Monday, June 30, 2008

Gurly Gurl: Bench Jeweler/ Metalsmith

Monique Leon: Gurly Gurl
How did you end up in New Orleans?

I was in Atlanta selling at an antique show. I had lived in Massachusetts my whole life and had never been to New Orleans, and felt like I was so close, I just had to take a side trip to go down there. My first impression was that it was a bit mysterious, a little dangerous, very organic and open to artists. The heat was incredible, and I loved it. I really felt like this was the place for me.

How does the city inspire your work?

I'm inspired in so many ways. The ironwork & architecture of the French Quarter is so enchanting. I walk the streets and so often find myself saying 'I cant believe I live in such a beautiful place.' I am so grateful to be here, and I see that there are so many other people that feel this way too.
That is one of the reasons why I built a "fleur d' lis" line, because it's a symbol of the city, a badge of honor -- elegance, grace, a connection to its roots and history. That history is everywhere.
There's also a huge artistic community here; it's hard not to be inspired or influenced by others.

Tell me a little about your antique business? How does it inspire you?
I gave up my formal antique business a short while after moving here. I had a cute little shop in Massachusetts and had been doing it there for years. I really appreciate things from the past. They offer me reference and inspiration.
It was a fabulous history lesson, all ages/ time periods learned through objects that people used. And everything had a story, how it was made or used, or who owned it... But sitting in a shop with antiques wasn't my real passion like making jewelry was, and that always seemed out of reach for me while I was still a full time antique dealer.
I decided that I was going to start over as jeweler, I was going to either sink or swim and dove headlong into making jewelry. I worked for jewelers, apprenticed under some wonderfully talented master jewelers. I worked for Mignon Faget, Tom Mann. I did anything that got me building, making or repairing anything jewelry related.

Are you currently a bench jeweler?

Absolutely! I have a studio in my home. I can fabricate any kind of fine jewelry there.
Though I consider myself a bench jeweler, I would expand the definition to metalsmith because I also make small sculptural pieces as well as setting stones and building jewelry. I sell online and to several galleries across the country.

Can you do custom orders via the Internet? How does it work?
Yes, I'm currently selling on Etsy at The site is a wonderful outlet for small studios like myself, and it is very easy to navigate. I get custom order requests through it or from word of mouth. When I'm contacted by a customer, very often they have something in mind or maybe just the general elements of an idea.
I gather images that they send my way or I provide some to connect myself and the customer to something tangible to describe what they are looking to get made. ( It could be a photographs or images collected for surfing the Web.) We go back and forth through e-mail, sketches and phone calls to solidify the design. It seems to work out surprisingly well, though you may not think that designing something hundreds of miles apart would work, but it does!

What or whom are your favorite inspirational Web sites/ artists?

-- Call me crazy but I surf (it). It's a typeface site. I love how sculptural letters and form in text can be.
-- Closest to my heart is the metalsmith Georg Jensen. His things are completely hand fabricated (most particularly the early last century items). You can look at the dimples made by someone's hammer and almost hear the rhythmic tap, tap, tap. It thrills me. As for a contemporary artist Daniel Brush is also an unparalleled metalsmith.
-- Art Nouveau /Jugendstil school of thought also always grabs my attention. But I also like ultra modern contemporary design in furniture & architecture.
I remember a professor in art school asking a group of students on the last day of school, "If nothing else, just please be inspired by and make beautiful things."
I really try to work by that request.


Alexandra said...
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randi said...

I'd read this post before but returned to it today to pour back over the pics and to visit this artist's etsy store. The pieces are really gorgeous. As a Louisiana girl I'm obviously drawn to the fleur-de-lis but the other pieces speak to me as well. They're organic and elegant and have this subtly vintage overtone that makes them feel as if they are brand new but come with a history all their own. Tres beau!