Last week, a stopped by Bergdorf Goodman to meet the Spanish designer Luz Camino and see her new collection, which is currently on view at the iconic New York City department store until January. In an industry predominately ruled by male designers, Camino is rare gem among the few female designers creating jewelry today.
Each year, Camino debuts a collection of roughly 12 to 15 limited-edition and one-of-a-kind pieces, and this year’s was the first I had seen in person. Together with her son Fernando, we looked at and discussed each piece on display. Known as the “Queen of Plique-à-Jour”, Camino first pulled out a globular artichoke brooch ripe with exquisite green plique-à-jour enameled petals. Her fascination with this type of enamelling technique, championed by Art Nouveau artists like René Lalique, is how it allows light to play with color at any given moment. Another fine example of her delicate plique-à-jour was an incredibly realistic Sweetgum leaf brooch, which had unfortunately already sold earlier in the week. Though I’m sure the leaf is far superior in person, the image alone gives you an idea of its ethereal nature.
Next, I asked if I could see “that guy” as I pointed to the most handsome rooster I had ever seen in jeweled form. The magnificent jewel is both brooch and objet, able to stand alone on his sturdy legs. As I looked at the bird’s figural plumed body, I asked what material it was. Camino then shared with me how she found this fortuitously-shaped piece of vanadinite, a mineral belonging to the apatite group of phosphates. She then showed it with sheer excitement to her son and said, “Look! A rooster!” At the time, it just looked like a fancy mineral, or “a rock,” as Fernando remembered, but Camino’s vision for seeing how this unique stone would become the body of a rooster is what defines her jewelry.
Unconventional, odd and obscure materials often crop up in her designs, expanding my gemological vocabulary with materials like recrystalized bismuth, kyanite and barita. She sees a stone for what it can be in a piece of jewelry, immediately sparking an idea for a unique design before even touching pen to paper.
In the second case, a set of rings reminded me of my elementary school days where pencils ruled. A series of pencil shaving earrings and rings will make you look twice: the renditions are so realistic that you may not think the wood is gold until you actually feel the weight of the jewel. The gold renditions using CAD design software were faithfully sketched using hundreds of actual pencil shavings, right down to the delicate tears and fissures. “For months, our studio floor was covered with pencil shavings,” Camino admitted to me. The pieces are made of shavings from both round and octagonal-shaped pencils, the latter giving a more serrated edge, and have been rendered in jeweled and enamel forms that appear to be straight from the floor of an artists studio.
Camino clearly does not limit her inspiration to the conventional sources, though she does have a fondness for nature as evidenced by her bouquet of graceful flower brooches. A pair of seemingly abstract shoulder-duster earrings were in fact inspired by shoestring potato fries. Camino explained to me she was eating a hamburger one day with a side of these stringy, wriggly fries and she plucked one from a pile. Only instead of just one, she had a whole gnarled string of them. “A-ha! A pair of earrings.” That inspired moment would later become a pair of squiggly gold and yellow sapphire earrings that are just as delicious as their likeness – in appearance only, of course.
With an imagination that knows no bounds, Luz Camino seeks inspiration from every aspect of life on earth as well as the wider universe, whether it’s a field of wild flowers or a far-away galaxy. The glimmering tinsel draped around your Christmas tree today could be a spectacular necklace tomorrow, nothing is impossible for Luz Camino.