An Open Channel
Stepping into Marie-Juliette Bird’s studio, the tack house tucked behind her home; a lavender aroma welcomes you and sunlight floods the floors. At a closer look, a grand piano is perched in the corner, and delicate crystals hover over the wooden table where her collection of intricate creations lie. There’s something of a fairytale quality about this place.
Decorated with flowers and birch trees, it’s not difficult to see where Bird gets her inspiration for her fine jewelry, Blackbird and the Snow.
“I think that connection [to nature] comes from growing up in Boulder because that’s very much the ethos here. I know a lot of people who live here feel a real solace and healing in nature,” Bird says.
“I feel like my jewelry is like wilderness talismans … The environment is so threatened and undervalued, and this is my way of showing that value,” Bird adds.
She muses on dancer Martha Graham’s letter to Agnes De Mille: “Because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it … keep the channel open.”
“I try to keep my creative channel open,” Bird says. “For me, that means being close to nature, doing yoga, and gardening. It’s really clear to me that I want to express the majesty of the natural world in a poetic way.”
Of course, the creative process is only a fraction of the work that goes into Blackbird and the Snow. Because this is a one-woman show, Bird functions as both the head and the heart of her company.
“When I started, I had no idea all the dimensions of [running a business]. I think I’m stepping more into that entrepreneurial space now because no one is going to swoop in and save me and give my designs to the world. I have to say, ok, how am I going to do this?”
“People think being a jewelry designer is all about making beautiful things, but the fact is that it’s really expensive. Every piece that I make involves gold and precious stones, and time and labor, so it’s a real commitment to have an idea and bring it to life.
“[For example] I’ve been working on this butterfly project for five years. To get to the point of technically understanding how an idea will work, it’s a labor of love, and you have to have a lot of patience,” says Bird.
In addition to the butterfly project, Bird highlights her new 13 Moons line, which features moonstones which change depending on they’re set and what is put behind them.
“To me, [the concept] is an amazing metaphor for a feminine quality that’s kind of changeable and mysterious,” she says.
With respect to her relationship to nature, Bird uses recycled gold and conflict-free stones and butterfly wings. Unlike most jewelry, which is made using computer assisted design (CAD), all items from Blackbird and the Snow are hand-carved, either out of wax or metal — processes that Bird learned from a master jeweler while living in London — and meticulously hand-set by local artisans.
“They’re heirloom pieces that you will have for a lifetime and pass down,” Bird says.
Customers can browse Bird’s collection online (BlackbirdandtheSnow.com), or schedule an appointment to meet with her in the studio for a close-up look at its magic.
“I enjoy connecting with people and watching someone find a piece that they love.”
“That sentimental aspect of jewelry is rewarding.”
Published in Boulder Lifestyle, May 2017