For the past 25 years, American-born jewelry designer and sculptor Matthew Campbell Laurenza created MCL design sterling silver jewelry, boldly enameled and set with colored sapphires with traditionally trained Thai artisans in her Bangkok workshop. While the motto of her luxury brand is “Wearable Sculpture”, Laurenza’s limited edition or unique handmade jewelry is sold at Neiman Marcus and on his website. While he collaborated with companies such as Swarovski to create their first collection of fine 18k diamond and gemstone jewelry, Laurenza also creates limited edition pavé sculptures and exhibits them around the world. This November 10e through the 14eLaurenza exhibits her creations on the Maison Gerard stand at Art + Design Fair, taking place at the Park Avenue Armory. From 14e at 19e“Precious Life,” a collection of gem-encrusted objects by Laurenza, will be exhibited at East Village-based Maison Gerard Gallery. “Precious Life is part of the official program Jewelry Week in New York programming,” Laurenza explained. “Maison Gerard has been curating significant fine art and high design in New York since 1974. As an artist who has been creating highly artistic jewelry that has bridged the realms of applied art and fine art for more than three decades, I’m thrilled to be part of their offering that coincides with New York City Jewelry Week.
According to Laurenza, “Precious Life presents viewers with 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 sculpted dragonflies, beetles, butterflies and other insects appear alongside bejeweled human skulls to remind viewers how the food supply and fate of human civilization depend on the billions of insects that help pollinate our plants. , making honey, nourishing our soil and keeping our planet in balance. Adding that, “The exhibition is also a call to action to preserve our environment while we still can,” Laurenza notes, “Precious Life at Maison Gerard showcases what I believe in as a jewelry designer, by as an artist and as a citizen of the world.”
The design process to create a unique piece begins with a drawn base rendering which takes on a three-dimensional form as it is first sculpted in wax and then casat in gold or silver. Then, Laurenza and his craftsmen painstakingly put his art with precious and semi-precious stones of all colors. Since he mounts them with reclaimed metals, there is also a repurposed aspect to Laurenza’s sculptures. Living above his jewelry studio like a traditional artist, Laurenza works side-by-side with nearly 40 artisans who receive pay and benefits that exceed industry standards. “It’s important to me that my employees can provide for their families, and we find ways to support the health and education of these families,” Laurenza says. (Note: This writer has interviewed dozens of artisan jewelers from India, Thailand, Afghanistan, the United States, and Burma who work full-time creating jewelry for First World luxury retailers. None of them reported receiving health insurance coverage from their employer.)
As Laurenza explained, “Just as natural habitats and their species of insects, plants, and animals are disappearing, jewelry making and other applied art networks are disappearing due to the combined forces of production mass market of ultra-cheap jewelry and economic stagnation. I’m so committed to preserving traditional techniques of handcrafted jewelry making,” he continued, “because these 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.Jewelry that straddles the worlds of fine and applied art make part of Thai cultural identity for thousands of years. By employing people willing to practice traditional metalwork,” he added, “I am helping to maintain this heritage. ge alive and passed on to the next generation.
Laurenza, who attended a 2019 New York City Jewelry Week event where he discussed Thailand’s handcrafted jewelry traditions, said, “While handmade silver jewelry with a high sterling crafted by the Thai Hill Tribes are one of Thailand’s most famous handicraft traditions and exports, the same goes for high-karat gold and gemstone jewelry. Gold jewelry making 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. “Indian goldsmiths taught their techniques to the Dvaravati Mons of the Chao Phraya basin. The Mon people then advanced this art and craft in Khmer society. The tradition of gold and gemstone jewelry reached its peak during the Ayutthaya period, when rulers and nobles ordered everything from gold jewelry to crowns, swords, shoes, art and furniture adorned with precious stones.
Given the breadth of design exhibited at the Art + Design Show, Laurenza is delighted to be exhibiting with Maison Gerard. Featuring collectible and coveted design everywhere, Salon offers collectors, jewelers, designers, artists, students and others the chance to experience a range of art, applied art and decorative items. Items on display include ancient Egyptian artifacts, Greek and Roman statues, as well as African, Renaissance and contemporary art. “There is a sophistication and a cosmopolitan nature to the Salon fair,” Laurenza said. “Salon Art + Design embodies an exciting eclecticism that appeals to today’s collectors and taste makers of all ages.”
Le Salon and Maison Gerard understand that “the boundaries between fine arts and heritage, high craftsmanship jewelry are increasingly overlapping,” Laurenza said. “Many people who collect jewelry, art and the fine arts of today are concerned with much more than the acquisition of goods. Instead, he dared, “art, jewelry, and design are all curated to express individual vision and taste. The people who wear my jewellery, buy my sculptures or buy from Maison Gerard all have a highly developed sense of personal culture, which stems from their sense of beauty and their love of fine art, design of high standard and quality craftsmanship.
Matthew Campbell Laurenza will make a personal appearance at the Precious Life reception on Wednesday, November 16 from 5-8 p.m. at Gerard House