The jewelry art gallery is a curated space where both environment and the objects on display are carefully cultivated to create a narrative atmosphere. It is the frame, the lens, which allows visitors to experience the work as parts of a great visual novel, rather than a chaotic array of disparate elements. This is the true beauty of an art gallery, beyond simply expressing the tastes of its owners. At Gallery Lulo in Healdsburg, this sweet spot of an impressive collection, with a love for the experience, has been achieved through the union of European minimalism with Californian casualness.
Healdsburg itself is one of those interesting experiments in suburban renewal, a gentrified town whose Main Street is made up almost in its entirety of boutique shops and artisanal food restaurants. The density of start-ups is intense, with only a few signs of Healdsburg’s previous life poking out from underneath, such as an old Mexican family restaurant on one of its street corners.
Lulo is owned in a partnership by glass artist Karen Gilbert and Danish immigrant Katrina Schjerbeck. The two co-owners met through a mutual friend who attended the American Craft Council shows. Katrina had been assisting at her friend’s booth, and they decided to visit Karen in Healdsburg. It was a serendipitous moment; Katrina and her husband had been looking for a new place to live, and Healdsburg was a perfect match.
A multimedia exhibition arena, Gilbert and Schjerbeck include paintings, ceramics and other artforms seemingly not as additional wares, but as accents to the ambience which they are fostering. Used sparingly, they augment and frame the jewelry, which is good as the pieces and artists chosen for Lulo’s collection are delicate, tactile and sensitive. Anything more would be overwhelming, yet the gallery proprietors show sound presence of mind in ensuring that the jewelry stands out first and foremost.
White glass-covered cases contain numerous specimens, with multiple drawers that roll out smoothly on well-oiled mechanisms. The work itself is from jewelers around the globe. Though the gallery does not restrict itself to artists known for having a minimalist aesthetic, the pieces they sell tend to be along those lines.
As an example, take the bold gemstone jewelry of Petra Class. Class’s focus is her lapidary work, where she often uses outlandish segments of precious and semiprecious stones encased in gold. Instead of using small rubies as accents in a ring or bracelet, she uses a whole flat sheet of ruby for a brooch. The ruby is both canvas and painting, where Class lets the grain of the raw stone become the visual palette across which the eyes dance. While that piece is representative of her oeuvre, she also has more understated jewelry, where a series of gold-encapsulated aquamarines or emeralds, linked by chain, become a bangle.
There are a number of jewelers whose works might not be found at other galleries, making this a treasure for those seeking something simple and sleek. Gilbert and Schjerbeck select an international representation of artists who often tend towards the abstract, with minimal use of gemstones. Such can be seen in the jewelry of Mia Hebib, a Bosnian-Croat who came to the United States to study at the Savannah College of Art & Design. She utilizes brass, polished and patinaed, as well as occasionally other metals, and from it derives undulating bands that warp and wend their way around each other.
Her series entitled The Golden Years makes use of the gleaming polished surface to reflect one’s surroundings, which become part of the visual presentation of the piece. They arrive at that certain point of grace where a thing exhibits complicated attributes without becoming overwrought; like liquid sculpture in motion. For a certain type of person, they are exquisite.
Naomi Mcintosh’s use of wood in jewelry brings together technology and aesthetic into a razor’s edge balance. Mcintosh takes sheets of wood and then uses CAD and hand-drawn shapes to create her little repetitive forms, which she then excises from the sheet through laser-cutting. Strung on a dual strand of elastic to create tension, the asymmetric pieces spiral around each other in an endless reverberation. It is mesmerizing, and easy to wear: light, flexible and visibly bold.
“We love to see materials used in ways that speak to the tradition of the handmade, but has an aesthetic expression that makes the work relevant in the world of design and art—so a balance of the two, however abstract this may seem, is I believe what defines the pieces we are drawn to.” Schjerbeck explains.
The two gallery owners have learned from their interactions with customers, which has led to a subtle shift in the pieces they sell. “Having had the gallery in Healdsburg and understanding our audience and clients has also taken us in a direction that is lighter in heart —more color, movement, wear ability—than darker, larger conceptual pieces,” is how Schjerbeck reminisces on the topic. The impact of the client on the creative dynamic is always a complicated one of give and take.
Being a business goes beyond the customer to being part of the community. Healdsburg’s gentrification, while it has brought in a lot of money, also has significantly changed its character. While Lulo is a fairly new addition, Gilbert and Schjerbeck are comfortable with the knowledge that they are contributing to the town’s traditional values.
“The community is appreciative that a space exists which extends the idea of its cultural integrity,” Schjerbeck remarks. “In light of the wealth which has recently come to Healdsburg on a much larger scale, sustainable communal values are extremely important to the town. We maintain a family business which features regional artists, alongside challenging and avant-garde work—a business inclusive to both locals and tourists and outside the mainstream norm in wine country.”
Gilbert is in the unique position of being a jeweler and glassmaker in addition to her gallery duties, with her work also carried by Lulo. Saddling both realms requires a delicate balancing act which she finds rewarding. “I work in my studio on weekends and here and there during the week,” she muses. “I am in the gallery a couple times a week and at SkLO (her glassmaking company) for day to day operations. It is a busy schedule but it feeds my creativity.”
As an artist, and in running her own design firm, Gilbert has the advantage of being continually exposed to new work, making her a headhunter of sorts for Lulo. “I have the privilege of working in several fields and it gives me insight into what is happening in the art world and the design world,” Gilbert explains. “With SkLO I am traveling around the country and looking at innovative furniture, lighting and accessories. I think a lot about the choices people make to what they want in their home and what is worthy of buying and living with. This helps keep us aware of the work we show in a greater context.”
Good galleries provide an essential function to the dissemination of art. A monolithic group, viewed from the outside, is impenetrable; in this case, any branch of craft media. Sifting through hundreds of artists is a delightful process, but one that few truly have the patience or drive to achieve. A gallery is not just a place to purchase works of beauty; it is an aesthetic collection steered by the sensibility of its curators. To wit, it is a living, breathing ecosystem of art. It is in this vital purpose that Gallery Lulo flourishes, in all its distinct character.
Visit gallerylulo.com for more information on the Gallery. Lulo exhibits new work by jeweler and sculptor Eric Silva in December.
Patrick R. Benesh-Liu is Associate Editor of Ornament and continues to find time to enjoy craft in between writing, travel and tech support. Earlier in 2016 he visited Gallery Lulo in Healdsburg, where he took great delight in the gallery’s impeccable taste and delicate arrangement. This issue he writes on recent MFA graduate Peter Antor, who he crossed paths with at the 2015 SNAG Conference. Benesh-Liu found much to appreciate in Antor, from his views on personal adornment to his thoughtful ruminations on beauty in architecture and design. As Ornament’s reporter, he also provides a zesty compilation of the latest craft News, where you can find out what is happening with art to wear in the global neighborhood.