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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Interview: Art of Adornment Gothic Jewellery

As part of my ongoing efforts to make Wedding Skulls a well-rounded counter-culture blog, I'm searching for Skully businesses/wacky individuals to interview about weddings, subculture, and life. These interviews will be catelogued under 'Skully Chat'. I can't say how often I'll be doing them, as it all depends on who I stumble across who wants to be interviewed...any volunteers, contact me!
Our first victim...oops, I mean, interviewee, is Valerian, artisan extraordinaire of Art of Adornment. I've been positively dying to feature their exquisite accessories on the blog, so without further ado, I present Valerian!

Who are Art of Adornment and what do you do?

Art of Adornment is a Canadian-based online accessories store (although we ship world wide) which features professionally hand crafted costume jewelry, hats, wood box purses and other accessories for men and women. Our styles range from vintage Victorian, romantic Renaissance and dark 1920's to modern Gothic and steampunk.

Currently we sell work by 5 different artists: Valerian (me! - women's hats, jewelry, handbags, wood boxes, hair clips, watch chains), Atratus (men's hats), Binary Soul (chainmail bracelets and wallet chains), Kitsune (wooden hair sticks) and Lady V (beaded necklaces).

A large portion of our stock is one-of-a-kind or limited edition, often with vintage beads, stones and cameos incorporated into the designs. In addition to handmade goods we also sell a selection of costume accessories such as gloves, hosiery and pocket watches - ideal for completing a decadent look.

What is goth to you? What drew you to the culture/style initially?

Goth is much more than just a style of clothing or type of music - it's a lifestyle. Goths tend to fear the unknown less than our mainstream counterparts: looking inward and confronting our own quirks, dreams and dark places, and experimenting with eclectic ideas and tastes. In summary, the Goth scene to me is simply the most recent incarnation of avant-garde bohemians; dark-clad eccentrics always on the cutting edge of art, music and fashion.

I discovered alternative fashion at age 14 back in 1983. Technically speaking, Goth hadn't been invented yet, but what drew me to this subculture was the strange New Romantic and dark post-punk mixture of period fashions with fetish attire, all done in a bleak and moody vein. It seemed a kind of romantic tragedy, like a Victorian garden party all gone horribly wrong - edgy, beautiful and melancholy all at the same time. My biggest influences were Lene Lovich, Nina Hagen, Danielle Dax and Siouxsie.
How would you/did you incorporate gothic features into weddings?

Accessories really can “make” an outfit whether you’re on a budget or not – don’t assume they’re just an afterthought. Take even the simplest gown, add the right accessories, and the look can be completely transformed from conservative chic to romantic elegance without spending a lot of money.

I think what many families are afraid of is that your Gothic wedding will look like Dracula's circus (although come to think of it, that might actually be quite cool!). They often fear that in years to come you will look back at your wedding with regret and wish you had done something more traditional.

But the best answer to this concern of theirs is elegance, and since Goths have a natural knack for it, use it! The kind of jewelry and accessories we sell are rather ornate, but not too "over the top" - a great way to make anything from traditional formalwear to outright costumes look totally in their place.

My fiancé and I will be getting married in October of this year and we spent a lot of time discussing what the best way would be for us to express our Gothness without being too "Halloweeny". So we decided to push the decadent side of Goth, rather than the spooky side.

Our venue is an Edwardian mansion converted to a restaurant/banquet facility (ceremony at dusk with full reception to follow). We're making our own decorations and using more candles than flowers to keep the cost down and the mood intimate. No pirates, no grim reapers, no vampires - but we’ll have lots of top hats and bustle gowns, plenty of shimmery black satin and velvet, rich red brocade, warm candlelight and hints of crisp white and silver for contrast. If you can picture it, a cross between “the Addams Family” and “Moulin Rouge”.

Gothic weddings don't have to be all creepy pipe organs and Elvira gowns, folks - open yourselves to the idea of playing with a vintage theme (whether it be 1920's, Victorian, Renaissance, Viking or Medieval), even if it's just touches here and there. Just remember to talk to us at least a couple of months in advance if you want several matching pieces for bridesmaids, etc. We can't always do full-on custom designs, but much of what we already have can be customized to your tastes and sizes.

Tell us a little about your design process - how do you choose materials/motifs/inspiration for your pieces?

Much of what I design is influenced by what I've seen in books, documentary films and art (ancient Egypt and Rome, and from the 16th century up to about 1935). Even so, very little of what I make actually resembles any of it. I see an antique design and think to myself, "that's lovely, but that should really have black stones instead of green, and a larger filigree, and velvet ribbon instead of satin..." and before you know it my imagination has completely run off with me. In fact I don't think I've ever actually finished something exactly the way I originally planned.

This is one of the reasons I won't do requests where a customer asks me to duplicate someone else's work. First, I’d feel like I'm stealing - second, I’d feel like I'm not really creating anything. Any kind of art or craft is still art to me, and copying is simply that, copying. It's not rewarding in any way.

This is also why I make a lot of limited edition and one-of-a-kind pieces. Even designs I've been making regularly for a couple of years I will deliberately retire after a while because I prefer to make newer and better things. I guess that's what I get for having a fine arts background (4 year program at the Emily Carr College of Art & Design, Vancouver Canada). Few painters want to paint the exact same image over and over again. So when I've finished making a piece I'm really happy with, I'll sign it (much like I would with a painting), engraving my signature on a metal necklace tag for example.

Why do you think Art of Adornment appeals to so many people?

We don't limit ourselves to just one specific type of product or one strict style genre. We have mothers buying chokers for their daughters' proms, brides shopping for cufflinks for their grooms, lawyers needing necklaces for their office Christmas parties, and burlesque performers buying chandelier earrings to match their sparkly new pasties – a really mixed clientele.

Also, our inventory is always changing. There's more than one artist represented so our individual styles are different enough, but not so different they couldn't be worn well together. And although our work is handmade (each artist makes each piece themselves, there is no "production line") we don't charge ridiculously high prices just to be pretentious - despite the fact I am extremely picky and insist on luxurious but durable materials and clean finishing. We feel that fashion is art (hence "Art of Adornment"), and that art should be accessible to ALL those who appreciate it.

Name a couple of bands/songs that are on your stereo at the moment?

Haha! Oh dear, I think my stone-tablet Goth Card is showing. "The Carny" (Nick Cave), "Swamp Thing" (Chameleons UK), "Monitor" (Siouxsie), "The Vampire Club" (Voltaire)

What's coming up for Art of Adornment?

We have a photo shoot coming up within the next month so we'll have lots of new images to share in the store's photo gallery, plus LOTS of new designs for spring: feather wrist cuffs, steampunk-influenced hair sticks, and antiqued silver skeleton hair clips just to name a few.

Any advice you could offer to Wedding Skulls?

Wear the things you like because you like them and because they flatter you, not because they're "cool" or "in" or just because they looked good on someone else. Everyone looks beautiful when they wear something that honestly reflects their own individual brand of style and grace, and your wedding is your chance to really shine some light on it (yes, even if it's black light!).

Thank you so much Valerian! Her wedding sounds awesome - I love elegant gothic affairs. What she says about loved ones worried about gothic weddings is spot on and what I talked about in this post; the people we love aren't trying to misunderstand us, they just don't want us to look back on our weddings and cringe (how anyone could cringe about Art of Adornment's accessories, I'll never know). I'll be keeping an eye out for those skeleton hair-clips, that's for sure :)

Nick Cave and Siouxie, FTW!

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Anonymous Lady Eureka said...

Great interview of Valerian. She was also interviewed for gothic lace at

January 25, 2009 at 11:30 AM  

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