Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Mermaids murmur in halls echoing their voices...

Finding design inspiration at the aquarium...

Oval Mermaid Pendant
When the Beluga Whale Exhibit opened at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, my Uncle Norman suggested we visit it together. What began as an outing to view baby whales became a day of other sightings just as wonderful and absorbing.  We crawled along in summer traffic up Lake Shore Drive, and arrived only to creep down every aisle of the blazing hot parking lot hunting for a space. At the farthest end, where pavement became gravel, we finally nosed in under a tree. Even from our remote location, we noticed a huge crowd of people in the distance, too many for just the exhibit. To get a better look, I stepped up on a cement enclosure surrounding the tree, thereby disrupting dozens of bees. Sprinting away, I was followed closely by my nimble septuagenarian uncle. We caught up to another visitor and mentioned our curiosity about the crowd. He matter-of-factly replied that Vice President Al Gore was the VIP causing the swarm of G-men, bodyguards and the public.  Deciding it was going to be a whale of a wait to get in, we slowed our walk, stopping in patches of bee-free shade along the path.

We finally reached the slow surging crowd but hung to the side while it thinned down. My uncle hadn’t been to the aquarium for many years and I only remembered it from childhood. As we waited, we found ourselves awestruck by the architecture and design of the building. Once inside, our fascination continued, more for the building details than what we came to see.  Uncle Norman dropped our whale show tickets into his coat pocket for later, after we’d taken in the magnificence of the interior. 


The Shedd Aquarium was financed by John Shedd, the second president of Marshall Field & Co. in 1924. By his lavish donation, his purpose was to construct the world’s largest indoor aquarium with “the greatest variety of sea life under one roof.” Researching leading aquariums around the globe, only the best and newest technology was planned for the Shedd.   It was to add to the building movement that Chicago city planners dubbed “Paris on the Prairie.” Architect Ernest Graham, the project leader, was masterful in designing buildings, from general elevation concepts right down to the lighting fixtures within. The budget was so generous, he proposed a grand Beaux-Arts style rotunda embraced by classical Greek architecture to match the scale and style of the neighboring museums.  

The interior wasn’t designed with just a few sea life accents here and there. Instead, the world of the ocean was infused in the design of every surface for every purpose within the building.  It is a blending of Art Deco materials of bronze, marble, steel and glass with the curvilinear, undulating life forms of the sea. Entering the grand portal doors, there is a colossal 12 arm bronze chandelier with a sea creature etched into each glass panel. It illuminates the entry below and the coffered, oceanic themed ceiling above. Another light fixture is in a giant glass buoy held in the arms of a bronze octopus suspended from the ceiling. Art glass nautilus shells form soaring torchiere floor lamps. The bas relief of sea-foam green marble upper walls, the dados, even the bronze elevator doors express aquatic treasures in both geometric deco forms and figurative realism.  You can almost hear mermaids murmuring in the halls, the Travertine marble echoing their voices…

After taking in the spectacular design of the oceanarium itself, we did finally visit the sharks, jellies, piranhas and got splashed during the baby beluga show.

Mermaid Cartouche Bracelet
What an inspirational day for jewelry design!  I couldn’t wait to convey some of the architectural wonderment of the Shedd Aquarium in jewelry pieces. Central to this collection is my “Mermaid Cartouche” bracelet with five "cartouche" links that are individual vignettes of ocean creatures. Designed in the same blend of deco and nouveau, the subjects express various forms of sea life as art. Every detail is an original sculpture. All fabrication and ornament is entirely executed by hand. The shimmer of aurora and smoke crystals border each link. A starfish, a seahorse and an angel fish pause in sea fern. The mermaids blend geometric faces and hands with flowing nouveau tresses and tails. The bracelet clasps with a dolphin jumping through a crystal ring. Soft glowing lacquer colors, pearls and crystal stand out against the darkened bronze metal finish; the jewelry version of peering into aquatic habitats at the Shedd.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Hot Summer Color Palette


Candy Squares Bracelet
The decade of the 1960's, thought to be the anti-establishment, anti-fashion decade, ironically, brought fresh direction to the fashion industry. Simply put, everything that had been "in" was now "out" and vice versa. So, right along with Twiggy and Mary Quant, there was huge interest in bright color, beads and fringe. Our millefiori candy glass and crystal designs recreate the mood.

The Sweet Romance Candy Glass collection comes alive with a kaleidoscope of vibrantly colored handmade millefiori glass, crystals and beads! Millefiori means ‘thousand flowers.’ Entirely handmade in the murano style, bundles of tiny glass filament rods are sliced, then fired to meld their brilliant colors and floral patterns. No two pieces are ever identical. The intense, heady primary colors of the glass fibers fused as beads are complemented by the softer sparks of the machine cut crystal beads. A brilliantly colorful splash of 1960s color, the glass beads and crystal blaze in hues of scarlet, aqua, orange, peridot, citrine, fuchsia, tanzanite, coral, pale sapphire and tangerine. Heavy 14K gold plate chain provides a warm, rich counterpoint for this riot of color.

Set of 2 Candy Glass Necklaces
The latest, hottest look is long and layered chains. From an engraved oval chain, dangles clusters of hand-made millefiori glass beads and disks, making this necklace fun and captivating. Wear your favorite Candy Glass summer necklace, long or doubled or layered with other Sweet Romance candy glass necklace ropes. Marvelous against basic black. Totally "urban chic."