Saturday, June 9, 2012

LAND OF SHADOWS | An interview with JL Schnabel of Bloodmilk Jewelry.

Purebred FoundersRansom & Mitchell
Photographer : Jason Mitchell

So first of all tell us a little about yourself. Who is JL Schnabel? 

I’m a bit of a shy, strange, bookish type of girl who is most comfortable at home alone in my studio or in the back corner of a used bookstore / curiosity shop than anywhere else. I do like a good adventure though, and love to be near the sea or in the woods when I’m able to get away from work and the city. 

When did you first get involved in the fashion/jewellery industry?

 I first started working on Blood Milk in 2008. I feel like I’m still on the outskirts of the “industry”, which is where I like existing. Being independently run disables me from creating a large bulk of work each month, so each piece, each transaction, each client, still feels special; a kind of quiet ritual, a secret communion. 

How did the idea & concept of Blood Milk come to fruition?

After my father passed away suddenly in 2008, I became obsessed with the idea of being comforted by jewelry. I wasn’t really finding what I needed at the time, so I started fiddling around with converging old objects, things with past lives. Looking back I believe I channeled a lot of my grief into the start of Blood Milk. I made mistakes, I learned, and ultimately grew to a place where I feel I’m able to truly express my obsessions and personal tales more honestly and clearly. 

What made you decide on the name Blood Milk? 

I was thinking of the potency of conjoining words together, of alchemy and spells, the balance between darkness and light, beauty and the macabre. 

Where do you draw your influences for the label? 

Though I don’t like to think of my work as dark, I’m often inspired by the stranger, more difficult experiences of the human condition such as death, grief, the sorrow that comes from loss, the endless mystery of the afterlife. For my new line ‘Farewell’ that I’ve been slowly working on, I’ve been culling inspiration from ‘Sleep No More’, which is an interactive and immersive experience going on in NYC based on ‘Macbeth.’ It’s set in the 1930’s and there are elements of ritual, romance and madness that I’ve been secreting into my new pieces. 

Who are some of your personal fashion & style icons? 

I’m really into an amalgam of style inspiration, drawing from film and book characters as well as individual street style. I feel inspired by Zana Bayne and am generally always wearing one of her harnesses. It comforts me in some strange way, to be buckled in by all those straps of leather …. 

Your collections come across as very strong and bold. Same may even say slightly masculine..what are your thoughts on this and was this intentional or more just a by product? 

I like to strike a balance between bold and delicate, for example, a large obsidian tomb is grasped by tiny bird claws… I do have a large male clientele, which I didn’t expect, but that thrills me. It has been a great surprise to have all sorts of people drawn to my work. 

Your collections, as well as being very strong pieces, also have what appears to be conceptual themes, particularly more dark concepts and taxidermy influences. Would you say that is something that comes before or after the conception of the collection or embodies the brand in general? 

I feel that I have created a visual language for myself that I’m able to harvest from when starting a new collection. I like to use the cast remains of animals, birds, snakes and other creatures to tell my personal tales, for me these bits express my obsession with the afterlife, the notions of what lives on when we pass and what is gone forever. I’ve always been interested in the macabre underbelly of this world, but I also believe I’m exploring the ideas of comfort and hope in my work as well. 

Who are some of your favourite designers and labels? 

I’m obsessed with Audrey Cantwell’s line ‘Ovate.’ She creates these darkly poetic works that I’m rarely without. As mentioned above, I’m also a fan of Zana Bayne’s harnesses, I think what she is creating and accomplishing is brilliant and inspiring. Both of these designers are very young and this gives me hope for the future of the handmade culture. 

Is there any one designer you would love to collaborate with? 

I’d really like to collaborate some more with artist Ellen Rogers, her dreamy, otherworldly photographs are a great inspiration to me. I’m currently collaborating with artist Paul Romano on my new line, ‘Farewell.’ Though it’s a challenge to work closely with someone else’s vision, I find collaborating to be a great experience and always look forward to more. 

Have you ever had any celebrity clients? Is there anyone you would really love to design a piece for? 
I’ve had a handful of tremendously talented artists such as Charmaine Olivia and Marci Washington whose paintings I truly admire, purchase some of my jewels. I like thinking of them wearing my jewelry while working on something I know I’ll love. Makes me feel a tiny bit present in their lives somehow . . . I would love to design a piece of jewelry for Frida Kahlo or Joan of Arc, but unfortunately that’s never going to happen . . . 

 Do you do any custom work and if so can you tell us about it? 

Since I’m currently just one lady, it’s rare that I’m able to take on any custom work, but occasionally I’ll be asked to create an engagement ring or a piece of mourning jewelry. These projects attract me in how intensely personal they are, an engagement ring is a testament of true love and is worn always, while mourning jewelry is a physical reminder of grief and life. Though it takes me a lot longer to figure out custom jewelry when working closely with a client, I find the process to be both challenging and an exciting detour from my personal work. 

 What are your favorite materials and concepts to work with? 

Though it’s expensive to use, I love to work with sterling silver. It doesn’t discolor the skin the way brass does and I’m able to get moody tones of gray/black on it. I also like to work with organic materials such as phantom quartz and obsidian (polished lava), which in a way is like the blood of the earth. As for concepts, as I mentioned, I tend to thread my way through the macabre, exploring the conflicting feelings I have about death and my curiosity about the afterlife. 

When you are not designing what can we find you doing? 

When I’m not working on jewels, you can find me in my new loft, reading with my balcony doors open, scouring for old and forgotten things to add to my collections or watching Sci-Fi on Netflix. I recently went roller-skating for the first time in years and had an amazing time, a lot of laughing. 

What can we expect from Blood Milk in the future? 

Aside from working on new jewels, I’ve also been working on a fleet of hanging ship sculptures for a show in September. I like to try my hand a new things and different ways of telling my stories. Each vessel represents a feeling or time in my life that I’m interested in letting go of . . .