This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Monique Leon of Gurly Girl.
Monique is a New Orleans resident that creates beautiful pieces inspired by two of my favorite things: NOLA and nature.
Tell us a little about how you got into jewelry design.
I have always had crafty hands. I originally thought I might be a painter and even began going to art college (Mass. Art in Boston). I thought I would continue painting but I took a metals class and fell in love. It gave me the ability to consider a dimensional aspect to creating things I had not thought of. It was a unique challenge to build things that had to be durable and wearable on a small scale. I remember carrying my wax carving tools with me everywhere (to carve out models for casting later) Most people read books at the subway, I whittled away at a piece of wax for jewelry. Nothing seemed more natural to me.
Delicate daisies hair pins
Your pieces seem to have two distinct subject matters; nature and New Orleans. Is that a conscience design decision?
Nature seems to pop up in so much art & design; its a compelling subject matter. Many of my items are direct reflections of the natural world because I strive to make pretty things and that is my inspiration. It’s important for me to produce things of beauty and I hope I come close to providing it.
The fleur de lis is close to my heart and a universal symbol of grace and elegance. It is an emblem of the city of New Orleans and when the flood came and washed everything out a lot of people gravitated towards it. Symbolically it was used to show love and respect for the city. I think it is a beautiful, versatile design that reflects a certain elegance.
Crown heart secret pendant
What are your most popular styles?
I get lots of response on my crowned heart pendant
It’s a puffy little heart with a simple crown on it and a little fleur de lis hiding inside the back of it. The love charms
also showcase fleur de lis and the name references the prevalence of voodoo on New Orleans. My beans
get snapped up quickly and make great gifts for moms. The copper bookmark
does pretty well because its substantial yet light and really holds a page without damaging your book.
Magic Lucky Bean
Do you ever take custom requests?
I get custom orders all the time and I love it! Nothing pleases me more than making something exactly like a client wants. That feeling you get from knowing something is one of a kind is quite nice. I also like knowing that I provided a service to someone who couldnt find what they were looking for elsewhere.
I noticed many of your pieces are labeled “bridal”. What makes a piece bridal for you?
The term bridal applies to something more special than everyday and everybody has their own idea about what that is. A lot of bridal items are cheap rhinestones in fake metal and cost about as much as my items in sterling and natural stones. I like to make things that have a lasting quality to them. I want someone to see my pieces as affordable treasures that they can actually wear again. When I build my bridal pieces I consider them precious and hope they offer something very special to their wearer.
Define southern style.
That is a huge question to answer but I will try. To me southern style is adaptability with grace and charm. It is elegance without rigidity and old and new side by side. It can be grand and simple all at once and usually it is inviting yet retains a sense of humor and ease.
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