Today’s Home & Design post is a shift to artisan jewellery, and we couldn’t be more excited. Gardens of the Sun is the brainchild of Netherlands born Meri Geraldine whose unique designs are inspired by individual gemstones and diamonds, crafted in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and already they enjoy a global presence.
Underpinning the Gardens of the Sun brand is Meri Geraldine’s personal story. Below Meri shares her journey to artisan jewellery; the significance of family and finding her roots, her philosophy of imperfection, her story of being slowed down by two illnesses, a broken ankle and a new baby; all of which opened her mind to new ideas and ignited a fire in her to create.
In meeting Meri, we have not only found a woman passionate about her craft, but a rare soul whose experience makes us all a little braver to consider life’s infinite possibilities.
We know you are going to love Meri’s jewellery designs as much as we do. I would happily make my selection blind folded…it’s all very beautiful! Meri also has a special treat for a journey bespoke readers!
Meri Geraldine | Founder & Designer | Gardens of the Sun
Please tell us a little about your background – Where did you grow up and study?
I was born and grew up in Nijmegen in the Netherlands with Dutch and Indonesian roots. My mother Bettie is Dutch and the daughter of a milkman and my father Jaap was born in the Netherlands but of Indonesian descent. His mother, was from Malang, East Java, and my grandfather was born in Aceh, Sumatra. He lived in Bandung and Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan.
I first came to Indonesia to do my internship in Forestry with an NGO called Sawit Watch when I was 19. I lived in Bogor with the director of the organisation and his family Then I travelled to West Kalimantan and North Sumatra. I was figuring out what help they needed to reject the oil palm plantation development in their area, although I didn’t speak Bahasa Indonesia at the time. I stayed week to week and immersed myself in the culture. I loved the experience because it was exciting and new. I slept in the village with the local people and bathed in the river with them. At the same time I was in West Kalimantan I was looking for my roots. Sadly, my grandparents had already died before I went back. I tried to look for the house that they lived in but it’s no longer there.
I was the first in my family line to come back to Indonesia, but my grandparents had never been back. Like many of their generation of half Dutch and half Indonesian descent, my grandparents felt betrayed by their own people. They expected never to go back, and integrated into the community. To ’be Dutch’, ‘act Dutch’, ‘dress up’, ‘speak Dutch’ and ‘be more Dutch than the Dutch’ was their new motto. Subsequently they stopped speaking Bahasa Indonesia. Indonesian food was still very important to provide for the family and was the main thing that remained of their heritage.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
l always liked new things and new experiences. At one stage I wanted to be a writer and so many other different things. At 16 or 17 I wanted to study anthropology because I loved the idea of exploring cultures.
Where did your interest in Jewellery making begin?
I have always been passionate about something. For a while I enjoyed rock climbing. I used to train with people who climbed all the time and took climbing trips to so many places but I broke my ankle while climbing in Lombok, then I was sick with Dengue which takes up so much of your energy, then I contracted Typhoid and then I was pregnant with our first child. At that time I was missing something to be passionate about. It was always going to be something ‘creative’ or ‘sports’.
I chose to make jewellery. It started simply by making beaded necklaces and bracelets. I didn’t want to make things that don’t last. I didn’t want to create things that could be wasted. So I decided to follow-up on a Silversmith course I had previously taken in Yogyakarta and made my own designs. Now I only design and work with professional silversmiths to make the jewellery.
When did the Gardens of the Sun journey begin?
Can you share with us this story? Have you always been interested in working with unique gemstones?
Yes, I brought some to show you!
Where are your gemstones sourced from?
Africa, Sri Lanka, Indonesia (the small sapphires are from central Kalimantan). I’ve been to one of the bigger gemstone markets in Jakarta, but they often cut very big which is not my style, and the big gemstone market in East Jakarta.
The name ‘Gardens of the Sun’ is taken from an old journal about Borneo island written by an explorer from the 19th Century. Can you tell us more about choosing this name for your business? What was it about this story that resonated with you?
I wanted it to link to Kalimantan, which is all about exploring and discovering. I was looking particularly for old botanical drawings and found ‘Gardens of the Sun’ and discovered the name.
What is it particularly about raw diamonds, unusual gems and rough candy rocks that excites you? The imperfections! These imperfections give so much character. I spend hours going through lots of gemstones and diamonds picking out the most outstanding rocks and selecting mismatched pairs.
They are like little people, they are all different. A basic instinct that they are all original and I like finding beauty in things that are not necessarily conventional. My appreciation started when I began working with rough gemstones and I realised that although some stones aren’t highly sought after, I could recognise the beauty in them. They are less conventional and their beauty lies in their original state. This reflects on the buyer.
Do you work alone?
No, I work with a Silversmith in Yogyakarta who makes each piece from my gem and material selection, designs and sketches. It’s interesting, I can tell when someone different at the workshop contributes to the creative process. I do all the photography for the website and the social media. I just love the design phase and I’m always designing.
