Los Angeles jewelry designer and artist Eilen R. Stewart, founder of ERS Creative, didn’t set out to make Christmas jewelry. But her earrings shaped like antlers, exquisitely crafted from bronze and sterling silver, have become LA’s hippest holiday accessory.
I caught up with Stewart after last weekend’s 4th Annual Renegade Craft Fair Winter Market, held in Los Angeles State Historic Park adjacent to Chinatown (hint: if you can, catch the Gold Line to this park, which famously was once a cornfield. Exit at Chinatown, turn left, and you’re there). More advice: go out of your way to check out the next Renegade. It’s a curated show and all items must be handmade in the USA; Stewart revealed that, especially in the jewelry category, which is highly competitive, it’s not easy for artists to get a spot at this happening national venue. So the goods are choice– case in point the beastie-inspired jewelry of Eilen R. Stewart.
Her Creature Kingdom Collection consists of naturalistic rabbits, bears, foxes, bulldogs, fawns, giraffes, hippos and lions. The animal faces are expertly sculpted from bronze, affixed to sterling silver cuff bracelets, ear-wires and chains.
Stewart is an astute observer and accurate reporter of animals in real life, so her renderings are never cutesy. The technical skill required to do this work is superlative: no visible tool-marks and no sign of solder.
But the antlers have created their own zeitgeist this season. Choose from Moose or Deer antlers, in asymmetrical pairs as earrings, in a couple of sizes. The antler shapes themselves are carved and cast in bronze. The sterling ear-wire is slender enough to be comfortable, but sturdy enough not to bend like a pipe-cleaner. Stewart takes a hammer to the loop of the ear-wire to flatten it slightly, so it will slip more easily through your piercing.
Although antlers in the wild are used fierce weapons, the points on these earrings are rounded enough so they don’t jab you in the neck.
The warm luster of the burnished bronze antler, which Stewart has lightly etched, adds a forest nymph-y glow to the skin, and is an elegantly subtle contrast to the silver ear-wire. These earrings are solid but not too heavy. They are sexy, not clunky. Each antler is unique. They are NOT mass-produced or made from molds, like ice-cubes. Stewart carves a unique wax model for each antler, and casts each one individually in bronze.
This deliberate lack of symmetry contributes to keeping any whiff of Christmas corniness at bay. In real life, the antlers which moose, elk, deer and caribou grow to impress the ladies are mis-matched, not perfect mirror-images of each other.
Stewart also makes an antler-inspired ring and bracelet, which she chuckles “could hurt somebody”: in those pieces, the horns point outward, like those of a buck on the offense.
Let us remember, by the way, that Bambi was a boy. Antlers do carry with them ancestral memories and a vibration of untamed physical power. Like elephant tusks, walrus tusks and rhino horns (of course I support the ivory ban and the ban on rhino horns, don’t get me started), antlers suggest virile sexual energy. The Celts honored a woodland god with deer-antlers, named Cernunnos, Lord of the Wild Things, and Traditional Chinese Medicine often uses a deer with a gorgeous rack as a pharmacy logo.
Antlers of course are also associated with the migration of herds– herds of meat, meaning sustenance. This is one of the reasons that pieces of caribou horn and other antlers have been prized for millennia in traditional hunting cultures. Paleolithic people often used pieces of antler as calendars, notching away the days, scratching runes, mapping the cycles of the heavens, waiting for the sun and the herds to return over the ice.
Early Christian saints St. Hubertus and St. Eustace, according to legend, converted from their animistic, pagan ways when accosted by a stag which bore a flaming cross between its magnificent antlers. And as many of us remember from harder-drinking times, this haunting image also is the logo of Jaegermeister (the name means “Master of the Hunt”). Talk about potent!
As ornaments and objects, the antler-jewelry of ERS Creative touches a primal nerve, organic forms made modern and wearable
Perfect for a manly bow-hunting outing with Ted Nugent, or just a good old-fashioned naked Wicca romp around the solstice bonfire.