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Art People: Laura Curran | photographic jewelry maker

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Local artist Laura Curran talks about one of her favorite mediums known as Photographic Jewelry.

    JOSH KUCKENS
    Local artist Laura Curran talks about one of her favorite mediums known as Photographic Jewelry. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Local artist Laura Curran talks about a Tim Burton-inspired self portrait she made of herself using multiple mediums. Curran stresses that she does not discriminate different mediums, working with everything from Clay to photographic jewelry.

    JOSH KUCKENS
    Local artist Laura Curran talks about a Tim Burton-inspired self portrait she made of herself using multiple mediums. Curran stresses that she does not discriminate different mediums, working with everything from Clay to photographic jewelry. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Local artist Laura Curran creates photographic jewelry. Featured here is a clay ring with a small photograph of Sojourner Truth.

    JOSH KUCKENS
    Local artist Laura Curran creates photographic jewelry. Featured here is a clay ring with a small photograph of Sojourner Truth. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Local artist Laura Curran talks about one of her favorite mediums known as Photographic Jewelry.
  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Local artist Laura Curran talks about a Tim Burton-inspired self portrait she made of herself using multiple mediums. Curran stresses that she does not discriminate different mediums, working with everything from Clay to photographic jewelry.
  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Local artist Laura Curran creates photographic jewelry. Featured here is a clay ring with a small photograph of Sojourner Truth.

For Northampton artist Laura Curran, life is about intersections: of crafts and fine arts; of tactile work and intellectual curiosity; and of history and memory.

Curran, 58, started doing crafts as a child and later worked in textile design. Recently, she has been painting and is working on a series that features cottages and coastlines.

“I have a busy mind that has to do a lot of things,” said Curran, who lives in Northampton. “Craft was first for me, before fine art, although I don’t really make a distinction.”

It was that interest in craft, she says, that led her to her current passion, photographic jewelry — something she stumbled upon while taking classes at Harvard University in Cambridge. She has a bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and went to Harvard, she says, because she wanted to combine her work in crafts with intellectual study.

For a class titled “History of Photography,” she spent hours in the university’s art buildings and museums in search of old photos. During her wanderings, she discovered a number of old lockets that held daguerreotype portraits — personal photos, she says, that were once treasured mementos.

One locket in particular, which held a woman’s photo, caught her eye.

“The man who wore the piece was a minister. His wife had predeceased him and he killed himself, with the locket in his hand, on her grave,” Curran said. “From one glance at that locket, I could see there was a giant story behind this piece. ... This was an incredible historical capturing of a significant incident. And it came in a 2-inch [locket].”

Curran learned that the use of photographic jewelry to create mementos had emerged when Queen Victoria wore pieces featuring photographs of her husband, Prince Albert, after he died.

Soon, she began to fashion her own photographic jewelry, aiming to capture the emotional connection she had sensed in the museum pieces. Choosing pictures of people to whom she feels a personal connection, she transfers the images onto polymer clay, which she fashions into jewelry, such as rings and pendants. She has created similar pieces for family members and others who have ordered personal pieces.

“Photography captures this image that has a power,” she said. “You can’t turn away from a face the way you can any other part of a human being.”

— Kathleen Mellen

For more information about Laura Curran and photographic jewelry, visit www.Lauracurran.com.

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