INCEPTION

Cowrie Shell Nest ring. Design 

conception,

circa 1998.

Lorraine’s love of illustration led her to New York’s prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology. During this time of discovery, a chance visit to a local craft store inspired Lorraine to create her first piece of jewelry—a wire-wrapped cowrie shell ring. She didn’t know it then, but this new realm of creative expression had arrived just time. An illustration of a then-burgeoning Erykah Badu—created as a class project—would lead to a serendipitous meeting that would take her on an exciting new journey.

muse

"I met Erykah Badu in 1996 at an underground event called 'The Sunday Tea Party.' Local poets, musicians, and visual artists would perform on stage and showcase their work. I had created this illustration of her and asked if I could give her a copy. She agreed, and I delivered it to her apartment the next day. She loved it and we stayed in touch. It wasn’t until a few years later when I started making leather cuff bracelets that she made her first custom order.”

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Lorraine West pen and ink Illustration of Erykah Badu, circa 1996.

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“The Cowrie Shell ring is wrapped with brass wire.  One day while in college,  I walked into a craft store and bought some pliers, wire, beads, shells and started playing around.  I was able to hook the wire on the sides of the cowrie shell and wrap it around to form a ring shank. It was a great challenge to find refinement with the wire.  I treated the cowrie like a gemstone since it's  delicate. This design represented a better understanding of tension for me."

MANIFESTATION

Left: Melissia Hill wears Cowrie Shell ring & Peacock Feather earrings, circa 2000. Photographer: Prescott McDonald; Clothing and Hair: Ashaka Givens; Makeup: Rebecca Casciano. Right: Cowrie Shell Nest ring, Product Photographer, Alain Simic, 2020. 

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experimentation

“This is my first solid metal piece. It’s an abstract take on my three initials, LNW, originally carved out of wax then cast in sterling silver.  I utilized my drawing skills to create a three-dimensional form. I've always had an affinity for letters and the handwritten craft. This piece opened the doorway to my future exploration with metalwork.”

Left: LNW Initial Pendant in sterling silver, circa 1998. Right: Lorraine wearing LNW Initial Pendant, Bubble Ring with onyx in sterling silver and nickel bracelet. Image: Latham Thomas, circa 2000.