LOS ANGELES — Within the mid-Eighties, Jacqueline Rabun was in her early 20s and learning trend design in Los Angeles when she wandered into a up to date jewellery gallery on Sundown Boulevard. The go to modified her life.
“It was an attractive store known as M Gallery,” Ms. Rabun, now 60, recalled not too long ago. “The one who owned it, Michael Dawkins, was a really stylish man with distinctive style. I’d by no means seen jewellery like that, and I’d by no means seen it displayed in such a method. I used to be fully blown away.”
Ms. Rabun requested Mr. Dawkins if she might work for him and he gave her a gross sales job on the spot. “You simply know when a second is a second,” she mentioned.
Since then, Ms. Rabun has solid a profession as a jewellery artist working in silver and 18-karat gold. Her 22-year collaboration with the Danish silver agency Georg Jensen has cemented her fame amongst connoisseurs of modernist design. And her work, greatest recognized for its daring natural varieties and its highly effective simplicity, was not too long ago highlighted in “Good & Black: A Jewellery Renaissance,” a groundbreaking promoting exhibition by 21 Black jewelers held at Sotheby’s New York final fall.
“It’s taken folks a very long time to acknowledge the extent of her expertise,” mentioned Melanie Grant, the London-based editor, stylist and writer who curated the exhibition. “We completely needed to have her. She’s a kind of folks whose design is timeless, genderless — it goes past development and trend.”
The rising consciousness of Ms. Rabun’s creations coincides together with her return to America. After 31 years in London, the place she relocated in 1989 to pursue a romantic relationship, Ms. Rabun got here again to Los Angeles in October 2020, intent on making good on a dream she had nurtured because the late Nineteen Seventies.
She was 16 on the time and visiting her eldest sister, who lived together with her new husband in an architectural gem of a house within the Oakland Hills east of San Francisco.
“I’m certain it was a Neutra home,” Ms. Rabun mentioned, referring to the modernist architect Richard Neutra. “It was a midcentury, lovely, enormous A-frame with a giant fire and sunken lounge. That they had a water mattress within the bed room and a Porsche Carrera.
“I didn’t assume there have been any African American folks residing like that,” she added. “Residing your life not like others, in your individual method, in your phrases.”
Ms. Rabun yearned for the liberty she related to that California idyll, at the same time as her profession and private life stored her tied to Britain. Now, though she continues to spend time in London to keep up relationships with longstanding purchasers, she relies on the West Coast, the place easy accessibility to nature and continuous sunshine have remodeled her outlook.
“The nervousness is gone,” she mentioned.
The truth that Ms. Rabun’s 28-year-old son, Wyatt, decamped to Los Angeles together with her appears to have made the transition much more significant. “There’s that concept to dream larger and alter the world right here,” she mentioned. “I like that philosophy and I actually wished my son to be round that.”
As Ms. Rabun spoke, the gold rings, gold bracelets and distinctive gold bangle watch that adorned her arms and wrists — a mixture of her personal designs in addition to archival items by the midcentury designer Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe, one other Jensen collaborator — recalled a remark by Frank Everett, senior vp of Sotheby’s Jewellery in New York.
“Jacqueline might give a tutorial on learn how to put on jewellery,” Mr. Everett mentioned not too long ago. He had met Ms. Rabun for the primary time on the opening reception for “Good & Black.” “She had on a variety of jewellery and she or he seemed flawless. If she hadn’t been a designer and creator and an artist, she might have been a stylist.”
What sealed Ms. Rabun’s future as an artist-jeweler was one other probability encounter. She had been in London for a few decade and had a flourishing enterprise promoting silver jewellery to high-end shops reminiscent of Barneys New York. (That specialty retailer purchased her debut “Uncooked Magnificence” assortment in 1991, what she known as her first large break.)
“I went to have dinner with a pal, and she or he invited Marc Hom, a Danish photographer who was linked to the then-owners of Georg Jensen,” Ms. Rabun recalled. “He mentioned, ‘I feel they’re searching for some new designers, would you want me to introduce you?’ The following day, I get a name from the C.E.O.”
