The Totam never expected to discover San Francisco-based jeweler Alix Blüh’s workshop and gallery, Modern Relics, tucked away on a sleepy residential street in the heart of the Richmond district, but after spending a recent afternoon hearing the stories behind her wares, we’re delighted that the secret is out.
Located in a former jewelry school, Modern Relics’ high-ceilinged, spare loft houses Blüh’s studio upstairs and the showroom below, partly camouflaged by a whimsical, curtained window display. It took the better part of a year to transform the space to reflect the artist’s exacting standards, with walls paneled in recycled fence timbers, stenciled floors, turn-of-the-century glass display cases, old-fashioned bare-bulb lighting and a vitrine constructed from a cast-iron sewing machine pedestal. The resulting effect is at once ornate and austere, a curio parlor of fanciful oddities balanced by the weathered utilitarianism of a schooner-captain’s quarters.
Alix Blüh, named for family friend Alexander Calder, was formally trained as a painter at the University of Massachusetts and at Oxford, where she developed her passion for collecting and dealing in antiques in London flea markets. Raised among avant-garde artists in rural New England, Blüh creates sublime pieces of wearable sculpture inspired by the forms found in nature and historical objects of remembrance.
Using a meticulous wax carving technique, Blüh’s pieces are hand-wrought in precious metals, with a signature rough hewn texture. Lacy, carved coral and honeycomb forms are studded with pinhead-sized jewels. The artist’s variants on the cross, anchor and heart- symbols of faith, hope and charity that many sailors and their wives wore in Victorian times- have a medieval touch to them, and figure prominently in her latest collection. Blüh hopes her jewelry will function as personal talismans for the wearer:
“I have always been so moved by the stories found in nature, in time worn objects, in mourning jewelry and religious reliquaries…I want to create heirloom pieces that are not about fad and fashion but art and timelessness.”
Blüh’s reverence for beautiful mementos with sentimental value extends to her own collection of daguerreotypes, tintypes, mirrors and books, found throughout Modern Relics. She has been quietly showcasing a mix of handpicked antiques, reproductions, her own jewelry, and the work of like-minded creatives in her tiny atelier for the past year or so.
We love that Blüh views Modern Relics as a platform for more than just her own work; Blüh feels such kinship to the work of Brooklyn-based artist Ria Charisse, whose Swallow line of cast-metal creatures, woodland letters, and paintings of whales on glass layered w/ 22K gold leaf, that over half the space has been given over to Charisse’s creations. Swallow’s pairs of bird feet and pewter tooth are Totam favorites. An additional case features the dainty jewelry of Blüh’s assistant, Soojo “Suga” Rocereto.
Modern Relics is located at 771 Cabrillo Avenue between 8th and 9th Avenues in San Francisco. Gallery hours are Thursday-Saturday 12-7pm. Contact (415) 422-0477 or email@example.com
Alix Blüh will also be exhibiting jewelry at the NY International Gift Fair this August- look for her at the Jacob K. Javits Center, Booth 535.
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