Earring Necklace
How much of your collection do you see as a business, and how much as a body of art?
Honestly, I'm very new to the the business aspect of my work, so that is the part that is the most difficult. I see all my pieces as individual works of art and so trying to force myself to look at my work with a business mind is very difficult. I can day dream and draw for days, but when it comes to numbers... I'm hopeless.
Your rings and necklaces have a particular, dark and unconventional styling that we love. What's been your favourite reaction to your jewellery so far?
Hmm, that's really hard to say. There are certain canons in jewellery that have been etched into our minds. A ring fits around your finger, a bracelet around your arm, and earrings on your ears. My work tends to either morph these ideas or throw them out all together. In the end they lose most ties to traditional jewellery and just become these individual entities you share a symbiotic relationship with.
As well as the jewellery, you also have some fine art pieces up on your site. Who are some of your biggest influences in that respect?
Okay since you brought this up I need to be honest. Most the paintings that are up on my site are from my "craftsman" days. The Choice is the only piece that I can actually legitimize as my artwork. I'm constantly influenced by my surroundings for example The Choice was created while I was reading Dante's Inferno and Faustus. But some of my biggest influences are Le Corbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe, Dali, Da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Palladio. I'm deeply rooted to the past, hence my influences, but not only for their work but more importantly how their ideas pushed their boundaries.
Finally, which other brands do you see as your peers? Are there other jewellers you'd throw in the same bag as the Dilan collection? And if not, why do you think that is?
I wouldn't like to categorize my work with others because we all discover different things from that ball of clay. We all bring something different to the table. Not to say that I like everything that sits on that table but I do have a couple of favorites: Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester, Yohji Yamamoto, and Maison Martin Margiela.
See the rest of Dilan's jewellery collection and his fine art pieces on his site.