“Gorgeous, Haunting, and Irresistible:” Custom Jewelry Design by Lauren Blais
Congratulations to CustomMade artisan Lauren Blais of Lauren Blais Jewelry, recently named one of “Boston’s Best in Fashion” for 2011 by The Improper Bostonian culture and entertainment guide. Her custom made jewelry, inspired by Victorian era mourning rituals and cabinets of curiosities, as well as her own exploration of ornamentation, was described as “textured with history and nostalgia” and “gorgeous, haunting, and irresistible.” Let’s take a look at a few pieces featured in her CustomMade portfolio.
Lauren’s custom jewelry frequently brings together sterling silver, gold, or bronze (shaped through traditional metalsmithing techniques like lost wax casting, piercing, and enameling) with a wide range of materials such as highest quality leather, natural gemstones, fur, and other materials. These combinations are wonderfully evocative reflections of the experience of mourning, memory, and re-imagination as an existence in two different times, the past and present.
In her blog, Lauren explains how Victorian mourning traditions inform her work:
The notion of death has also been a repetitive underlying theme throughout the pieces that I create. The obsessive mourning process observed after a death of a loved one during the Victorian Era creates a celebratory feeling of reverence. Death was an accepted fact of life; however, strict traditions were followed as to not belittle the life of the beloved deceased. I find this acceptance of death fascinating. In the recent years, I have lost close family members. The pieces that I create serve as a nostalgic collection to commemorate their life and death while reminding myself as well as others that death is inevitable. Although sometimes heavy, the weight is a constant reminder: it is important to me that the pieces are somewhat wearable.
This bow necklace by Lauren pairs a hand-formed and cast sterling silver bow with a satin ribbon clasp. The bow appears heavy, but still waving, as if frozen in that moment. The ribbon is soft and dainty, but still somber in black. Imagine the bow existing in two moments: frozen in silver in the past and captured in black satin in the present. Is the black ribbon a shadow, a memory? Is the silver bow a ghost? The contrast in texture and weight may be striking at first but together the silver bow and satin ribbon create a connection, reinforced, of course, by the silver chain.
Memory also appears in Lauren’s works through containers. She writes:
Often the jewelry that I create serves as a container to hold objects belonging to these people or objects symbolizing my feelings towards them. The collections often seem obscure and random to the outsider but are sentimental to myself.
A locket such as this custom piece created in sterling silver with an etched botanical design on the exterior and interior can hold a small photo or other personal memento.
Personal, idiosyncratic collections, like those housed in Victorian cabinets of curiosities, are another source of inspiration for Lauren. Her own collections form the basis for some of her works, too.
I have always collected obscure objects throughout my life that hold sentimental value to myself while others may find them curious such as bugs, fur, hair, old family photos, letters, jewelry, and linens. Basing my jewelry on these personal objects allows me to create something permanent that can be passed on through generations creating a new history of its own.
Here are two curiosity cabinets you can wear.
An oxidized sterling silver and snakeskin cuff bracelet.
A fur brooch made with a rabbit fur inlay and an oxidized sterling silver frame.