Nicole Landaw: Moving Metal

Armed today with an MFA in Metalsmithing and achieving numerous career coups in jewelry design, Nicole Landaw discovered what stirred her soul on the first day of college. When her roommate unpacked a handmade silver treasure and directed her to the school’s jewelry studio, the constant and driving passion of her life solidified. “The idea that I could yield gold and silver to my will excited me then and still excites me today,” she says. “My awe is very specific to the material — its resiliency and durability, how it takes a finish and luster, how in some instances it can have memory and in others it doesn’t.”

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Nicole Landaw’s 14k pebble studs

Over twenty-five years later, the designer still has a tough time peeling herself from the bench at the end of long days spent in her sunlit Brooklyn studio, conveniently located beneath her apartment. The difficulty leaving her creations is a mix of her affection for the craft and perhaps because her process is “playful,” with a workspace comparable to a lab full of experiments and Radio Paradise bumping in the background. Priorities shift to spend time with her architect husband and their four-year-old, Jack. This happens to involve another awe-inspiring project: the renovation of a house and barn in upstate New York, where last summer they spent weekends living in a camper on the property while commissioning furnishings, sourcing materials and basking in the sumptuous outdoor activities on offer there.

The expansion and maturity of Nicole’s work mirrors this rich personal life and depth of understanding of herself. She describes: “My designs have become more refined and my voice in the work — what reflects my distinct signature — has become clear and true. I’m not searching anymore. Just as I know myself better, I know my work more, too.” The pebble collection, featured here on Malgosia Bela, is simultaneously edgy and organic. Intended to resemble small bits of rock sugar (something “sweet” on the ear or neck), each nugget is a true labor of love. The process is indeed laborious: casting, drilling, hammering, threading, organizing — and many refine and repeats. Landaw envisions the woman who appreciates this devotion as “confident and wears what she does because it reflects well on her strengths and beauty — not the converse.”

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Nicole Landaw’s 14k yellow & rose gold pebble necklace

These polished ladies (Malgosia, a fine example, in our opinion), will continue to be blessed with and bedecked in Landaw’s designs as they forever evolve. And, this is a profound, concrete promise: “Even if I won the lottery, I would still do what I do. I’ll sit at the bench making jewelry as long as my body allows. But it’s not just the physical aspects of making that drives my connection to the work. Jewelry is so much more than adornment. Every aspect of its creation, design, materials and how it is worn is deeply embedded with meaning and history. To make jewelry — to participate in its rich artisanal tradition and create these personal objects that carry so much personal and cultural significance — is an honor. I take my role as a maker very seriously. Its meaning and gravity are never lost on me.”