Gardens of the Sun delivers meaningful jewellery. Can you tell us more about this? ‘
I want women to accept themselves and accept who they are. For me, the pieces I wear the most are those that remind me of someone or a moment in life. The half cut meteorite in this necklace was a gift from a close friend, I in turn made her engagement ring and all the bridal and bridesmaids jewellery for my friend’s wedding. I always wear a stack of rings with two opals that the silversmith asked me to pick from some of his personal collection and turned into rings for me.
It reminds me of the person. The piece has a memory. When you have a piece that connects you to a memory that is really important. When people buy from me they have a piece just for them, that means a lot. That’s why I like custom-made.
How would you describe the Gardens of the Sun style?
Dainty and delicate, quite minimal but has colour, comfortable, wearable. Unique and inspired by the individual gemstones. I avoid buying a lot of cheap jewellery and mass consumerism.
Who is the Gardens of the Sun shopper?
Gardens of the Sun shoppers are from all over the world. I’m receiving orders from my online store and Etsy store from the US, UK, Netherlands, France, Spain, Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa and Mexico. An online store in Australia called ‘Indie and Harper’ are also stocking Gardens of the Sun jewellery. I sell my jewellery in The Shangri-La Boutique in California and a boutique called ‘The Walking Tree Boutique’ in Lembongan (an island off Bali), and in Seminyak Town Square Bali, and am in discussion with a new shop in Seminyak which is being currently set up.
Do you custom design?
Yes, 1/4 of my work is custom design. I have a lot of couples requesting engagement or wedding rings. The process is we work together. We discuss types of stones which have meaning, or birthstone significance such as a sapphire and pearl engagement ring due to significance of the month of June for example. I use silver and gold but usually gold is made to order and there is always the potential to melt down existing jewellery.
How do you want your Gardens of the Sun customers to feel when they are wearing one of your designs?
I want them to feel that the jewellery they own, or give to someone special will last and be loved for years.
Your favourite Gardens of the Sun designs?
My Favourite necklace made from a meteorite from Belitung. My best friend gave me the stone.
I made the engagement ring for my best friend using Killiekrankie diamonds from Flinders Island sourced by her fiancé who measured her finger whilst sleeping!
What resources do you turn to regularly for creative inspiration for your work?
I let the gemstones and diamonds inspire me!
Do fashion trends influence your jewellery designs?
Not really, but I look to fashion to see how things are worn, for example stacking rings and ear jackets
What does a typical day involve for you?
Actually my days change a lot, depending on assignments for my day job as a sustainability consultant, and friends or family who come visit.
6:00am Wake up. The morning is my time
7:00am – 8:00am Get ready together
8:00am – 12:30pm Reply to enquiries, prepare packages, take photos, manage my social media, contact press and work on custom and new designs.
12:30pm Pick up my daughter and have lunch
1:30pm Do more Gardens of the Sun work or my other work
2:30pm Mailman collects the packages
3:00pm If I’m finished, I like to go to the beach and surf my paddle board
5:00pm Make dinner and eat with the family. I like cooking. Recently I often make a beetroot risotto which my daughter prefers to call Princess Nasi Goreng
6:30pm – 8:00pm Play with my daughter, she recently took a liking to playing Uno and some board games. Then I bring her to bed
8:30pm – 10:00pm Play Board games with my husband (I met my husband in Bogor), watch a movie or TV series, or read a book
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
My husband and I love board games such as Ticket to Ride and Dominion. We also play Gloom, with friends. I just bought back 7kgs of board games back from the Netherlands.
When I’m not working I would like to be able to play the banjo. My Dad is a music therapist and he plays bluegrass on his banjo. I miss hearing it. My Dad also plays the double bass. I will ask him to bring the banjo to Bali when he comes to visit us this week.
Future plans for Gardens of the Sun?
To make more rings. I’m a member of The Artisan Group, which is a collective that participates in celebrity and press gifting. For Mother’s Day / Earth Day I will be gifting to new celebrity mums. It’s my first time gifting to celebs so I’m very excited about this.
Who are you following on Social Media? (Instagram)
Book you are reading at the moment?
Emma’s War by Deborah Scroggins which I started in Australia when I was visiting a friend, and a novel by Camilla Gibb called The Beauty of Humanity Movement
Bubur pedas from Sambas district in West Kalimantan. This is a crushed rice porridge mixed with grains, many kinds of local greens, such as ferns, and topped with lime and peanuts.
Meri is giving a journey bespoke readers a special treat! Until the 15th of March you will receive 20% off your purchase using the code AJOURNEYBESPOKE during checkout. Gardens of the Sun has a great variety of ready-stock items, but Meri is always happy to create a custom piece just for you, and there is no additional design fee for this. Meri’s website details are below.