CONNECTING TRADITION AND ART
For VRAM, jewelry design is a process that connects the wearer to a long tradition of the art form. “Jewelry occupies a really interesting place in society,” says the designer, “Because it touches on so many forms of communication and meaning. It can be a show of wealth, a store of wealth, or a mark of acculturation or differentiation. It can be used as a symbolic tool to delineate lineage and family structure. It can include or exclude.” In his work, VRAM comments on this tradition explicitly, making work that includes the wearer in the powerful symbolic history of the art form.SHOP VRAM'S COLLECTION HERE!
He compares to jewelry design the process of creating architecture. “A good building, like a good piece of jewelry, sculpture etc… will be both functional and expressive,” he says. “It will conform to certain constraints and expectations while eschewing others. The best architects have the ability to make the decisions between conformity and innovation in a way that inspires us and moves the whole conversation forwards. I think it is important to imagine that the thing or the space isn’t soulless, but rather a symbiont -- an extension and a reflection of the person. I’m lucky to have it a bit easier than Le Corbusier because integrating yourself into the systems of a home or a city is a much more comprehensive process than accepting an inspiring piece of jewelry into your life. For my work, the resistance is less.”
VRAM taps into the potent symbolic power for jewelry as a totem, a symbol of protection, connection, and individual strength. Sadly, he says, “Jewelry, in general, has lost some of its salience over the last half-century as people have started to express themselves in different ways. A lot of that comes from homogeneity and mass marketing. But it needn’t be that way. My goal is to make expressive pieces that fulfill the wearer’s desire to tell the world who they are, where they came from, and where they are going.”
VRAM’s own work is very much tied to where he’s from and where he’s going, a family history that includes the birth of his first daughter, who inspired the Continuum line, and his own father’s career as a jeweler in Lebanon. “My father was extremely meticulous to the degree that people today might have called him obsessive-compulsive,” he says. “And while those tendencies often lead to frustrating situations in his everyday life, in jewelry they are invaluable. Design is only one part of the equation ---- without powerful combination of skill, patience, and fastidiousness the final result won’t honor the concept. This is especially important in my studio because it is my role not only to emulate those qualities myself but also to inspire them in my team.”
This commitment to continuity is something he attempts to embody in his own work, which is designed not only for the now but with a powerful resonance which he hopes will echo into the future. “Longevity is a function of the piece justifying its existence in the eyes of others. It will be an achievement if long after I’m gone and long after the brand markings are worn off, people preserve the pieces and wear them – not because its ‘VRAM’ or because their friends are doing it too – but because it speaks to their innate sensibilities. But that usually doesn’t happen by accident. I’m deliberate in my investment of time and care into the pieces so they can become worthy of that longevity – worthy of sharing.”
"There is a tendency when it comes to fine jewelry to make the primary focus on the materials or the carat weights when the real value is in the experience of seeing, feeling, and wearing the object."
It’s not just longevity on the human scale that interests VRAM. Many of the forms in the Continuum seem to evoke the passing of cosmic time, echoing the shapes of wormholes, eclipses, and binary stars. “I grew up in the 20th century during the space race,” says the designer, “And I was transfixed by science fiction books and films growing up so that had a much larger influence on me. In my mind, the concept of outer space is inextricably tied to fantasy, imagination, and play. There is something amazing about the vastness of the universe that is awe-inspiring and helps put everything in perspective. I’m glad if my pieces can remind people of that in a small way.”
This approach is hinted at by the names of many of the pieces within the collection, which evoke mathematics and the mysteries of sacred geometry. “There is plenty of evidence that aesthetic sensibilities have mathematical tendencies,” VRAM says. “Think about the divine proportion, for example. People often say that all beauty is subjective or relative, and that’s true to some degree, but there are mathematically consistent operations happening deep in the subconscious. And now with 3D design math is an even more integral part of the process as there can be billions of polygons being rendered behind the scenes in order to create a piece that appears effortless.“
The precise, mathematical nature of VRAM’s design is connected to a deeply spontaneous form of inspiration, often linked to the designer’s subconscious life. “There are a number of pieces that I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and sketched,” he says. “I own many notebooks because I never know when I might be inspired.” Moving from the dream world to creating a wearable work of art requires a great deal of precise and deliberate work from VRAM and his team. “Taking those sketches from concept to reality involves thinking along the axis of volume first,” explains VRAM. “Then texture and color. Then weight and motion. And finally, if possible, sound,” an approach which engages a multisensory experience of these wearable works of art. “My Eon ring illustrates this well,” says VRAM. “It appears to be one of my simplest pieces – voluminous in 18k gold with no gemstones or other materials. But all six of the spheres move and spin independently. They must be light enough to be comfortable, but thick enough to be strong and to make a satisfying sound when they collide. They need to be tight enough to appear as one shape while retaining the ability to move. The devil is in the details, as they say.”
These details include a healthy dose of respect for the natural world, whose rhythms VRAM seeks to echo in his own design process, as well as in the materials he chooses to create his jewelry. “Whatever humans can produce in terms of design, you can bet that nature has produced it first – and better,” he quips. “Some of my elements, especially in the second and third Moments echo geological and biological forms. And I incorporate various natural materials, palm wood, mala beads made from lotus seeds, carved jet. Some of my favorite gemstones are the ones that have an abundance of character – plenty of inclusions or spots – markings that only nature can produce.”