Interview: Bonne van der Ree, Jewelry Designer

Bonne van der Ree of BonBon Boutique is a modern day entrepreneur with an enviable life story to tell. Her boutique is located in the very heart of the niche upscale shopping district of Amsterdam, and is undeniably tempting from the very first glance through its coveted window display on the corner of Spuistraat and Rosmarijnsteeg. Not only are her designs remarkable in their ability to appeal to women of many tastes, but plenty of Bonne’s clients claim that they had never had an eye for jewelry until they stepped foot into her gezellig studio boutique, often returning on a number of occasions to pick up another gem and add it to their personal collection (myself included). Her simple yet elegant designs have an evident appeal of timeless class with an edge.

Model-turned-jewelry designer Bonne began her modeling career at the age of 17, and very soon adapted to a nomadic lifestyle that helped her expand upon her cultural knowledge of fashion, design and trends. Despite the emancipated freedom and glamour often associated with a model’s career, Bonne decided to leave it behind for a more grounded way of living, doing what makes her happiest. During my first few visits at the boutique, I had immediately taken note of her reserved presence, where she stood behind the counter, as she often does, curled over a work-in-progress.

Over time, I have come to know Bonne as an extremely amiable and soothing individual who is just as excited to talk about her own work, as she is to chat with you about anything at all that might come up in the conversation. Her mere presence radiates warmth and natural beauty while her designs evidently characterize her own demeanor through stylistic properties such as purity, elegance and fragility. Her work portrays natural as well as classical elements that deem her designs a true work of art within its own domain, and I have no doubt that each piece of jewelry that leaves her shop inevitably retains a piece of the artist herself.

How do you balance between work and play?

Well I am sitting here with a bit of a rough voice from last night. It’s very hard to balance it because I have to work really hard. Some months are very busy months in the shop, so I found out this past summer, that I really can’t always work and play at the same time. I have to just work. The fun is more laid back, you know, a little bit more sober. In the winter time, I close the shop for one day a week and then I have a little more time to relax and I find then that I have a little more energy to go out, but still I can’t really party, but I don’t really need that right now. It’s mostly work and a little bit of play. But then again, working, for me, is also playing. Making jewelry is what makes me happiest so…

So that’s all you need. Where do you find inspirations for your new designs?

It all comes from the materials. I go online to Etsy and the bigger wholesale websites where I order my things; once in a while they update them with new materials. Also the vintage websites, with new stocks of old stuff. I buy what I like and I put them on top of my table, and then sometimes I get an idea to make something with them. For some reason, there is a consistency with everything in the end, for example, the upcoming summer collection features a lot of triangles, I don’t know why, it just happened that way! Usually I do something vintage and something that suits my basic collection, using gold-filled tubing and semi-precious stones. And then I have something that is more seasonal. Last summer, I used small beads of different colors, but now that collection is all gone, for me it is something that comes and goes. I try not to make too much each season, having the space for it all is the problem, but my vintage and basics collection is the one I expand on the most.

In what outfit do you feel most like yourself?

Well, these jeans that are very old and torn and falling off of me, sneakers, and a long-sleeved top, as long as it’s warm.

When you were younger, what did you dream of doing once you got older?

I never really had an image of what I wanted to be, not really. It was a concern that I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I was really creative, like making clothes for my dolls and making little beaded earrings so I was bound to do something creative but it didn’t come until 10 years that I thought ‘Ah! This is nice’.

What do you think most people in this world are missing?

Connection. Love for what they do. It’s too much money-based and not enough people-based. I think it is all very superficial, although I think there is a trend that is going against it now. I watched a documentary on Dutch television about young people and the way they live now in this crisis – it was very inspiring. People sharing things, because you can’t afford to have a car, so you share it with 5 other people. There was one guy who said ‘Yeah, I have a second house…but I share it with 5 others’. Even in Holland, you know you have these gardens, and you have patches of garden that you can share with others and experience human connection, and I think it makes sense, I even think it makes you happier.

What is your first thought in the morning when you wake up?


Do you have one word to describe your creative process?

Tumbling. For me, it feels like it just falls out of my head.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

I see myself having Sundays off. Career-wise, I still see myself running the shop, but a little more professional than now, I’ll be able to invest a little bit more and have it exactly the way I want it but still I would really like to involve other people to help run the shop regularly but it is hard to find someone who can make enough turnover and who can actually also create merchandise for the shop. For now, for us, it is not really a problem, but it is for me to decide if I really want to find another jewelry label. I think I prefer to find something else; it has to be someone who can make it worthwhile for our collaboration. I don’t think I can keep working 5 days each week, and only one in the studio. I would like to do that differently in the future – I don’t have enough energy to be creative some days, and it is just exhaustion in the end. For now it is fine; I am still growing.

Do you find that business is slower in the winter months?

Oh yes, definitely. Most of our business comes from the tourists, in shop and online. As well, people want to walk outside during the summer time, and during the winter, people just don’t really walk around, so we don’t get very many people visiting the shop.

What does happiness mean to you?

I guess happiness is not having an internal conversation going on in my head, so, stillness.

Does that happen often?

Yes, especially when I am stressed, I talk to myself all the time and I do it out loud. I talk to my cat. But sometimes, I notice that I am holding onto those thoughts too much, I know that I need more stillness.

And how do you find stillness?

It helps a lot to keep my work on schedule otherwise I feel like it is pressing down, because I try to control my thoughts, which obviously isn’t always possible. Going out, and just having some fun, going away with a friend for a day helps. Last weekend, I went with a friend to Antwerp, picked up some nice cabinets, and the trip was really nice, just taking us away from the normal. Happiness is little things, riding on my bicycle, going over the canals, and watching the city go by.

Can you see yourself living and working in a city other than Amsterdam?

Well I have done it of course. If I am in a situation that it becomes necessary, like if I were to meet a fantastic guy who lives in New York, Sydney or who knows where, I know I can do it, but it would be really hard work-wise, because I would have to start all over again. And I do know that this is really my passion. I would really resist moving away from Amsterdam.

It feels like your home base.

Yeah, absolutely.

What is a measure of success that means something to you?

Finding happiness in what you do. The more happiness you feel, the more successful your work becomes.