I have interviewed many designers and listened when they spoke about their inspiration. Although there have been may jewelers who cite industrial influences, Marla Aaron locked down the look with her first design directly cast from a hardware store carabiner (a hook that mountaineers use to fasten one rope to another). Marla explains, “When I realized I could morph this simple shape into different silhouettes and sizes, I realized that other women would want them too.” This is the time, Marla didn’t realize would be an understatement. Marla developed a cult following with women who ‘wanted’, coveted and eventually bough them in a variety of incarnations.
Unless you have been living where there is no internet, phone, or mode of communication with the outside world, you will have heard of Marla Aaron and her original take on the her ever expanding utilitarian objects that she transforms into versatile and multi-functional jewelry items.
The first time I saw one of Marla’s locks—I thought, ‘interesting concept—savvy design -haven’t seen it done before as a piece of jewelry. I had seen them in hardware stores and at renowned companies as key chains.’ As I continued to stare at the piece, I considered, ‘This ad/publishing executive -turned jewelry designer might be on to something and something big in an item-based collection.’ At the same time, I also felt that I personally could not wear the lock. The design seemed too industrial and streamlined for my style –which is more fluid and feminine whether I am wearing antique or modern jewelry. But I completely changed my mind once I received one of Marla’s baby locks as a gift and fastened it onto a small medallion, dangling it from one of my necklaces filled with charms from the Victorian through retro periods. I was a total “lock it on” convert. Soon after I received the first, I ordered two more for myself—one with a diamond baguette, another with a ruby baguette. And as her designs grew, so did my collection of them— include the engraved lock (one of my all time favorites) which allows me to interchange different charms and dangle everything from Georgian and early Victorian pieces to those by current designers. The locks stay put, don’t open, and allow the charms to dangle at different lengths of a necklace.
Since Marla first engineered these beauties that work in numerous ways, such as hooking together to create d different links for necklaces and stations in between chain, in addition to the aforementioned ‘locking on’ on of charms and pendants, Marla seems to never run out of ideas for new locks.
Her most recent collection which launches on her new website on October 15th is a testament to how her initial idea lead to a complete evolution of functional and useful designs for jewelry that are also fun to wear and reveal that there is no end to the creativity of Marla’s anything-goes innovations. One of the aspects that has fueled Marla’s continuing series, is her appreciation and understand of her customers. “Nothing thrills me more than to see the way women wear the various styles–It is not an exaggeration to say that I am amazed daily by how creative my customers get. They convert the locks in ways even while designing them, I could never have imagined.”
Speaking of imagination, Marla’s new pieces from her Fiddler’s Collection (”named because women like to fiddle with their jewelry,” says Marla) include but are not limited to what she has called “Trundle Rings”. These are my personal favorites because the spin around and you can play with them on your finger –like worry beads and they also double as locks with the centerpiece opening for pendants and/or medallions/charms and then locking into place. The interchangeability of these rings is ingenious and they are crafted with integrity and unparalleled workmanship. But before we get to the other styles on the collection, let’s take a step back in time and take a look at Marla’s evolution from her first lock:
“The first was the Original Lock —the most basic oval. We did those in three sizes Large, Regular and Baby Lock.” Explains Marla, who, when I interviewed her, gave a more linear frame of reference of how she expanded on each shape of lock as opposed to a true timeline.
“The original lock was release in this order: in silver, in silver and gold, then all gold, then different colors of gold, with partial gemstones on the part that spun to open the lock, then entirely paved with stones. Next came hand-engraved and then inlayed. We then took it one step further and used rocks found around New York and inlayed them in a beautiful way, taking something worthless but turning it into something deeply sentimental. The last iteration of this was the American lock with blue enamel and gold stars.”
“At some point in time between the different iterations of the original lock we began morphing them into different shapes. First came the Heartlock the Droplock (which is a teardrop shape) and then the Boomerang lock. These also were rendered with and without stones.”
Marla continues, “The shapes I chose were always dictated by form and function—an organic and simple shape that would be able to be used in several ways. There are over 500 versions of the locks at present So many iterations. I can’t quite describe it any other way, but for me personally it feels like a tsunami of ideas that we have to keep developing. Our Instagram is an amazing resource because I quite literally would launch our collections there every time. I could not rely on the traditional methods when I first started out since I was unknown and untrained, which meant the method by which we conceive new collections was unorthodox and still is. It’s all about moving ideas forward and releasing them only when they are ready. We have gotten a bit more disciplined in this regard. It starts very simply, and we increasingly push the envelope in complexity and materials which is what we have just accomplished with the Fiddler’s Collection.”
In addition to the Trundle Rings that turn into locks, Marla also introduced Pully designs with gemstones that swivel and roll to make a necklace shorter or longer or to hang on the side or the center, to create a very specific look of utilitarian elegance.
She also developed the Myriad Lock on the Myriad Chain and to which you can wear alone or lengthen a chain, or add charms just like it the rest of her collection. This is a heavy gold piece that has taken inspiration from infinity motifs. It spent a lot of time in the perfecting stage, taking two years to finalize where it closes and sits in place without opening. To get the mechanics just right, Marla even looked to farming equipment. The more ‘out there’ Marla’s influences are, the more them become the most useful, practical and beautiful of designs.
“The beauty of all of the designs is in their utility and how they change once each women makes the locks their own and wears them in their own very unique ways.” Marla concludes.