Thrumming underneath the ephemera of pop cultural trends and art and music on the internet, nurturing and eventually quashing their relevance, there seems to exist a corrosive hunger for self-actualization in every single piece of media. It's a shamefully recognizable impulse: to want to engage with art and with other people in a way that is self-serving, that reflects one's own uniqueness. The immediacy of the internet, combined with that primal drive to be recognized and to recognize others, has harkened a specific melancholy that permeates the discussions of arts and culture produced in the past couple of years. That darkness, that selfishness encouraged by whatever algorithmic demon is shortening our attention span and weakening our capacity for empathy, is undeniably present. It’s also been talked about exhaustively.
And, with all this conversation about the highs and the lows of the current cultural situation, music like Natalie Mering, (Weyes Blood)’s, brilliant 2022 album, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow feels electric. The project, about love in a time of overwhelming isolation, points out that, Hey, there are things that can be still be beautiful! The album, with its swelling sadness and gossamer hopefulness, telegraphs a human desire for longevity. In the project’s opening track, “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody," Mering croons “Oh, it's been so long since I felt really known.’" Seconds later, she sings, “I can't pretend that we always keep what we find/Oh, yes, everybody splits apart sometimes.” Mering has an incredible ability to eloquate this kind of self-splitting done on the internet, an act that leaves fractals of a tender, human self, smattered across a digital realm. Mering creates a self who is divided but who can and will fall in love again, a self that, despite everything that always seems to be “going on,” will continue to endeavor towards permanence.
LA-based jeweler, J. Hannah, designs pieces that take the infinite division of the self seriously. Pieces in J. Hannah's collections reflect the externality of personhood; pieces that posit that, even in this realm of negligent consumption, there is plentiful room for a tangible legacy. J. Hannah ensures a valuable long-term wearability in each design. The jeweler designs pieces to collect, to display, to borrow, to pass from hand to hand. Every piece in the JH collection is cast from 100% post consumer recycled 14k gold or sterling silver. Their diamonds are all recycled, and their gemstones, when not recycled, are mindfully sourced. It is the heed with which each piece has been crafted is what makes the brand’s collaboration with Natalie Mering feel singular, lasting.
Weyes Blood and J. Hannah have created a limited edition necklace that emanates that same sort of divine, delicate, and truthful quality that And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow so beautifully articulates. Featuring a gently sloping rainbow moonstone, set into solid 14k gold or a sterling silver frame in the shape of a heart, completed with a miniature Weyes Blood chain tag, the necklace encapsulates a particular moment, a love for an art and an artist, that can be can be passed through time in a way that connects an individual with a particular spatiotemporal moment, years after that moment has faded.
Perhaps the splitting of the self is inevitable; perhaps there is an digital catalyst that is infinitely dividing individual attention and there’s an inevitable loneliness associated with modernity, but there’s a gentleness in it, a light, that can be recovered and shared for as long as an heirloom can be passed down. This is what Natalie Mering and Jess Hannah have kept in mind as they designed this moonstone necklace. This is the kind of physical piece that makes you feel that there can be a tangibility about being known, or knowing others.
On beginnings & serendipitous connection:
Natalie: Jess and I met in Spain last summer while I was playing Primavera Sound. My drummer had just shown me an unreleased Storefront Church song, and I fell in love with the music. Lukas from Storefront Church happens to be Jess’s boyfriend and we all met backstage at the festival. Lukas and I became friends and I mentioned an interest in making a heart-shaped necklace - I wanted to make a heart necklace that had a natural glow to it, that symbolically represented the sentiments of an emanating heart in a dark world… like the album. Lukas showed me J. Hannah and it all took off from there.
I met with Jess a few times at the J.Hannah studio in Downtown LA. I fell in love with the shape and scale of one of her existing designs and we changed it to include a curvaceous, carved heart-shaped rainbow moonstone into one of the existing pendant styles. The moonstone made sense for so many reasons: it literally ‘glows.’ The stone also is said to represent qualities of cyclical change and to invite clarity. My album was definitely written in a time of tumult; the stone’s opalescence and “rainbow” flashes of light in the stone represent this resilience; how hope and levity can shine through the most trying times….
Jess: This is our first time collaborating with a musician in this way — I’ve been a fan of Natalie’s music for years and had even bought tickets to her LA show before this project started so the timing of it all felt very serendipitous…This is cliché to say, but everyone in the studio is such a huge music fan. We sparingly loan our pieces out for shoots but almost always give in when it’s a musician we love. It’s the biggest compliment when a musician or artist I respect reaches out to us to say that they admire our work, which is exactly what happened here with Natalie. When the collaboration began, we were all listening to Weyes Blood on repeat in the studio. Those moments feel very special to me because it feels like a loop of creative inspiration and mutual appreciation — what’s better than that?!
On embracing the purposefully finite:
Jess: We were only able to source a limited number of the special moonstones we chose to use in these pieces. Inspired by the timing of an album cycle, we embrace the finite nature of these pieces, particularly when thinking of them like an album cycle. “Merch” intrinsically commemorates a specific moment of connection, and the notion of carrying that with you once it has passed. For us, jewelry is a de facto extension of this idea—often existing solely for the appreciation of its wearer. We believe in celebrating the intimacy and power that comes from having and wearing something just for you, no matter what form it takes (and all the better when it's made of materials that are literally timeless and meant to last for generations.) Can you imagine inheriting a necklace that represents both a moment in the wearer’s life…with a soundtrack to match? It brings memory, mementos, and sentimentality into a 360-degree, multi-sensory experience.
Natalie: This piece is radically different from my other merch - it’s something I’ve never tried before. Most of my merch is T-shirts and albums, and getting into objects was always a dream of mine. Making a copy of something that I wear and enjoy as a special piece in my life is very personal, but also making sure it’s worth how much it costs was very important to me. I wanted to make something so high quality it could be like a timeless keepsake, an elevated version of the album cover, and something you can hold onto for a longtime and feel special when wearing… I don’t have any other merch that’s quite like that.
On unexpected inspirations and an interdisciplinary approach:
Jess: We find the deepest inspiration in a mix of interdisciplinary references, including jewelry’s rich history and time-steeped symbolism; esoteric color references; and where the refined meets the cultural zeitgeist. We believe there’s no right way to be inspired...the polished can also be irreverent, the beautiful can also be strangely unexpected, that the stripped-back can also be a blank canvas.
As a small line, we embrace the range of inspirations that infuse our brand and the freedom that comes from writing our own rulebook. Rather than feeling confined to “stick to jewelry” or do just one thing, we tend to go down paths that speak to our own mix of interests, which has resulted in meaningful partnerships like this one or our ongoing collaborations with The Metropolitan Museum of Art.