Art and Soul
A trio of jewelers find inspiration in the everyday.
Jennifer Trask likes to push boundaries. For example, the designer has always shown her one-of-a-kind pieces in art galleries. Thus it’s little surprise that her latest foray is a series of encaustic paintings set with removable fine jewelry. “I was in pursuit of wonder. I wanted to make something that I hadn’t seen before that would defy categorization, so I came up with these unanticipated hybrids,” says Trask, who has an M.F.A. in metalsmithing from the State University of New York at New Paltz and started her line in 1998. Inspired by man’s effect on nature, Trask uses salvageable materials like pre-ban ivory, gold and palladium to create fantastical botanical arrangements. Her Acantha wall piece (named after the Acanthus genus of plants), pictured below, features a spiny floral brooch with matching earrings set alongside rainbow moonstones and twisted silver branches that appear to grow right out of the frame. “Beauty is great,” Trask says, “but I’m more interested in getting people to look at the unusual.”—Priya Rao
There’s a spot in New York’s West Village where three touristy streets merge into a surprisingly quaint corner. It’s a fitting locale for the one-year-old shop of Darcy Miro, an artist who is ever influenced by the hustle and bustle yet often wants to run away from it all. “The city can be overwhelmingly inspiring, but I’m not very good at filtering things out,” says Miro, who grew up along a lake in Michigan and, before receiving a jewelry and metalsmithing degree from the Rhode Island School of Design, spent seven months in Nepal studying and herding yaks in the Himalayas. Today her handcrafted jewelry and sculptures are a reflection of her adopted city and her rustic roots. With inspirations ranging from sidewalk cracks to falling leaves, Miro creates one-off pieces from pure gold and sterling silver (always raw, never polished), with only a sprinkle of tiny diamonds. “The work is not about the stones,” says Miro, whose cuffs were shown on Yigal Azrouël’s spring 2010 runway; she’s in talks with him to design pieces for fall. “Metal has a life to it. It evolves. There are marks, holes. It’s about being alive and not being fragile.”—Sarah Taylor
From Samson’s shorn locks to decades of sexpot Pantene commercials, hair has long held us in psychological thrall. Philadelphia jeweler-artist Melanie Bilenker is so enamored of the stuff, in fact, she has built an entire career around it. Her exquisite pendants, lockets and rings, born of her obsession with Victorian hair jewelry, are painstakingly crafted with her very own strands. After snapping a photo of herself engaged in one of the mundane private activities of daily life, Bilenker traces a spare line image of the scene, which she re-creates with her hair. The result is work possessed of an understated, almost accidental, sensuality. For instance, Hemming Pants, the largest of the pieces pictured below, depicts Bilenker seated at her sewing machine in a button-down and skivvies, eyes cast downward on the task at hand. “People really respond to the imagery, and I do quite well with Melanie’s work because of that,” says gallery owner Sienna Patti, who has represented Bilenker since 2004. “This idea of the simplicity of the moment is so appealing.”—Dana Wood