Madonna, Brad Pitt, Keith Richards’ Secret Stash… of Body Words
Rare book of words and so many of their meanings, Samuel Johnson, 1766: owned by jewelry artist Aurora Lopez Mejia.
(All text, photos, and video by Susan M. Kirschbaum)
Close your eyes and hear the words. LOVE. HARMONY. PROVOKE. ALIVE. POSITIVE. REAL. ABSOLUTE. TOUCHING. PRESSING. AFFECTION. NEAR. SECRET. MAGICAL. Whatever hits your core, you should be wearing next to your skin, at least if you are Aurora Lopez Mejia, jewelry craftswoman and interpreter of the soul.
She reads antique dictionaries for fun. Been doing it since she was small, when she strung alphabet beads into bracelets in her native Guadalajara, Mexico. By way of happy accidents, she first landed in Los Angeles as a graphic artist and befriended folks in film and music. She went round back toward Mexico; started working with textiles and eventually silver and gold; making rings with secret messages and pendants with words a talismans.
“My work is about finding a word and meaning in its deepest form.” She tells me, her wide easy smile promising a zen covenant should I give her a phrase to set for all eternity in silver, bronze or gold. (To note: a pendant in silver can cost as little as $36 -$300 but some of the gold pieces run up to $17,000 and more.)
I sip the delicate china cup of verbena tea she hands me in her Soho NYC atelier filled with calm faced black and white photos of monks by her pal Nicholas Vreeland. The photographer grandson of the late great Vogue editor Diana Vreeland — as a young man and apprentice to photographer Richard Avedon — was assigned to shoot the Dalai Lama. He never looked back, now a Rato monk himself who did a fundraiser last year at Mejia’s wonderous salon.
Before I even set eyes on the circular life rings with metal cast around rocks, or bracelets with poetry inscribed inside and out, the minimal square wooden chairs and rectangular table in the front room beckon like a stark provocative kitchen in an Igmar Bergman movie. Turns out the slab of wood hails from Denmark, by Hans Wegner, with wooden shelves behind it filled with blown glass, akin to chemistry sets by Alison Berger; and that Mejia collects furniture, sometimes creates her own. And she makes room to showcase the work of other artists whom she refers to as “her tribe,” like textile designer Madeline Weinrib.
If other members of the tribe include celebrities, Mejia’s list reads like a who’s who: Madonna (who designed special pendants for her “Raising Malawi” charity), Michelle Pfeiffer, Hugh Jackman, Keith Richards, Kate Capshaw, and Brad Pitt. Mejia will not reveal the private phrases chosen by her clients, but I did notice something on my own.
Mejia always wear a gold phrase around her wrist, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” By Nietzsche. Just so happens that Pitt’s girlfriend, Angelina Jolie has this tatooed on her back, as I had seen when meeting her at a movie premiere a few years back.
It’s funny how all the world gasps at celebrity, but famous people who start as artists always reach back to that core place.
Therein lies the word, the expression, the beginning of all things.