By Ann Chou.
Last weekend, not long after Handful of Salt’s tour of St. George Spirits’ distillery-in-a-hangar, we found ourselves three hundred-some miles south at Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport for UNIQUE LA’s 2nd Annual Summer Show.
For two days, more than 325 independent designers and artists set up shop inside of the 35,000-square-foot hangar (which housed DC-3s in the 1960s and Howard Hughes’ aircraft in the 1970s). The woman behind what is apparently the largest independent design show in the country is Sonja Rasula, whose mission is “to bring modern Made-in-America design to the masses.”
Well, she’s doing it.
She drew 11,000 people to last weekend’s event alone. And some of those people must have schlepped from the Eastside or even farther, which, for those of you who don’t know LA, it means a lot.
Like any trade show, it was overwhelming at first. But as we made our way down each aisle, it quickly became clear that jewelry was the standout.
But what – beyond the jewelry – were the trends? Amid the sea of amusing screen-printed tees (“I WISH I KNEW SOMEONE WITH A BOAT”), saccharine letterpress cards, and posters of the Keep Calm and … variety, one key trend stood out: geometry-inspired work ranging from jewelry to housewares in a diverse palette of materials and colors.
And the shape that was most prevalent: the triangle.
Nikki Montoya and Mikinora both showcased geometry-inspired pieces made of bronze. Whether straight up bronze, white bronze, or oxidized bronze, this sturdy yellowish-brown alloy of copper strikes a nice balance between the coolness of silver and warmth of gold. While some people dislike the changes in surface texture and color of bronze over time, Montoya, who learned goldsmithing techniques from her father’s jewelry shop, prefers it to other metals. Her inspiration for her latest collection? Pre-Colombian artifacts, tribal themes and sacred geometries.
Mikinora’s pieces, which suit our Nicole Bemboom just right, were also heavily geometric: cones, pyramids, polygonal facets. Particularly captivating was the oxidized bronze necklace, made up of three polyhedrons stripped down to their structural shells, reminiscent of an architectural truss.
The necklace and matching earrings are a continuation of the octahedron earrings available in oxidized bronze on their Etsy site. Also in the collection are pieces crafted from antique gold, oxidized silver and sterling silver.
New to the scene is Keren Kemp, who showcased her debut collection of asymmetrical acrylic and gold earrings and necklaces, hand-made in her Highland Park studio. Google “Delusions of Grandeur jewelry” and you see, “Delusions of Grandeur – JEWELRY THAT LOVES GEOMETRY.” With each piece Kemp marries geometric laser-cut acrylic shapes in a rainbow of neutrals and neons with curved or angled gold filled wire. Like a tiny Calder mobile dangling from our earlobe. We look forward to seeing more of her geometry-loving gems in the near future.
Just when we thought we’d seen it all in jewelry, Mónica Calderón’s collection of resin jewelry and housewares beckoned to us (we’ve seen her work before and it gets better and better). The faceted hexagon bracelet is reflected in the construction of the bowls and trays, which range from icy translucent to glossy opaque, depending on how much dye is infused into the resin. The resulting lusters turns these basic everyday objects into one of those pieces you didn’t know you needed.
So why triangles? And why geometry?
Maybe it’s a token of our nostalgia for grade school math or music class.
Or it’s the modern-day version of the arrowhead, shaped out of metal instead of bone, flint, or obsidian. If it was once the symbol of the hunter, what does it mean in today’s world? We can’t help but juxtapose this icon of prehistoric weaponry with the arsenal of post-industrialist weapon-inspired jewelry that we’ve been seeing for a while now. If people aren’t wearing fangs or claws around their necks, they’re wearing a mini rifle on a chain with shotgun studs (hopefully not in the same outfit).
Centuries ago people believed that the arrowhead deflected negative energy, absorbed the strength of their enemy, and cultivated the forces within them. Suffice to say our survival skills are less necessary than those of our ancestors. Nonetheless, we still need a little help every now and then. And we like to think that, in addition to helping us become more conscious consumers, these assiduous local artisans are making amulets and talismans for us, just in case.
Unique LA returns December 1st and 2nd for its 5th Anniversary Holiday Show.