Rachel Weld: Beauty Is Not Static
Inspired by her passion for ballet, Rachel began to design pieces that create a spark of energy, because “beauty is not static”. Her brand, RACHELWELD, creates unique, sustainable, and breathtaking jewelry. Her pieces are more than just an accessory, they are an extension of the body. Read along to find out more about Rachel Weld and her brand.
You have mentioned that ballet was your first love. How has your background in dance influenced you?
It has been over 20 years since I retired from a career in ballet, and yet every night, I still dance in my dreams. Unfortunately, these dreams have evolved to a point where they are about my current older self, and the narrative is that I have to pull myself together and perform as the understudy while thinking why would anyone want to put me on stage!?! Sometimes these dreams are more pleasant.
The rigorous training and life in ballet is a day-to-day effort to make your body into a form in motion, to become a visualization of the music. This means of expression is deep within my subconscious and bones. As I design, I pay close attention to how a piece may feel on the body and move with the body. I am interested in how a form plays with and within space.
We love the Debut Collection! What inspired you in the design of those pieces?
First, thank you so much!
What inspired me started with my own collection of jewelry that I inherited from my Great-Aunt Nadine and my Grandmothers Enid and Albina. They include beautiful Victorian pieces that came from Nadine and Enid’s mothers and grandmothers. The collection includes pocket-watch chains, cufflinks and mourning hair jewelry that articulate every joint and connection lending a mechanistic aesthetic. The designs respect and celebrate how parts and materials come together – a thought-process that resonates for me as an architect. I was also looking at Albina’s 1960’s costume jewelry that has these bold geometries that are so playful. Albina also had an Arthur King ring from the 1970’s. Very organic and sensual. In one gesture, it captures a sense of motion.
These are the pieces I was looking to as I explored several ideas –
Holding onto my deep respect for nature’s geometries, I wanted not only to create volume but also create and define space. I was interested in the layering of components. The language of the cage-like webbing within the collection sometimes engulfs or just hugs the black jadeite stone adding dimensionality. Space and the body’s skin are an integral part of the layering. I circled back to those Victorian defined forms in the articulation of the cage that is dotted with cylindrical gold bezels.
Sustainability seems essential to you. How are you able to integrate that into the jewelry industry?
It has been a process of establishing relationships in the industry and asking lots of questions to put into practice such a value system. It is amazing that here in New York City, the industry is still such a thriving concentrated hub. All the work to create these pieces is executed here locally – including the cutting of the melée diamonds. My selection of materials is based on a vetting of responsible suppliers and sources. As my business grows, I will have more choices to invest in and work directly with fair trade cooperative sources that uphold with full transparency a commitment to social, political and environmental responsibilities within their initiatives and practices.
We see that your pieces juxtapose opposing forces. Can you discuss the importance of this concept for you?
It goes back to dance. My goal is to infuse each piece with a sense of energy. In ballet, you are working within a structural framework of technique, but you want to reach beyond that framework, beyond your comfort zone. There is a push and pull between abandon and control. That dynamic tension between different forces has the potential to push a piece of material, whether it be a stone or metal beyond a sense of stasis. In this collection, those dualities include the feminine with the masculine, boldness with the delicate, a little bit of punk with classicism. An act of enclosure versus embrace. Space that is an entity versus space that is a void.
We see a lot of black nephrite jade in the collection. The jade, mixed with the yellow gold, perfectly depicts the juxtaposition we have mentioned earlier. What inspired you to choose this gem?
Besides being sourced in Wyoming, I chose black jade for its boldness, neutrality and contrast. I really wanted the focus to be on the form of the piece as a whole. Black onyx was used a great deal in Art Deco jewelry, and it lends a defining graphic quality to that era’s aesthetic. Black is so legible, classic, urban and edgy all at the same time.
When did you create your first piece? What has changed since then?
Beyond the work I was learning and experimenting with in the metalsmithing studio, what I would regard as my “first piece,” which was cast in 18k yellow gold, was the spiral geometry in claw form at quite a large scale worn as an earring. That was in 2017. Though in the end it was melted down, it was an essential stepping stone that led to the caged language. I wanted to break down the mass of the gold while maintaining a voluminous scale. The mapping of the volume led to the lacey cage. That claw earring evolved into my Caged Claw Cocktail Ring.
Can you talk a little bit about your creative process and how you mix the “latest 3-D printing technologies with the ancient lost-wax casting process”?
I sketch with drawing pencils and paper, as well as a CAD-based computer drafting software. The latter allows me to account for every millimeter. I pass this information onto my wonderful modeling team, Pure Cad Design, to test the ideas. That testing process involves 3-D printed prototypes. For the final piece, the cage is too delicate to be reproduced from a rubber mould. The final 3-D resin model is used to create a heat-resistant plaster cast mould around the model. This is the first step in the process that is the ancient lost-wax technique. Historic records can trace it back 6,000 years-ago to the South Asian region! The resin, or it can be wax, is burned out, and molten gold is poured into the mould. After the gold is cooled, the plaster enclosure is broken away to remove the metal form which is called a direct cast. The plaster mould is unusable. The gold cast is then hand-finished and set with stones by a local and high-skilled craftsperson. For the Caged pieces, each new piece goes through this process beginning with the 3-D printed model.
For your custom jewelry, how are you able to stick to your unique style, while still satisfying the customer’s design choices?
Both ballet and architecture have strict parameters. In ballet, you are working with your body as a tool with all its limitations, as well as its potential. In architecture, there are the programmatic and budgetary needs set by the client, the site and materials. I find these parameters a wonderful challenge and a focus from which I find creativity. The balancing act within this process is definitely a thread through all that I have done. I think I am drawn to it!
What do want RACHELWELD to be known for?
I hope that RACHELWELD will stand-out as a distinct voice. I hope that the creations will thrill and make you pause. I hope that they will speak of a specific time in our history, but will be simultaneously timeless.
Finally, which celebrities would you want to see wearing RACHELWELD?
Very fun question! My list includes Tilda Swinton, Solange, Zendaya, Rooney Mara, St. Vincent, and Zoë Kravitz.
To find out more about RACHELWELD visit https://www.rachelweld.com or follow the company on Instagram @rachelweldjewelry