The corporate gave her a easy design temporary: the egg, a form she already had utilized in designing a bangle. “I labored on the gathering, at a time when my son was small, about that unbreakable bond between mom and baby,” Ms. Rabun mentioned. “I used to be simply telling my story, everybody’s story.”
Launched in 2002, the Offspring line of necklaces, rings and earrings stays one in every of Georg Jensen’s best-selling collections, mentioned Ragnar Hjartarson, the model’s artistic director.
“We have now a variety of natural and sculptural shapes on the core of our DNA,” he mentioned on a latest name. “That’s why Jacqueline is an ideal match. She makes use of fluid varieties and she or he all the time infuses her work with symbolism and emotion.”
Mr. Hjartarson additionally talked about Replicate, Ms. Rabun’s newest assortment for Georg Jensen, a line of unisex silver chains launched in February. “It’s one thing I put on myself,” he mentioned. “It’s like a second pores and skin.”
As Ms. Rabun described her early days designing for the Danish firm, she remarked on the convenience of the connection. “It wasn’t about my Instagram followers or about attempting to fill the B.L.M. quota,” she mentioned, referring to the Black Lives Matter motion and the flurry of curiosity in Black artistic leaders that got here within the wake of the 2020 homicide of George Floyd and the general public outcry that adopted. “It was a few shared design language.”
Relating to the latest consideration, Ms. Rabun mentioned she was ambivalent. “I’m wanting ahead to the time, if we actually need to be numerous, when a jewellery designer is a jewellery designer,” she mentioned. “Why do we have to connect race or gender to it?”
However Ms. Rabun made it clear that she was grateful to be part of the “Good & Black” exhibition, the place she showcased designs based mostly on her Black Love assortment, impressed by the idea of two seeds fused collectively right into a sculptural coronary heart image. Launched in 2015, the gathering, partly set in oxidized sterling silver, was Ms. Rabun’s method of channeling the grief she felt each time she realized one other Black man had been killed by the police.
“The simplicity of it’s masterful,” Ms. Grant mentioned. “She refers to Black tradition however with a really mild however intimate contact.”
Ms. Rabun’s Black Love items for Sotheby’s, which had been executed in 18-karat yellow gold, featured oversize heart-shaped designs set with crystals of rutilated quartz. The quartz additionally seems in her latest jewellery collaboration, a set known as Metanoia, with Carpenters Workshop Gallery, the French gallery with outposts in Paris, London and New York.
As if her plate weren’t full sufficient, Ms. Rabun additionally has been fielding a rising variety of personal commissions. Earlier this 12 months, for instance, she accomplished a necklace for a consumer in Paris utilizing a 20-carat yellow diamond that he wished reset for his spouse’s fortieth birthday. The ensuing piece, that includes the gem as a pendant on a yellow gold chain, could be worn 4 methods.
“On the again of the pendant are the names of every baby in 4 corners, and there are 40 hyperlinks for her fortieth birthday,” Ms. Rabun mentioned. “Once I do commissions, I’ve to ensure it’s linked to the wearer.”
Quickly Ms. Rabun plans to increase that philosophy past jewellery, as her self-described obsession with objects and furnishings has led to a brand new collaboration on this planet of lighting. Whereas she declined to share particulars (“It’s early days,” she defined), she mentioned the gathering was prone to debut in 2023. It might be her second foray outdoors of bijou — her first, a line of bowls she designed for the Viennese artist and designer Carl Auböck IV, was proven on the 2017 Wallpaper Handmade Exhibition in Milan.
Ms. Rabun mentioned she had been impressed by Twentieth-century modernists (and Georg Jensen collaborators), such because the Danish furnishings designers Nanna Ditzel and Verner Panton, whom she described as having lived their lives unapologetically immersed of their artwork.
“I’ve all the time been drawn to artists which are residing it,” Ms. Rabun mentioned. “I assume that’s why I needed to come dwelling — I needed to totally reside it.”