Miss Louise is a creative friend of mine and a faithful member of the Build a Line Challenge.....in fact, she's a proud graduate:
We had many unique students in the class....but I freely admit, her final blog post recounting her personal story made the artist inside me LEAP! For a fact, there she hails from a rich heritage and life experiences that have influenced her art jewelry in such an elegant, intriguing way.
Many of us know what it's like to be baby boomers, children of the 60's....70's....to be honest, I believe Miss Louise, like myself! is all that...
But she is also a child of children of the Harlem Renaissance. Her parents, relatives and the elders of her community lived the Harlem Renaissance experience. She grew up hearing great stories about dancing at the Savoy and the Cotton Club.
Miss Louise grew up basking in the literary greatness and performance art of the Harlem Renaissance time. The era was a time of change influenced by fashion, style and Art-Deco flavored art along with influences of what some call 'primitivism'. (You can look that up for homework, troops!)
During this epoch, (just post WWI through 1940) people gifted in literature, music and art of many races came together in Harlem. This rich melting pot gave rise to a new voice....and the arts have never been the same, even history was effected by it. They say that the civil rights movement has some of its own roots in the Harlem Renaissance.
In fact, the movement was also popular in countries abroad. For example, expatriots living in France took up the spirit of the Renaissance 'vibe'. The influence in Parisian culture was also palpable at the time. A case in point that might strike a familiar chord would be Miss Josephine Baker:
Would you like to see Josephine Baker's performance art? Here is a video from the mid-20's:
That period of rich culture, forward thinking and change is one that should be looked at as carefully as an artist would study Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Art Moderne ....and various other design styles. It has a flavor all its own that is discernable. Once you see it and understand it, you will always know it.
Miss Louise LIVED IT, growing up in her parents' home in Harlem, NYC, USA:
Why, that's her brother Carl, her mother, Louise, her daddy, Mr. Bobby....and of course, happy little Louise in the center.
Here is a picture of Louise, her mother Louise, and Peg Leg Bates, who was a very famous tap dancer of the Harlem Renaissance time:
Here are some family members all dressed up to go out:
Louise states that her mother, aunts and all of the women in her community were such phenomenal ladies full of love, wisdom and life. To this day she lives by their example. The Harlem Renaissance design style that influenced her youngest years is what she returned to when she created her line for the BALC challenge. She calls her line Desire Divine Jewels:
The necklace is built on a vintage applique collar worn by her mother during the period. Louise added a bit to it, and her entire selection of designs bounced off this piece.
I am certain that Miss Josephine Baker would have proudly worn Miss Louise's "Empire Bracelet".
Key to her upbringing in Harlem were the words of her mother, to always be a lady. So Miss Louise named this beautiful brooch, "Always a Lady":
I loved everything Louise made for her contribution to the class but I believe this brooch is my very favorite. It is so "on point" for the period. For me it speaks everything the Harlem Renaissance was, both here in the states in Harlem itself, and abroad.
I want to thank Miss Louise for telling her story. It only makes me want to hear more, learn more about the Harlem Renaissance, and most of all! to see her grow and go on with this delicious design style. I truly hope she will grow her line and make it a collection.
What about YOU? What's at the root of YOUR design style?
You know, it's not uncommon to draw from your personal heritage, as Miss Louise did.
I'm quite partial, for example, to vintage jewelry design style of the 30's-50's. I spent summers in my Grammy's house, and Grammy didn't change much of anything in her house from the time it was built through the time my mother grew up to the time I was a teenager in the early 70's. She built on to the house and made it larger as it was the center for family gatherings.... but the same quilts were on the beds, same family memorabilia in the closets, even some of my mother's school clothes and her old clothes were still there in the dressers. Grammy had the same Blue Willow made-in-England chinaware from the time she got married, and she proudly used it for all our family dinners. Grammy's jewelry was old gold-filled mounted cameos, things passed down, and Lisner and Coro department store pieces to accessorize outfits.
She was rather particular for a farmer's wife!
Those early experiences being part of who I am today---just as Miss Louise's are part of who SHE is....little wonder that I gravitate toward vintage looks.
It would be fitting to end my post about Louise O'Shields with this quote from Langston Hughes, a leading writer and poet of the Renaissance time.
Langston Hughes was a man who refused to differentiate between his own life experience and the experience commonly had by African Americans in that era. Instead, he focused on telling stories of his people that shared their humor, their laughter, their love of music and language. In this way, he honored them:
If you have that dream, remember: Dreaming alone does not a reality make.
A dream come true requires courage, hard work and focus. Louise O'Shields has those vital qualities inside her.
Besides her family pieces, I am gratified to say that Louise used jewelry findings and filigree for her filigree jewelry from my website, B'sue Boutiques , where we focus on high quality goods that many times, whisper ideas from another era.
I hope one day to write again about Louise and how she has moved forward to expand her work. May it be like a tree that grows tall, strongly rooted in the culture of the Harlem Renaissance.