Friday, January 1, 2010

LOUISE DOUGLAS

A trip to New Zealand's Onetangi Beach is the perfect remedy to the wintry mix hovering over the Midwest.

An expanse of blue skies and a wide stretch of golden sands are an inviting combination for shaking off winter's frosty grasp. New Zealand is also the home of featured jewelry designer Louise Douglas.

One look at Douglas' beautifully organic jewelry you instantly recognize the designer's reverence for nature, particularly the surroundings of her homeland.

"As a child I was enamored by nature. I spent many hours collecting and examining natural objects," she says. "I enjoy the untraditional beauty in things too, erosion and decay.

For me, there is something so pure and mystical about New Zealand. The ocean especially fascinated me."

Douglas' vivid, gold vermeil replications of coral, jellyfish, and nautilus are exquisite.  This is not cookie-cutter, perfect pieces and I like that she clearly examines the peculiarities inherent in nature's beauty.  She captures the sponge-like, arabesque details in her sea lace pieces; and the small gnarls of her coral branch items. She also implements shadings of oxidized silver that suggest the enduring life spans of these life forms.

With a few metalwork and wax modeling courses under her belt, Douglas' expertise developed after starting her company at age 18. The bulk of training, however, was hands-on, on the job.

"After getting a sense for the jewelry business with my own company, I then went on to design in the costume jewelry industry when I moved to New York. I learned most of my skills on the job, immersed in the industry. I spent a lot of time asking questions, reading books, and experimenting."

Having lived in New York, and Boston, she returned to New Zealand after 15 years. Douglas' present creative process begins with rough sketches. "I do a finer sketch for the carving that I make from wax. I then create wax molds and cast using the lost wax casting process. So it is all a little organic in process."

Although New Zealand designers are known for "using less precious materials in precious ways," says Douglas, she readily implements 22-karat gold plating over bronze and silver.

"I think gold is gaining more interest here. I am getting a lot of interest in my gold-plated pieces. New Zealand designers tend to be less wrapped up in the status of gold," she explains. "I am sure the fashion industry has had a big influence on that, and I love fashion."

Overall, her jewelry has an evocative visual depth.  A visual depth that conjures images of sea nymphs fashioning their surroundings into enchanted baubles that sustain them while they venture on to land.

"I believe all people have some inner need to relate and connect to nature, even when they are surrounded by concrete.

I aim to bring people closer to the calmness that nature can bring when they wear my work."
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Photo 1 (top right): Jellyfish-inspired Gold Lantern Earrings with Pearl Drops
Photo 2 (bottom left): Gold Sea Lace Pendant
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