It began with a rose bush in her mother’s garden. “I was touched by this plant that grew thorns to protect itself, particularly its gorgeous, delicate flowers,” says Connecticut-raised jewelry design and sculptor Lee M. Hale, who began translating natural beauty into her work early on in her career.
“I had made a small, wooden box covered with thorns that contained a dried rose,” says Hale, who was assisting NYC jewelry designer Jessica Rose at the time, having recently completed her studies in sculpture at the Pratt Institute. “Jessica and [jewelry designer] Ted Muehling suggested I make that box in metal. I said I would if Ted would show me how, since I had no experience working in metal. And he very kindly did.” Shortly thereafter, Muehling began selling the boxes in his Soho store.
Hale’s sculpture work paved the way for her jewelry, aided by another jewelry designer friend, Gabriella Kiss who hired Hale to work in her Brooklyn studio, and taught her some essential jewelry-making techniques. In 1994, Hale’s first pair of rose-thorn earrings was born, eventually becoming a hallmark of her jewelry designs.
Hale, now based in Portland, works with real rose thorns when beginning each new piece (“sometimes beefing them up with wax,” she says). After a mold is made, she has the pieces cast in a variety of metals, from bronze to silver and gold. The thorn collection encompasses studs in a range of sizes and earrings on French wires, as well as sculptures and the one-of-a-kind boxes that started it all, crafted in bronze.
Says Hale, “What began as an appreciation of the protective function of rose thorns grew into a deep appreciation of the beauty and variety of their shapes, which I find graceful and elegant.”