So I’m reviewing design proposals for 30-Minute Rings (Spring 2011), when I spot a rather curious phenomenon: multiple Latvian entries. I could definitely shake off one or two Latvian proposals as a standard matter of course, but five or six? Curiosity ensued as this mysterious Baltic country thrust itself on my radar.
Thanks to the work of Kadri Mälk (featured in 500 Gemstone Jewels, 500 Brooches, and 1000 Rings), I knew that neighboring Estonia had a burgeoning art jewelry scene. But what was its southern neighbor up to? My inquiring mind had to know.
First order of business: finding Latvia on a map. The Baltic States are in the shape of Christmas stocking with Estonia at the top, Lithuania at the bottom, and Latvia sandwiched in between. Geographical location…check!
Through a simple Google search, I discovered Putti, an art gallery dedicated to presenting the unique artworks of contemporary Latvian jewelers. Celebrating its 10th Anniversary this month, Putti is located in a beautifully designed space in Riga’s old town. All of the jewelers they display— Valdis Brože, Jānis Vilks, Zane Lavrinoviča, Māris Auniņš, Guntis Lauders, Gints Strēlis, Māris Šustiņš and Aigis Auders—are graduates of the Latvian or Estonian Academy of Arts.
I was particularly intrigued by the work of Guntis Lauders who, as fate would have it, was the first jeweler to show in the gallery 10 years ago and the one being featured this month in the exhibition In Search for the Lost Court.
Lauders’ jewelry combines silver with ebony, mammoth ivory, corals, coconut shell, and various precious and semiprecious stones. His collage-like constructions seem channeled from somewhere deep in the subconscious. I find them primal yet informed, fanciful but a bit sinister. His painterly palette and signature two-piece rings really impressed me. I’d like to be wearing one right this very moment!
In Autumn 2009, Putti organized a group exhibition called Rock Crystal, which explored the diversity of the material and the different ways it could be interpreted. To accompany this show, Putti produced a very impressive film, which was directed by Oskars Rupenheits and Oskars Morozs and shot by Aigars Sērmukšs. I am honored to have the opportunity to share this film with you and hope you enjoy it.
From Seoul to Savannah, Calgary to Capetown, designer-made jewelry is a dynamic part of our global culture. My hunch to investigate the goings on in Latvia introduced me to the Putti gallery and Guntis Lauders. Such chance encounters deepen and enhance my point of view, and I look forward to reaching out to and uncovering more about the rich community of jewelers all over the world.