MCL Design glitters at Maison Gerard during Salon Art + Design and NYC Jewelry Week
US-born jewelry designer and sculptor for 25 years Matthew Campbell Laurenza created MCL design Sterling silver, boldly enamelled and colored sapphire-encrusted jewelry by traditionally trained Thai artisans at his Bangkok studio. While his luxury brand’s motto is “Wearable Sculpture,” Laurenza’s sells limited edition or one-of-a-kind, handcrafted jewels at Neiman Markus and on his website. While he has collaborated with companies such as Swarovski to create their first 18k diamond and gemstone fine jewelry collection, Laurenza also creates limited edition pavé sculptures and exhibits them around the world. On this 10.11th until the 14ththLaurenza presents his creations at the Maison Gerard stand Salon Art + Design, which takes place at the Park Avenue Armory. From the 14thth until the 19ththPrecious Life, a series of Laurenza’s gem-encrusted objects, is on display at the Maison Gerard gallery in the East Village. “Precious life is part of the official New York Jewelry Week Programming,” Laurenza explained. “Maison Gerard has been curating important art and design objects in New York since 1974. As an artist who has been creating highly artistic jewelry that bridges the fields of applied art and fine art for over three decades, I am excited to be a part of their offering that coincides with New York City Jewelry Week.”
According to Laurenza, “The Precious Life Show gives viewers a vision of the power of nature. The pieces celebrate the essential role insects play in supporting plants, trees, soil and all other life on earth, including humans. In this exhibit,” he continued, “anatomically correct dragonflies, beetles, butterflies and other sculpted insects appear alongside jeweled human skulls to remind viewers how the food supply and fate of human civilization depends on the billions of insects that help pollinate our plants, make honey, nourish our soil and keep our planet in balance.” “The exhibition is also a call to action to protect our environment while we still can,” adds Laurenza, “ Precious Life at Maison Gerard presents what I believe in as a jewelry designer, as an artist and as a citizen of the world.”
The design process to produce a one-of-a-kind piece begins with a simple drawn rendering that takes on a three-dimensional form as it is first carved in wax and then cast in gold or silver. Next, Laurenza and his craftsmen put his carefully to use art objects with precious and semi-precious stones in all colors. Because he mounts them with reclaimed metals, Laurenza’s sculptures also have an aspect of reuse. Living like a traditional artist above his jewelry studio, Laurenza works side-by-side with nearly 40 artisans who receive salaries and benefits that exceed industry standards. “It is important to me that my employees can provide for their families and that we find ways to support the health and education of these families,” says Laurenza. (Note: This author has interviewed dozens of jewelry artisans from India, Thailand, Afghanistan, the United States, and Burma who work full-time to make jewelry for First World luxury retailers. None of them reported having health insurance from their employer.)
As Laurenza explained, “As natural habitats and their insect, plant, and animal species disappear, jewelry making and other applied arts networks are disappearing due to the combined forces of mass-produced, ultra-low-cost jewelry and economic stagnation. I am so committed to preserving traditional artisan jewelry making techniques,” he continued, “because they have been steadily disappearing for decades. UNESCO and other cultural heritage organizations have documented jewelry traditions that have disappeared over the past 50 years, as well as those that are endangered. Spanning the worlds of fine arts and applied arts, jewels have been part of Thai cultural identity for thousands of years. By employing people who are committed to practicing traditional metalsmithing,” he added, “I’m helping to keep that legacy alive and passing it on to the next generation.”
Laurenza, who attended a 2019 New York City Jewelry Week event where he spoke about Thailand’s artisan jewelry traditions, noted, “While handcrafted, high-sterling silver jewelry produced by Thai hill tribes is one of Thailand’s most celebrated artisanal traditions and exports Gold jewelry manufacturing in Thailand began about 2,000 years ago, Laurenza noted, when Hindu settlers, some of whom were goldsmiths, came to Thailand from eastern and southern India. “The Indian goldsmiths taught their techniques to the Dvaravati Mons in the Chao Phraya Basin. The Mons then advanced this art and craft in Khmer society.” The tradition of jewelry made of gold and precious stones reached its peak during the Ayutthaya era, when rulers and nobles commissioned everything from gold jewelry to crowns, swords, shoes, art objects and furniture adorned with jewels.
Given the breadth of design exhibited at Salon Art + Design, Laurenza is delighted to be exhibiting with Maison Gerard. Showcasing collectible and desirable design from near and far, Salon offers collectors, jewellers, designers, artists, students and others the opportunity to experience a range of fine art, applied art and decorative objects. Objects on display include ancient Egyptian artifacts, Greek and Roman statues, and items of African, Renaissance, and contemporary art. “The Salon fair has a sophisticated and cosmopolitan nature,” said Laurenza. “Salon Art + Design embodies an exciting eclecticism that appeals to today’s collectors and tastemakers of all ages.”
Both the salon show and Maison Gerard understand that “the lines between fine art and heritage, artisanal jewelry are increasingly intersecting,” Laurenza said. “Many people who collect jewelry art objects and visual arts today are interested in far more than just acquiring possessions. Rather, he ventured: “Art, jewelry and design are all curated to express individual vision and taste. The people who wear my jewels, buy my sculptures or shop at Maison Gerard all have a highly developed sense of personal culture that grows from their sense of beauty and their love of fine art, quality design and quality craftsmanship.”
Matthew Campbell Laurenza will appear in person at the Precious Life reception on Wednesday, November 16 from 5pm to 8pm at Maison Gerard
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