Rendering a deep fascination for symbolism, religion and the supernatural through her childhood and adult life, Brooklyn designer Mary Gallagher speaks exclusively to the Hausmag team about her inspiring jewels which infuse the natural world with the supernatural and conceal powerful narratives.
Religion was a strong theme throughout Gallagher’s childhood, Sunday morning church attendance was mandatory for Mary and her seven siblings. Although as children they would put up resistance each Sunday, the family were lucky enough to attend a beautiful church in an old New England mill town. Gallagher speaks of how she admired the striking images in her church, with stainless windows spanning floor to ceiling, illuminated majestically by the light outside. She was particularly drawn to one poignant vignette, depicting Mary Magdalen walking barefoot through a cave, distraught after Christ’s crucifixion. This was the least vibrant panel, in duped greys and browns. Hauntingly beautiful, expressive of Magdalen’s loss and bewilderment. An image expressing the great juxtaposition that the designer found in religion;
In her youth, Mary was inspired by field trips to historic places such as Salem, Massachusetts. Where one can enter a time-warp, shooting you back to the colonial era, a time of witch trials and strict religious practice. It is perhaps from these experiences where the designer finds herself being drawn into the intrigue of the Occult. With symbolism playing an important part in Gallagher’s work, with frequent reference to symbolism in alchemy, religion and pictograms. The idea of beauty and danger – or good and evil, being in a symbiotic relationship with each other is a theme she sees remerging in nature and throughout history, it is one of great significance to Gallagher and can be seen reoccurring in her work.
The relationship between good and evil in religion is one that Gallagher finds to be of particular inspiration. Persecution under the edict of religion is an age-old tale, for example, the Puritans who used religion as a platform of good and transformed it into a weapon of evil, turning brutally on those who did not conform to their standards. This is where Gallagher’s dichotomy of Dark and Light spawns from, she believes there is always a darker tale to be told. These are the kind of powerful narratives Gallagher forms in her work.
Gallagher’s line has a defiant sense of weaponry and defence, a sort of post-apocalyptic view on the current jewellery market, which at present is centred around beauty, sparkle and shine.
The designer strikes to fill the voids with designs she doesn’t see out there, creating first for herself. It is important to Mary that her designs speak strongly to her and are pieces she wants to wear herself.
Gallagher creates her jewellery using the lost wax process. The wax is placed on a spur in a colander where plaster is poured to encase the object. It is then headed so that the wax melts out and the plaster hardens. This leaves the negative casing in which liquid metal can be poured. For this, brass, bronze and sterling silver are Gallagher’s metals of choice. For final embellishment, the artisan will incorporate resin castings of teeth, fossils, leather, horsehair and gemstones like garnets, quartz and moonstone.
Her collection boasts pieces which are oversized and substantial. Mary speaks of her appreciation for the natural patina of metal, something she endeavours to let show through. The diversity of this aesthetic brings a unisex appeal to her collection, which Mary hopes allows wearers of her jewellery to feel empowered.
Each piece is a suspended artefact, void of time and place, made to adorn the body like a shield, piece of armour or ancient relic. The wearer can feel as though they are wearing something precious from another time, be it past or future. This embodies the essence of the brand Mary Gallagher, which the designers says lies in the realms of ancient relics and armoury.
With special thanks to Mary Gallagher for her insightful words and artistic inspirations.