Conversations with an Artist: Loren Lewis Cole
Loren Lewis Cole communicates though her jewelry something about where she’s from–not just culturally, but in a bigger sense of how she sees the world. She considers jewelry to contain many layers and levels; it’s an artifact of unparalleled complexity and mystery. Loren’s collection evokes sensuality and of global adornment with an ancestral edge, often inspired by her travels and conversations with the people, especially women, she meets along the way.
Describe the moment you realized art fed your soul.
I honestly couldn't say, as it's always been how I process the dance between the inner and outer worlds. I think I would have a soul-sickness without it. I think it might be easier to say the moment I realised not everybody has an active artistic practice, which when I did, I remember feeling sad. When I was a child, if I was feeling ungrounded, or acting in an angry or frustrated way, my Dad would say, "Are you feeling like you need to go and make something...?" Having busy hands, at the edge of your dexterity, and a very focused mind is absolute medicine.
What themes do you pursue in your jewelry collection?
I'm from England, but I've never felt like an English woman; the customs seem strange to me here–beauty always seems to be considered a luxury. I don't know what my culture is, but I know that somehow through my jewellery, I communicate something about where I'm from in my heart. It feels way more authentic than when I try to use words to express myself. This is what blows me away about jewellery: it simply contains so many layers and levels; it's an artefact of unparalleled complexity and mystery, in my opinion.
You will see that my work is certainly pattern rich–although I keep the pattern almost primal and don't use symbols that might be claimed by a certain culture or narrative in time, but shapes that are universal and can instantly connect to people's emotions. Global adornment is an obvious influence in my work, as wherever I've travelled, I've been fortunate to spend time with women talking about and trying on each other's jewellery.
When I'm working on something, I keep in mind at all times that it's being made from a body (mine) and will go on to be worn on somebody's body, so it needs to be sensual and have an alluring softness to it. I like it to feel like a skin, and that the wearer will enjoy touching it throughout the day. Also, I’ve always been sensitive to the sort of energetic aura of objects, and feel so magnetised often by very surprising things. I believe we're all like this. We respond to the spell of objects, even if we don't realise it.
Tell us about what influences the direction for your jewelry.
I'm influenced by Love, Poetry, Asian artifacts, Mystical Traditions past and present, Folk Art from around the world, the notion of a Shrine, indigenous art forms, the beauty and potential in being a woman, from any culture and any age, the conviction that sensual intelligence and enjoyment are as important, if not more, than intellectual experience alone. I'm always looking to work with new techniques and develop my work, so this year I'm working on a collection that incorporates bright enamel and more stones, and it will be very inspired by the explosion of colour and form one can experience in India.
I'm pretty unstructured in my design process. I sketch designs multiple times throughout the day, and some of them become realised. I can sketch entire collections in under an hour, they just come to me when I do and don't expect them. Often it might hinge off of a shape–I’ll be feeling compelled to make work around the triangle, or spirals. Often, the design happens in the moment of having the beeswax in my hand. I find the wax has its own ideas sometimes, and I need to slow down, clear the noise in my mind, become very still, and then proceed. The moment of bringing a design into being from a blob of beeswax is nothing short of ecstatic–time stops. Sadly, this is only a small part of running a jewellery business, perhaps that's why it's so special.
How has your work developed over time?
In my years of experience as a metalworker, I always had the vision of making as quite organic, but detailed work. I would spend hours and hours painstakingly soldering dots on to bangles, then selling them for next to nothing! As I'm self-taught, I didn't know about lost wax casting. Nobody ever suggested it to me, so although I loved metal, I always felt slightly limited by its straight lines and machine made edges. Hmmm, so for years I painted to express the softness and organic shapes in my heart, and made jewellery to express another voice. But I always yearned to bring the two feelings together.
Then, in 2018 I discovered lost wax casting. I started using very soft beeswax composite, and felt like I was home straight away. I don't want to work with CAD or computers, it's just not my style. It works phenomenally for other designers, but my work is so much about the mark of the human hand and this sense of connection it brings.
This is why I think it's important to be in an educational environment as a creator, so that we might learn from people about techniques that really make our heart sing. We're all so different in our expressive style, and finding a medium that supports that can be game-changing.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
My intuition–to know what to pursue and what to leave. My passion.
Do you collect anything?
Not surprisingly, the only true collection in my life has been jewellery! I have so many pieces and all contain memories and stories. I have some Ethiopian crosses that I just love. The raw fierceness of expression in them blows me away.
And bones. The lines and shapes in bones have always excited me. I only collect found bones, so it's mostly been sheep and wild animals. Once I found a huge dead Eagle in Spain, and an immaculate skeleton of a swan here in England. People used to give me bones that they had found, too! One of my favourites, is I think part of a cow's pelvis. I found it in Northern Israel about 10 years ago. It's such a thing of beauty, the curves, the edges, it's a perfect sculpture and always has pride of place wherever I live.
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen, read, watched or listened to recently?
To carry on the bones theme, I discovered a British Artist called Emma Witter, who makes beautiful, intricate sculptures with bones (Poet and/the Bench discovered her some time ago, too!). Some of them are like Japanese Ikebana arrangements–and some of them are like creatures in their own right. She's an inspiration and her work is beautiful. She's also challenging what mainstream culture considers to be beautiful. Apparently, some people are disgusted by bones! The other thing is a stunningly beautiful underwater dance short film called AMA, by Julie Gautier, an absolute must watch.
What advice would you give to your younger self about your artistic journey?
Make movement–the fear of visibility doesn't need to stop you. Get yourself out there in front of people, because that's where we learn so much. Trust the feeling inside of yourself that knows the work you're capable of, and work on it every single day. It will be constant work, there will be no place to 'arrive' at. And that's all ok. Passion combined with discipline makes anyone unstoppable.
What beautiful insight from Loren, hey? She says, "I'm a poet, too!" And we agree. There are so many layers of context in her work and you can't help but find connection to her jewelry, especially upon understanding more of her way of approaching design. Come see the small collection we have in the shop!
~ Bonnie & Jeffrey