Visitors to this year’s Jazz & Heritage Festival can return home with more than memories, thanks to the work of hundreds of regionally and nationally acclaimed artists whose wares will be on display throughout three distinct marketplaces.
This week Beaucoup spotlights five local artists — all harboring a deep love for New Orleans that they express through jewelry with strong local themes.
From necklaces to pendants, each is a handcrafted piece of Crescent City culture bound to serve as both a treasured keepsake and fun conversation starter.
Contemporary Crafts, Weekend 1, Tent J
Elaborately carved wrought-iron balconies and gates are a historical stamp left upon New Orleans by artisans long since passed.
Hand-crafted from sterling silver, the delicate patterns of artist Natalie Nichols’ bracelets, earrings, pins and necklaces are all derived from that unmistakable New Orleans signature.
“I love the layers of culture that are present in New Orleans architecture. It is unique to New Orleans that our European/French culture has distinct influences from Africa and the Caribbean,” she says, noting that African craftsmen often infused their own symbols into their work.
Between $45 and $750.
Kiki Huston (Kiki Huston Jewelry Designs)
Louisiana Marketplace, Weekend 1, Tent E
Kiki Huston grew up watching her dad work with metal in a small workshop in the family’s basement in New England.
“My love of metalsmithing began there,” she says. “I love jewelry that looks handmade and bears the marks of the maker.”
Huston’s work bears the marks of a maker in love with New Orleans. A proud New Orleans resident for 25 years, her jewelry represents everything from native flora to the city’s faded façades. Using vitreous enamel to add color and images to her sterling silver creations, Huston occasionally adds in precious and semi-precious stones.
“I want my creations to reflect the timeless ease of our city,” she says.
Between $30 and $450
Joy Gauss (Blue House Studio)
Contemporary Crafts, Weekend 2, Tent D
A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Joy Gauss is a proud New Orleans transplant who loves to get her hands dirty.
Her hand-built clay art is inspired by skeletons, nature and what she refers to as the “mojo of New Orleans.”
As a complement to her pottery, Gauss also makes hand-formed, bisque and Raku fired beads, which she hangs on adjustable cords. “They are a great introduction to my art,” she says, “and I also combine them to decorate larger clay art sculptures.”
Gauss says the city is her muse. “Her colors, her spirit, her motion — there’s no other place like it.”
Contemporary Crafts, Weekend 2, Tent I
Brandi Couvillion took a unique path to jewelry-making — one that started with time spent excavating wells and privies throughout New Orleans.
“My extensive background in historic preservation fueled my desire to create historically inspired adornment,” she says.
Beginning with raw sheets of metal, Couvillion uses heat-image transfers, along with various etchants, patinas, polishes and hammer forming, to immortalize historic city maps — some dating as far back as the 1700s.
“My creative side has always been inspired by the built environment around me in its various states of its decay,” she says, “along with the natural landscape from which it emerges.”
Showcased on her bracelets, necklaces and earrings are maps illustrating individual streets or neighborhoods — like Bayou St. John and the Bywater — as well as a more expansive view, like that of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico.
Between $55 and $375
Maria Fomich (Adorn & Conquer)
Louisiana Marketplace, Weekend 2, Tent F
While Maria Fomich’s metalsmithing work ranges from campfire settings to hot air balloons, her New Orleans-themed collection may be of most interest to Jazz Fest tourists or locals looking to wear their own piece of the city scene.
“My work catches the spirit that lives inside those who call Louisiana home,” she says. “Pieces like the ‘Let’s Eat’ and ‘Crawfish Shield,’ can both capture our story and revive memories.”
Fomich layers carvings from multiple types of metal — silver, brass, nickel silver and copper — to create her images of local shotgun houses, streetcars, street signs and food.
She also has a pressed botanical line, made from pressing local leaves into metal. “They’re one-of-a-kind mother nature ‘fingerprints’ from our home,” she says. “They are literally a part of Louisiana.”
Between $25 and $500