Natalie Clapp is one of those girls who is just effortlessly cool. I first met her at the Early Bird Diner, where she was grubbing down with her boyfriend Chris Morris (aka DJ Worship the Sky), whose sister and brother-in-law own the joint. Swathed in head-to-toe black, she told me she was visiting from Baltimore, where she worked as an illustrator. A few days later, I checked out her work online and was floored. Lithe ingenues surrounded by occult symbolism wickedly beckoned the viewer. Flora and fauna blossomed under huge peering eyes. Elements of the macabre were deftly rendered in black ink and punctuated by brightly colored flowers. Each piece felt subversive yet innoncent, their whimsy balanced by a deft, authoritative hipness.
Via Instagram, that most 21st-century mode of discovery, I learned that Natalie had switched her focus from illustration to jewelry making. The same juxtapostion of natural and surreal elements that resonated in her drawings translated seamlessly into her new project, Silk Bone Jewels. I was lucky enough to catch up with Natalie and ask her a few questions about her latest venture.
Before starting Silk Bone Jewels, you worked as a designer and illustrator. How did you make the transition into jewelry making?
"I’ve always wanted to experiment with jewelry, even in college. I’ve always been so in love with rings. Rings on every finger at all times. I was working at a printing and design company and had a bit of savings put away, and it just hit me. I figured I might as well do something I really want artistically, because illustration wasn’t making me happy anymore, and drawing just felt forced. I needed something to make me feel happy and something to make me feel like I was doing something completely for me and not for anyone else. I basically took all my savings and said screw it, let’s do it, and bought a bunch of hammers and drill bits and went for it. My mom even had some old sheet silver from when she experimented with jewelry back in the day that she gave me. With illustration and design, there was no outcome that I was pleased with, so I decided to scratch it and start new. It was a good feeling."
Are there common themes that translate across mediums in your work?
"I’m definitely in love with the mystical, macabre, and darker side of the arts, which I think is somewhat evident in some of my jewelry that looks a bit grungier and dark. I made a lot of jewelry around Halloween with spiders and coffins, which calls to that on a more tangible level. I also use some symbology in my jewelry, like moons and goddess symbols, which comes from my research and interest in the occult that I had portrayed in my illustrations. I have always had an affinity for crystals and the metaphysical properties of different symbols, which I try to incorporate in my jewelry so that they become more of a psychic amulet of protection, rather than just something pretty to wear. I love double meanings and deeper meanings. I try to make all of my art have some sort of meaning reminiscent of ancient spiritual belief systems. I love detail, too—the more detail, the better. So, I’ve been trying to bring more detail into jewelry work as my skill levels progress."
Some of your pieces, particularly your rings, remind me of vintage Taxco, which I adore. What movements or designers influence your jewelry?
"I love so, so many contemporary designers; it’s so hard to even choose a handful. However, I’ve been really interested in old Native American silversmithing techniques recently because I love that every piece is touched entirely by the artist. I’ve done a little bit of casting, where I send out a mold to a casting foundry, but it’s not the same. I love being the only person that created the art. I’m also really in love with Victorian mourning jewelry. The filigree and soul that goes into each piece is so beautiful. I try to research so many different cultures and their adornments to get a feel of what I really want to bring forth in my own style."
Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
"It usually starts with a stone. I find a stone that usually speaks to me, mostly labradorite and moonstone for their radiance and abundance of color and fire, and start from there. Then, I just sketch out an idea and try to bring the general idea to life. Pieces often change mid-process, but that’s really most of the fun: seeing where I can take each piece throughout its fabrication."
You recently moved from Baltimore to Charleston. Has this influenced your work?
"I think it’s allowed me to slow down and really do some research and practice. It’s allowed me to expand my studio and my business in an enormous way, and for that, I’m really grateful. I can go slower down here because this is my day job now, so I really have a lot of time to focus, and I’ve gained some confidence with expanding creatively in different ways.
Describe you perfect Charleston day.
"Looking at all the old ruins around here and exploring all day. Then finding fun and new places to eat. Really just walking around all day and night and just looking at everything and taking everything in. Also, ice cream and wine."
Check out Natalie Clapp's work at: