Velvit Welcomes Birds N Bones
The dynamic duo behind Birds N Bones dishes on taxidermy, penis bone pendants, and Project Runway designer collaborations
We sat down with Ashley Lagasse and Zoe Cope of Birds N Bones for an exclusive on their creative process, their unexpected road to jewelry design, and the dark elements of their collections.
Velvit: What living artists inspire you?
Ashley Lagasse: Diane Vreeland is a huge inspiration for me in fashion and in life. She believes that you don’t owe this world a thing, and style is everything. I also have a lot of respect for Jeanine Payer, a local San Francisco jeweler, who developed her own brand and company through years of hard work and imagination.
Zoe Cope: I’m more inspired by mood boards and collections of images. I pull most of my imagery from magazines like Yen, Porter, RUUSH, Zink and Juxtapose, as well as websites like The Cult Collective and NOWNESS.
V: When did you know you wanted to create jewelry?
ZC: When I was little, I used to make jewelry with my mom for fun, but I never thought it was something I would study or turn into a profession. I was sitting in a school shuttle at the Academy of Art University when I saw that there was a department for Fine Art Jewelry, and it just clicked: This is what I need to be doing. I changed my major without ever taking a class in Jewelry, and it was the best decision.
AL: I was a sculptor and an illustrator before becoming a jeweler. In my first metal smith class, I refused to make any jewelry. When I presented the idea for my final sculpture, my teacher asked if I could make it “wearable.” That is when I created my very first piece of jewelry, inspired by the armored scutes that protect an armadillo shell. The piece was huge and it went from shoulder to shoulder with two long necklaces going down the front and the back. After that I was hooked.
V: What are your biggest aesthetic influences?
AL: I originally went to school for Biology and Zoology, which is where a lot of my influences come from. All of my artwork and jewelry are somewhat like my specimens. Most of our Birds N Bones pieces are titled after the scientific name of the animal they represent.
ZC: Nature is a huge inspiration for Birds N Bones. Natural textures and the cycle of life are really great starting points when we think about new creations. For us, it’s fun to dig through owl pellets or go to ethically sourced venues like Paxton Gate to find bones, claws, feathers, and other animal parts to use. We want our work to be sleek and sexy, yet still rooted in the darker side of nature.
V: What is your design process like?
AL: Research, research, research. I usually latch onto a certain idea and obsess over it. I will make and re-make a piece until I believe it is up to the standards of how I imagined it in my head. Once I am satisfied with a piece, Zoe and I go into production mode. Each piece is made to order, but we also need to prep and have materials ready on hand.
ZC: Once we have all of the materials we want, we make molds of the bones and begin the process of lost wax casting. The molds are injected with wax and those waxes eventually become all metal. Then we take the fully metal pieces and do our finishing work like clean-up, soldering on hand-made ring bands, adding patina, and then doing either a matte or polish finish.
V: How have your collections been received?
ZC: We got a great response from fashion designer Helen Castillo, who was one of the top four finalists in Season 12 of Project Runway. After seeing our collective work and our personal jewelry portfolios, she asked us to collaborate on her first collection. It was an incredible experience. The best part was that she saw what we make and who we are, and she specifically wanted our vision and brand for her collection.
AL: There is an indescribable satisfaction when someone like that can recognize your talent.
V: Who would you say is the target audience for your jewelry?
ZC: The alternative woman or man who appreciates the darker side of nature and science as well as quality craftsmanship.
AL: Someone who enjoys the classics in life but with an alternative vibe. Our work reflects the beauty in life with undertones of the dark secrets that shape each of our own individualities.
V: What article of clothing could you wear everyday?
ZC: We did an artist trade with Kayla Garland of SOVRIN, and I wear her Rune Sword leggings all the time.
AL: Wearing any type of Moto boots makes me feel prepared for anything, like the apocalypse.
V: What are your favorite Birds N Bones pieces to wear?
ZC: I always wear our Mus Hip Knuckle ring on my pinky finger. I love how I can barely feel it. I like thin rings that I can forget I’m wearing.
AL: I personally wear our Vulpini Pendant (available in fox baculum or penis bone) everyday. The necklace is sleek and simple and perfect for any outfit, but it is also a huge conversation piece. When people get a closer look, they always want to know what it is made of.
V: How do you view jewelry in the realm of the fashion industry?
AL: Fashion is a deep-sea adventure, and jewelry is the bizarre fish you see along the way.
ZC: Fashion is an overload of self-awareness, and jewelry feels like a second skin.
For more information on Birds N Bones, visit our Artist profiles and shop the collection at our Velvit boutique.