LOS ANGELES — In the mid-Nineteen Eighties, Jacqueline Rabun was in her early 20s and learning style design in Los Angeles when she wandered into a up to date jewellery gallery on Sunset Boulevard. The go to modified her life.
“It was a beautiful shop called M Gallery,” Ms. Rabun, now 60, recalled just lately. “The person who owned it, Michael Dawkins, was a very chic man with exceptional taste. I’d never seen jewelry like that, and I’d never seen it displayed in such a way. I was completely blown away.”
Ms. Rabun requested Mr. Dawkins if she might work for him and he gave her a gross sales job on the spot. “You just know when a moment is a moment,” she stated.
Since then, Ms. Rabun has solid a profession as a jewellery artist working in silver and 18-karat gold. Her 22-year collaboration with the Danish silver agency Georg Jensen has cemented her popularity amongst connoisseurs of modernist design. And her work, finest recognized for its daring natural kinds and its highly effective simplicity, was just lately highlighted in “Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance,” a groundbreaking promoting exhibition by 21 Black jewelers held at Sotheby’s New York final fall.
“It’s taken people a long time to acknowledge the extent of her talent,” stated Melanie Grant, the London-based editor, stylist and creator who curated the exhibition. “We absolutely had to have her. She’s one of those people whose design is timeless, genderless — it goes beyond trend and fashion.”
The rising consciousness of Ms. Rabun’s creations coincides along with her return to America. After 31 years in London, the place she relocated in 1989 to pursue a romantic relationship, Ms. Rabun got here again to Los Angeles in October 2020, intent on making good on a dream she had nurtured for the reason that late Nineteen Seventies.
She was 16 on the time and visiting her eldest sister, who lived along with her new husband in an architectural gem of a house within the Oakland Hills east of San Francisco.
“I’m sure it was a Neutra house,” Ms. Rabun stated, referring to the modernist architect Richard Neutra. “It was a midcentury, beautiful, huge A-frame with a big fireplace and sunken living room. They had a water bed in the bedroom and a Porsche Carrera.
“I didn’t think there were any African American people living like that,” she added. “Living your life unlike others, in your own way, on your terms.”
Ms. Rabun yearned for the liberty she related to that California idyll, whilst her profession and private life stored her tied to Britain. Now, though she continues to spend time in London to take care of relationships with longstanding purchasers, she is predicated on the West Coast, the place easy accessibility to nature and continuous sunshine have reworked her outlook.
“The anxiety is gone,” she stated.
The undeniable fact that Ms. Rabun’s 28-year-old son, Wyatt, decamped to Los Angeles along with her appears to have made the transition much more significant. “There is that idea to dream bigger and change the world here,” she stated. “I love that philosophy and I really wanted my son to be around that.”
As Ms. Rabun spoke, the gold rings, gold bracelets and distinctive gold bangle watch that adorned her palms and wrists — a mixture of her personal designs in addition to archival items by the midcentury designer Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe, one other Jensen collaborator — recalled a remark by Frank Everett, senior vice chairman of Sotheby’s Jewelry in New York.
“Jacqueline could give a tutorial on how to wear jewelry,” Mr. Everett stated just lately. He had met Ms. Rabun for the primary time on the opening reception for “Brilliant & Black.” “She had on a lot of jewelry and she looked flawless. If she hadn’t been a designer and creator and an artist, she could have been a stylist.”
What sealed Ms. Rabun’s future as an artist-jeweler was one other probability encounter. She had been in London for a few decade and had a flourishing enterprise promoting silver jewellery to high-end shops comparable to Barneys New York. (That specialty retailer purchased her debut “Raw Elegance” assortment in 1991, what she referred to as her first large break.)
“I went to have dinner with a friend, and she invited Marc Hom, a Danish photographer who was connected to the then-owners of Georg Jensen,” Ms. Rabun recalled. “He said, ‘I think they’re looking for some new designers, would you like me to introduce you?’ The next day, I get a call from the C.E.O.”
The firm gave her a easy design temporary: the egg, a form she already had utilized in designing a bangle. “I worked on the collection, at a time when my son was small, about that unbreakable bond between mother and child,” Ms. Rabun stated. “I was just telling my story, everyone’s story.”
Introduced in 2002, the Offspring line of necklaces, rings and earrings stays one in every of Georg Jensen’s best-selling collections, stated Ragnar Hjartarson, the model’s artistic director.
“We have a lot of organic and sculptural shapes at the core of our DNA,” he stated on a current name. “That’s why Jacqueline is a perfect fit. She uses fluid forms and she always infuses her work with symbolism and emotion.”
Mr. Hjartarson additionally talked about Reflect, Ms. Rabun’s newest assortment for Georg Jensen, a line of unisex silver chains launched in February. “It’s something I wear myself,” he stated. “It’s like a second skin.”
As Ms. Rabun described her early days designing for the Danish firm, she remarked on the benefit of the connection. “It wasn’t about my Instagram followers or about trying to fill the B.L.M. quota,” she stated, referring to the Black Lives Matter motion and the flurry of curiosity in Black artistic leaders that got here within the wake of the 2020 homicide of George Floyd and the general public outcry that adopted. “It was about a shared design language.”
Regarding the current consideration, Ms. Rabun stated she was ambivalent. “I’m looking forward to the time, if we really want to be diverse, when a jewelry designer is a jewelry designer,” she stated. “Why do we need to attach race or gender to it?”
But Ms. Rabun made it clear that she was grateful to be part of the “Brilliant & Black” exhibition, the place she showcased designs primarily based on her Black Love assortment, impressed by the idea of two seeds fused collectively right into a sculptural coronary heart image. Introduced in 2015, the gathering, partly set in oxidized sterling silver, was Ms. Rabun’s approach of channeling the grief she felt each time she discovered one other Black man had been killed by the police.
“The simplicity of it is masterful,” Ms. Grant stated. “She refers to Black culture but with a very light but intimate touch.”
Ms. Rabun’s Black Love items for Sotheby’s, which have been executed in 18-karat yellow gold, featured oversize heart-shaped designs set with crystals of rutilated quartz. The quartz additionally seems in her latest jewellery collaboration, a group referred to as Metanoia, with Carpenters Workshop Gallery, the French gallery with outposts in Paris, London and New York.
As if her plate weren’t full sufficient, Ms. Rabun additionally has been fielding a rising variety of non-public commissions. Earlier this 12 months, for instance, she accomplished a necklace for a shopper in Paris utilizing a 20-carat yellow diamond that he wished reset for his spouse’s fortieth birthday. The ensuing piece, that includes the gem as a pendant on a yellow gold chain, will be worn 4 methods.
“On the back of the pendant are the names of each child in four corners, and there are 40 links for her 40th birthday,” Ms. Rabun stated. “When I do commissions, I have to make sure it’s connected to the wearer.”
Soon Ms. Rabun plans to increase that philosophy past jewellery, as her self-described obsession with objects and furnishings has led to a brand new collaboration on this planet of lighting. While she declined to share particulars (“It is early days,” she defined), she stated the gathering was prone to debut in 2023. It could be her second foray outdoors of knickknack — her first, a line of bowls she designed for the Viennese artist and designer Carl Auböck IV, was proven on the 2017 Wallpaper Handmade Exhibition in Milan.
Ms. Rabun stated she had been impressed by Twentieth-century modernists (and Georg Jensen collaborators), such because the Danish furnishings designers Nanna Ditzel and Verner Panton, whom she described as having lived their lives unapologetically immersed of their artwork.
“I’ve always been drawn to artists that are living it,” Ms. Rabun stated. “I guess that’s why I had to come home — I had to fully live it.”
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