I was excited to get a chance to interview Richmond, VA based jewelry designer Lora Hart and get a behind-the-scenes look at her beautiful, historically-inspired jewelry art. From her incorporation of gem stones to pictures loved ones, her work is sure to leave you breathless. Read on to learn more about her technique, inspiration, and musings:
Metal clay is something you utilize remarkably well in your jewelry. What exactly is metal clay? What drew you to this medium?
Metal clay is a form of Powder Metalurgy which is a technology used for making large industrial parts. In this case it consists of finely powdered metal, an organic binder, and water. The binder and water make the material malleable, so it can be worked like ceramic clay. Once a piece is formed and finished it is kiln fired at high temperatures, the binder and water are removed, and the metal particles ‘sinter’ together to become a solid mass. I use both fine silver and sterling silver metal clay in my work – in addition to traditional metalsmithing techniques.
What are your favorite stones or beads to use in your jewelry and why?
I really only started using gem stones a few years ago. I was attracted to some flat backed, faceted ‘slices’ of sapphire, and the magpie in me had to have some to fondle and experiment with. Since then, I use whatever I find interesting, including found objects like vintage tintype photographs, which I like to set under rutilated quartz.
You describe your jewelry as “historically inspired.” Do you have a favorite time period? Which time period is reflected most in your jewelry?
When I first started making jewelry I was most influenced by the classical, Roman/Greek period – and I guess I still am. But I’m mostly drawn to the textures and shapes of historical architecture of many eras and try to incorporate those forms in my work.
What is the most meaningful piece of jewelry you’ve made for yourself or someone else?
The first piece of memorial jewelry I made for myself was a ring that featured a photograph of my Mother who passed when I was 21. Through that experience I developed the thought that memory and romantic visions of past eras are fractured and distorted. For instance the Renaissance was actually a horrific time to live through, but the aesthetic romance of that time which is celebrated by the hundreds of Renaissance Faires around the country conveniently ignores that portion of the experience. This is one reason why I set vintage photos under rutilated quartz. The shape of the quartz magnifies the image, while the pin-like rutiles interrupt the viewers’ interaction with it.
What is your favorite story from a customer who commissioned you and what did you create?
I don’t usually take commissions. But a customer recently contacted me about making a special brooch for her Mother using a heart shaped rock that her father collected on a hike and gifted his wife. Her Father had recently passed, and her Mother wanted to set the stone as a keepsake. I loved the story so much that I took the commission immediately.
When do you think a piece of jewelry becomes a work of art?
Of course, ‘Art’ with a capital A is always in the eye of the beholder. There are many internationally recognized artworks that I’m not attracted to, don’t understand, and would never collect. That said – I think when vision, craftsmanship, and materials come together in a unique way – it can form the basis of an artistic work.
If you could give three tips or pieces of advice to art-lovers about purchasing art, what would they be?
Buy what you love. Don’t collect art just as an investment. Mount it on your walls, where you can enjoy it every day. Wear it instead of hoarding it in a closet or box. Talk about it with your children and friends and share the inspiration of whatever made it special to you.
If you could have one story from your life turned into a work of art for yourself, what would it be?
Part of what I love about art is finding a way to allow another maker’s inspiration to interact with and give voice to my own life experiences. When an artist’s work sparks a connection with me, that’s a special moment.