The MuseSimone Bodmer-Turner x Permanent Collection
Being in the JB Blunk house had a profound effect on me; it was the first time I had seen Blunk’s work in person and I really connected with it. It has made me want to shift my focus to natural materials and a more organic way of working.
Since launching Permanent Collection in 2016, Mariah Nielson and Fanny Singer have released a raft of historically informed garments, accessories and objects, which draw inspiration from the likes of Barbara Hepworth, Agnes Martin and Lars Frideen. The collection reflects the hands-on creative worlds the two women grew up immersed in: the kitchen of Fanny’s mother, chef Alice Waters, and the workshop of Mariah’s father, sculptor JB Blunk.
When the duo decided to reproduce of a pair of earrings Nielson’s father gave her mother in the 1970s – which they named the Muse Earrings – they chose to collaborate with the Brooklyn-based ceramic artist and sculptor Simone Bodmer-Turner. For Nielson and Singer, Bodmer-Turner’s hand-crafted vessels, often cast in organic, sensual forms, displayed an affinity with the biomorphic beads in Blunk’s design. Originally composed of ivory, the earrings have been recreated in hand-carved ceramic, and fitted with 18k recycled gold.
In conversation with Cereal, Nielson and Bodmer-Turner discuss the collaboration.
Cereal: How did the two of you meet?
Simone Bodmer-Turner: It was in California a few summers ago, when Fanny arranged for me to visit the JB Blunk house.
Mariah Nielson: Yes, I knew your work but had never met you. And we used to do house tours every month. It’s a beautiful way of sharing the space and my father’s legacy. He wanted that — it was an artist’s residency from 2007 until 2011.
Cereal: How did you become aware of Simone’s work, Mariah?
MN: First through Fanny, and then getting to know her work better online. I had her in mind when we first selected a piece of jewellery to reproduce for Permanent Collection. The ivory beads sparked an immediate connection to her work and the forms she sculpts.
SBT: You showed them to me in person that day.
MN: It was great to collaborate, because I felt that Simone really cared about the project.
Cereal: Did your father make a lot of jewellery, Mariah?
MN: He did, mostly for my mother for birthdays and Valentine’s day, and other female friends. He was prolific. He worked with a combination of shell, horn, gold, and ceramic beads he found on his travels in Oaxaca and Japan. The ivory for the original earrings came from tusk my grandmother brought back from Taiwan in the 1960s.
Cereal: Can you talk about your connection with Blunk’s work, Simone?
SBT: Being in the JB Blunk house had a profound effect on me; it was the first time I had seen Blunk’s work in person and I really connected with it. It has made me want to shift my focus to natural materials and a more organic way of working. A period of reflection has followed that visit, and I will be working with traditional firing methods and local clay bodies as much as possible now.
Cereal: Have you worked with jewellery or other wearable pieces before?
SBT: I am not sure if Mariah knows this, but when I first started working with clay out of a group studio, I made ceramic jewellery to cover the cost of my rent. They were necklaces made from simple ceramic beads on leather cords. But it’s been a while since I revisited it.
Cereal: Why did you decide to reproduce this particular earring, Mariah?
Mariah: We were interested in creating something that complemented the finer styles of jewellery we offer, so we wanted something large and substantial – and for that I thought of Simone.
Cereal: Were there any challenges in reproducing the earrings?
[They both laugh.]
SBT: You would think that producing anything on a smaller scale would be easier than the larger volumes I normally work with, but the process required so much trial and error. We tried a few clay bodies and ways of making the pieces; for a while I was determined to carve every single one myself, then my team reined me in. But it’s rare to work with a collaborator like Mariah who is so steeped in the arts. It was amazing to just get on the phone and problem solve with someone who understands; I was humbled by her understanding of the process.