ASTER + ANTICS
When an Aster + Antics piece catches the light it radiates a warm, golden glow that feels a bit magical. Alluring textures that are pleasing to the touch, striking organic shapes and delicate designs encompass each collection. Through metalsmithing and lost-wax casting, designer Juliana Lefler carefully crafts organic materials such as twigs, embroidery string and seashells into wearable fine art. The inventive details she incorporates into her designs are delightful. Noting that the clasp on necklaces often slides to the front, she strings chrysoprase beads on gold wire which act as a beautiful closure to her necklaces instead of a traditional fastener. Having grown up near the beach in her New Jersey hometown she is naturally inspired by the beauty of earth and sea and aims to create jewelry that makes wearers feel positive and empowered.
Why is jewelry your medium of choice for creative expression?
Jewelry is intriguing to me because it is a wearable form of art. I love being able to create something so personal to take with me throughout the day by wearing it
around—something you can’t necessarily do with a large sculpture or piece of pottery.
I think of my pieces as mini-sculptures, and I enjoy seeing how other people create new meaning for them by styling my pieces to fit their personality.
Also, humans have been crafting jewelry as personal adornment since the early ages of mankind, so in a way I feel a connection to the past when I create. It amazes me to see ancient jewelry in museums because the level of skill and craft is baffling when you think of the technology and tools available at the time they were created. Jewelry is so telling of what the style, aesthetic, and culture was of different time periods, so to me, these pieces are like a glimpse into the lives of the creators, which is fascinating. The history of the art form keeps me inspired to create.
When designing do you consider who will be wearing the piece?
How do you balance making something that is creatively satisfying to you personally as well as something your customers will love?
I would say I definitely create towards a particular aesthetic, which is one that comes naturally to me and is the product of infusing myself and my personal experience into the work. My goal has never been to keep up with trends or to cater to what’s popular at the moment, but to stay true to the aesthetic I’m establishing and remain consistent with it. In creating this way, it becomes less about reaching everybody and more about keeping in mind the specific types of people that I know connect with my aesthetic and feel a personal connection to the designs. Sometimes I’ll start out a design one way and then realize I’ve seen a lot of that shape being done lately, and I’ll think of ways I can expand on it and evolve the design in a way that satisfies me personally, and is something unique and interesting in the eyes of my customers.
You’ve said that after you first moved to NYC you felt out of touch with your creative side. I think that happens to many artists, why do you think that is? What advice would you give to others to get past that creative block?
I think NYC has a specific allure and expectation attached to it, which often feels very inspiring and energetic as a visitor to the city, but very easily becomes draining after experiencing the ins and outs of daily life here. Living in a place with such an abundance of talent, it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed and intimidated at times, which leads to self-doubt and can stunt creativity and the desire to even make work at all. For me, and I think most artists, I feel most creatively inspired when I feel at peace with myself and my ability, so it takes getting out of that negative head-space for me to thrive and move forward. My advice to tuning back in to your creativity is to focus on what comes naturally to you as an individual, get inspired by knowing that the art you create is unique, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. When looking at the work of others who you aspire to be like, I think it’s important to remember that copying others will only ever leave you one step behind and will never be as fulfilling as what you create organically, so the only solution is to be genuine to who you are and have confidence in your ability!
The beautiful organic-influenced simplicity of your work seems to reflect a feeling of calm, peace and kindness. Would you agree? Is there a particular mood or reaction you hope your work will create?
Thank you! I like the assessment of my work evoking peace and kindness, because I do hope that it gives off a positive energy and a feeling of confidence and open space. I want people to feel good about themselves and empowered when they wear my jewelry- I try and infuse elements of elegance and natural beauty in my designs, with a touch of something unexpected.
What are some of your internal influences? Does your mood and daily life experiences affect your work at all?
On a personal level, my mood is something that is in constant motion and is heavily influenced by whatever situation I’m in. Since my moods have a big impact on my day to day, and in turn, on my creativity, my way of combating my work turning in a million directions is to draw things and jot down ideas as they come to me, and then go back and curate. When I can look back at 20 designs, I’m able to see similarities in things I’ve come up with, and am able to take a collection of ideas and turn them into something cohesive and informed. Overall, my work tends to be inspired by my past life experiences and how they’ve made me feel- both in living through the experience, in memories, and then how those experiences influence me now. While this gives me a very personal connection with my work, I also aim to allow space in the designs for the people wearing them to connect their own meaning and emotion to the pieces
Can you tell us a bit about the creative and technical process of creating your wax molds? Are you always on the look out for organic elements to incorporate?
I’m always on the lookout- almost every day I’ll see something that looks like it could incorporate into jewelry well and I’ll take a picture, jot down notes, or just pick up things I see like a unique branch or leaf and take it with me…leading to many crushed materials in my purse when I forget about them!
Once I’ve created a model of a piece, whether I’ve carved it out of wax or manipulated some sort of organic or synthetic finding, I take it to a caster in the jewelry district who makes a mold of the model. From there, the caster carries out a series of steps, going back and forth between positive and negative impressions of the piece, with the final product being an exact replica of my model in metal form. Once I have the casting, I’ll do any soldering or sizing required for the piece, clean up the casting, add finishing touches, and voila!
What excites you most about creating your work?
I’m most inspired by the knowledge that almost any material can be cast into metal, and that the possibilities are truly endless. There has definitely been an uprising in people looking for unique and handmade jewelry in various metals and textiles, which is inspiring as an artist because it allows me to think outside the box and know that people will react well to it. I think customers really want to feel that they have something original that speaks to their personality, which allows me a lot of freedom in creating. As I continue to create new designs, I’d like to incorporate new materials into my pieces to add new textures and colors, so I’m looking forward to learning some new skills and seeing how I evolve as a designer!