Blair Lauren Brown's studio where she lives and works is comfortable but stylish. The walls are dressed with vintage wheel wells and an oversized photograph of Iggy Pop, and her window looks out on a large cement wall that she has left open to neighborhood graffiti artists. Tucked in one corner is a jewelry bench and a desk with various slender tools lined above it. Blair herself is a mix of comfort and style, dressed in a faded Rolling Stones t-shirt, pointed boots, black pants, her signature gold jewelry, and accompanied by a floppy, blackhaired dog named Grizzly. Both the artist and the space embody a decidedly urban coolness, but Blair considers Brooklyn, New York, only a temporary home. "I love it here and it's great," Blair tells us, "but the city's not really my thing."
Born into an Alaskan family, Blair's history ties her deeply to the land and the craft of gold jewelry. In 1901, her great-grandfather opened a jewelry store making gold nugget chains in response to the gold rush, and later passed the tradition on to Blair's grandfather, who ignited her own interest in the craft. "As a little kid, all his studio stuff was really interesting to my brother and me," she remembers. "He would let us pick through the shag carpet to find gold nuggets." During college, Blair did an independent study at her grandfather's jewelry factory and was inspired to develop her own creative twist on the family tradition of gold nugget jewelry. "I also worked four jobs and saved all my money so I could start my own business, because I knew I was never going to work for anyone else." After spending the next several years in California, Hawaii, and Alaska, Blair knew that to launch her business in the way she wanted, she needed to be in New York. Landing herself in the city, Blair set to work crafting her first collection, teaching herself how to build a website, and in 2006, formally launching Blair Lauren Brown.
Blair's process begins with trips back to Alaska to source gold from independently owned mines that have maintained lasting relationships with her family since her great-grandfather established them. Blair chooses pure raw gold nuggets that are ethically mined and that showcase the inherent beauty of the material. "In a time where there is a lot of over-design happening, I think the more raw and natural something is, the more beautiful it is." Throwing on a mechanics jumpsuit over her clothes, Blair spends hours at her bench hammering, pouring, soldering, and polishing, giving new purpose and life to each piece of gold.
Every decision Blair makes as a jeweler and business owner revolves around sustainable craftsmanship. One day, she hopes to have a significant enough voice in the fashion world that it can have a real impact on promoting the importance of responsible manufacturing. In a time of mass production that often drains our world's resources, Blair is committed to the importance of handwork and creating as little waste as possible. "It's all about protecting the outdoors, because I'm never more myself than when I'm playing outside," Blair explains. "If you're buying a piece of my jewelry, then you are supporting the environment by doing so."
Shop Blair's line of jewelry by clicking here, or scroll below to view the full collection.
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