Inspired by haute couture and reclaimed materials, San Francisco-based artist and jewelry designer Emiko Oye has experimented with loads of unconventional mediums – including circuit boards, recycled plastics and scrap metals.
But in 2006, the reware artist stumbled upon an even more unconventional material for her creations – LEGO® building blocks. Since then, Oye has been using the colorful toys to craft couture jewelry inspired by everything from early 20th Century royalty to current designers like Vivianne Westwood.
One of Oye’s first ventures into the world of LEGO® jewelry design was for her “My First Royal Jewels” exhibition collection in 2008 – which the artist called a modern-day interpretation of early 20th Century creations from the likes of Harry Winston and Cartier.
Although her LEGO® pieces reflect wealth and luxury, it is the personal connection viewers make with the unique material that keeps Oye interested. “People would see my work, and I could see them kind of go inside their memories and bring out happy moments,” Oye remembered. “People really connected with the material on a personal level…That’s what’s fun for me is the personal story.”
Also included in Oye’s “My First Royal Jewels” collection, this show neckpiece – dubbed “Queen Margherita” – converts into three bracelets, two necklaces and one broach. Oye used coated copper wire, rubber cording, silver and steel in addition to LEGO® pieces to complete the neckpiece.
The initial Royal Jewels collection was created as an interactive installation at the San Francisco Museum of Craft+Design in 2008, where the public was invited to try on a repurposed piece as if it was their own.
Many of Oye’s pieces are inspired by famous art, including this one modeled after Louise Nevelson’s “Dawn’s Wedding Feast,” a recycled wood installation that debuted in 1959. By expertly crafting LEGO® pieces into unique shapes, Oye transforms the children’s toys into chic and sophisticated statement jewelry fit for a queen.
This piece, called “Winter’s Brush,” is currently on display as part of The Art of Seduction exhibit at The Rouse Gallery in Columbia, Md. To evoke a sensual appeal, Oye combined recycled makeup brushes with LEGO® blocks for a look mimicking “The Russian Bride’s Attire,” an 1889 oil painting by Konstantin Makovsky.
LEGO® blocks aren’t the only materials that inspire Oye. She also creates pieces from other reclaimed materials – like this one made from found jewelry and costume jewelry. This piece – entitled “Dia de las Muertos de Westwood” – was made as a donation for Ethical Metalsmith‘s Radical Jewelry Makeover exhibition in 2008.
In addition to creating showpieces, Oye also launched a ready-to-wear line called emiko-o reware – which includes versatile pieces priced as low as $15. “I really wanted to be accessible to the everyday person as well as making statement pieces in art-type settings,” Oye said of the collection. “These pieces are ready-to-wear for anyone.”