What feeds the creativity of Khadijah Fulton and her versatile, modern compositions is the strength of women around her, melded with the desire to explore a similar energy in minimalism, modern art, as well as African art and African sculpture. Now, the founder of White/Space is busy handcrafting more pieces in recycled gold, as orders pop in. “I have seen, in these last few weeks, the industry and media are starting to make some conscious choices to diversify,” she says. “It has been really amazing to see the response and it is really wonderful; I hope it continues.”
She deftly transforms gold arcs, curves and lines into bold forms using Baroques and Lagniappes (American-grown irregular pearls; the name is Creole for “a little something extra”). Clearly, Khadijah loves the iridescence and luster! “I love that each of them is unique, along with the organic feel and imperfection,” says the Los Angeles-based independent jeweler.
During the lockdown, she came up with more variations of baroques. Lucky us! “I am always developing my constant objective, which is creating great pieces for every day, trying to incorporating color a little bit more, interesting little studs and pieces that make it easy to integrate fine jewelry into an everyday wardrobe. I have also been thinking about unique methods of personalization,” she adds.
Here are excerpts from my phone conversation with Khadijah Fulton. The interview has been edited and condensed.
Tell me a bit about your career journey
I started out designing in fashion after graduating from Parsons School of Design in New York City, and worked for a decade in New York and Los Angeles in multiple categories for large retailers, including Gap, BCBG and J Crew. We moved from New York to Seattle and that’s where I had my first child and also launched White Space in 2012.
When did you decide to get into jewelry design?
Being creative and becoming a designer was my dream from the age of 11, and I never thought about being a stay-at-home parent. I have always been surrounded by strong working women. After the birth of my first child, I experienced being at home for the first time in addition to the life-changing experience of becoming a mother. I felt compelled to create and missed the joy, challenge and satisfaction of bringing my ideas to life. While I was working in fashion, jewelry making was a hobby; something that I did on weekends for fun. I started with semi-precious beads, wire wrapping, cold forging and working with silk cord – I also wanted to learn metalsmithing and stone setting in-depth.
How did this dream shape up?
Once I started taking metalsmithing classes and stone-setting, at a few art centers in Seattle, I was obsessed. I loved everything about creating jewelry and there seemed to be a never-ending array of skills to learn, some of which I am still pursuing! I then started assisting an incredible local jewelry artist, Sharrey Doré, who lived nearby. Simultaneously, I began working out of my garage and also started to host jewelry parties with my friends and their friends – the women started buying things and as I listened to their feedback, how they responded to the jewelry, it began to look like I might be on to something.
You seem to make a lot of pieces yourself. How do you go about it?
Yes, I do the majority of the fabrication myself mostly because my pieces are hand formed from wire, particularly the ones I did in the beginning. At that time, there weren’t very many options for fabrication in Seattle to do the fine, delicate work that I needed – hardly anyone had laser welders; I had to learn to solder really tiny joints myself. A lot my skill set was born out of necessity. I have always used professional stone-setters for my pavé work and setting softer stones like opals and emeralds, but the diamond bezels and other fabrication is done by me and now I also use some manufacturing partners in downtown LA.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I tend to go for a feeling, a mood, a certain elegance, an individuality and strength. I like to play with strength and delicacy, boldness and elegance. A huge inspiration for me are the women around me, my friends and peers. And occasionally, I can be inspired by something directly: my Linea collection is very much inspired Italian modernism and, in particular, by the work of mid-century modernist architect Carlo Scarpa.
What led you to the brand name WHITE/SPACE?
I love minimalism, clean lines and simplicity. I think that having pieces that are more restrained gives it a certain versatility and timelessness. And so, in thinking about how much I personally love minimalism, I loved the concept of white space in graphic design where the space is intentionally left open and gives a greater impact to the whole (design).
The word “White Space” has taken on political and racial tones, especially during the last few years. How has this impacted you?
The last few years has been interesting; the term “white space” in America has taken on a political and racial tone, and a lot of additional meaning – there have been times when my brand name having this association made me uncomfortable; it is a little bit triggering but it is also very appropriate because as a Black designer, even in fashion there weren’t very many other Black designers. Over the last few weeks, we have also seen a big push on the fashion side for diversity – we’ve been seeing this push on the runways, in castings for years, led by Bethann Hardison (American fashion model and activist) – but I think the fashion industry still has a lot to do on the inside for diversifying, the same thing can also be said for the jewelry industry, especially fine jewelry. As I have started going to jewelry trade shows, started to move in the fine jewelry world, up until last week – when we had this huge Instagram push for discovering Black designers – there were so few that I knew of.
Have you been busy discovering fellow designers from the community?
I was invited to feature my work at Essence Fashion House NYC, in February, to showcase talented Black creatives in the fashion industry. The most exciting thing for me was that I got to meet with other Black designers, as I hardly knew any. I knew one other designer in Seattle – Valerie Madison; she has built an incredible business and we met at a stone-setting class and our studios were very close to each other in Seattle. My jewelry artist mentor back in Seattle, Sharrey Doré, is also African American. Monique Péan was one designer that I knew of as a woman of color, whose work had made an impact in fine jewelry.
Find out more about Khadijah Fulton in the video below:
Video from White/Space Modern Fine Jewelry