There are three things I have way too many of: shoes, notebooks, and necklaces. Do people still wear statement necklaces? I’m probably one of the few left who still do.
When first I saw Iris Nijenhuis‘s eye-catching necklaces at the Sunday market at Westerpark, I just had to take a closer look. And when I discovered that they were made from laser-cut puzzle pieces assembled by hand, I was hooked. Before I knew it, I had snapped one up for myself. How did that happen?!
Iris Nijenhuis is an Amsterdam-based designer who specializes in laser cutting. After graduating from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, she began experimenting with the collection of leftover textiles she had amassed over the years. Playing around with a laser cutter, she ended up creating tiny shapes that she put together by hand without stitching or glue—just like the pieces of a puzzle.
The result: the Handmade Puzzle collection, a set of unique necklaces, bracelets and earrings all designed and made in Amsterdam.
Iris uses faux leather, and artificial suede, materials that are both flexible and sturdy enough for laser cutting. The leather pieces feel more delicate while the neoprene has more of a 3D structure to it, although she assures me that every piece can be washed and worn like any garment.
Though Iris’ pieces are intricate and feminine, they still feel fresh, modern and architectural. The solid colored necklaces give a nice pop of color to an outfit. Should you prefer to keep it low-key, the copper, black, and blush ones are more subtle but still make a statement.
I love color and print, so you can see (in the top photo) which one I went for. That yellow still haunts me, though!
The necklaces are definitely more a special splurge than an impulse buy. “I try to give each piece a fair price because I don’t want it to be overpriced. But because of the time-consuming technique, they’re not in a ‘made in China’ price range,” admits Iris. The bracelets and earrings are more affordable, so they make popular gifts and sell quickly.
The process is labor-intensive, and it shows in the intricate details of each piece. “First, it takes about 40 minutes for an A3 size fabric to be cut into 100-200 pieces,” she explains. “Laser cutting burns the pieces, so afterwards I wash everything so it smells fresh again.”
Only then can the puzzle pieces be assembled. “That’s a lot of work, especially the complicated items, but when you have done a lot of them (like I have) it gets easier and faster,” she says. Iris also laser-cuts all the closures and packaging herself.
The whole Handmade Puzzle collection is available at the O Shop on Staalstraat (near the wonderful Droog Design concept shop and chocolatier Puccini Bomboni!) in the city center. It’s a great location for discerning visitors who want to bring home a unique piece of Dutch design made in Amsterdam, beyond the usual tourist kitsch.
Iris also has a web shop and occasionally pops up at the Westergasfabriek and Museumplein Sunday markets. Currently, she’s working on laser-cut bags for the O Shop, as well as adding more pieces to her Handmade Puzzle collection.