Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Plastic Fantastic

My love for plastics began before the age of 10, when I used to take yogurt cups, color them with crayons and then “slump” them in the oven. They became these cool, colorful disks that I would then turn into mobiles and hang all over the house.

The fascination continued through my youth as I experimented with Timaplast plastic crystals, which is similar to Makit and Bakit sun catchers in America. I created hundreds of little plastic stained-glass-like creatures baking them in our oven on a cookie sheet.

In the 80s, I went to the School for Glass and Jewelry at Neugablonz in Germany. Neugalblonz is a small town known for manufacturing gorgeous glass beads and buttons. As part of our first year curriculum, we had a class in lampworking glass beads.

In response to the color trends of the time, students played with vibrant anodized metals, discarded glass beads from the factory and other bold materials. However, after much materials exploration I found my way back to colored plastics, which are more forgiving to work with than glass.

Plexiglas bangles with sterling clasp; Green plexi earrings, sterling; Puzzle rings, Plexi and sterling

After graduation, in my jewelry studio I set up a simple plastics workshop complete with toaster oven and other rudimentary heating equipment. It took some trial and error, a lot of patience and some luck, but I was able to create a line of jewelry pieces that incorporated both my trademark industrial-looking metals with playful plastics and even interchangeable parts. The plexi-bracelets became very popular and I still sell them to this day.
Flower rings, plexiglas and sterling; Layered plexiglas cuffs; Puzzle rings can be worn separate or as a set.

In the 90s when I came to the United States, I was influenced by the grand size and scope of the buildings and spaces; it made me want to create larger pieces. I took classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, which encouraged mixing medias. I played with stone carving, photography, computers and applied my sculptural approach and my adoration for plastics to lamp-making.
Green plexiglas strip lamp, brass; Triangle plexiglas lamp, brass with frosted plexi rods; Pink plexiglas strip lamp

While I was enchanted by light, color and design, I later concluded that producing lamps on a larger scale was cost-prohibitive. Although, I still enjoy an occasional one-of-a-kind commission. 

Today, my love affair with plastics is still strong, but I have found new influence in organic materials and have replaced a lot of the pop color with a slightly more subdued palate rich with textures. However, I still find myself drawn to “old” glass beads and gemstones that are reminiscent of the colorful influences in my past.
Red stingray bracelet with sterling clasp; Rare elbow millefiori beads and sterling; Moth necklace, handmade sterling chain
Old bohemian glass beads with 18K gold; Two stingray bracelets with gemstones; Colorful vintage czech glass beads sterling.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Creative Process

Julia shares a little insight into her creative process. Here are some of the ways that she keeps her creative energy flowing to produce her ever-exciting jewelry designs. Explore what materials engage her and how she surrounds herself with interesting objects to inspire new patterns and textures in her jewelry designs.

Left: One of a kind, aquamarine bead and sterling silver necklace, SOLD. 
Right: Marble sculpture by Julia Groos

1. Work in a different medium.
In general, I really enjoy metals, but I also like stone. Carving marble  is a slow process, but there is a delightful mystery to working in stone that you don’t have in metal. As you chip away here and there stone reveals something that you didn’t know would come out. The first time I worked with stone, I was surprised by how much I loved it. Inspired by this medium, I have been approaching some of my lost wax designs as if I were working in stone. Many jewelers work with wax in an additive fashion (adding wax materials together like working with metal), however I enjoy a subtractive process of carving that mirrors the approach I take with stone. I try to imagine the form “trapped” within the block of wax and then work to unveil the magic. Then this minature sculture is molded and cast in metal, such as silver or gold.

Left: Collectibles, hand-crafted silver rings and beads, miscellaneous.
Right: African blue glass beads and hand crafted sterling silver beads and clasp.

2. Collect things that bring you visual joy.
I’m a collector. I think many artists are collectors. Ever since I was a kid I would lag behind my family, because I was busy picking up special pebbles on the gravel or in the park. I also enjoy collecting driftwood. I have lots of pieces of it in my home. I enjoy the organic shapes and the smooth textures. The influence of these objects is more subconscious than deliberate, but they definitely affect the way I design.

Left: Rusty chain
Middle: Pearl, silver, gold, steal and diamond brooch
Right: Collectibles, bones, nails, miscellaneous found objects.

3. Use a little force – or lighten your touch.
I love the process of moving materials- especially metals. Forging is really exciting because with heat and some brute force you can bend and move metal into amazing shapes. I love to work with iron. Even though it’s hard to solder, you can magnetize it, make it rust and even heat patina it to a beautiful color of blue.  

On the flip side, I definitely want to work in aluminum more. Where iron is heavy, aluminum has  ”lightness” to it. It’s a fun material to experiment with. I guess that is where most of my creativity comes from experimentation and allowing the space for magical connections to occur.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

2010 Menswear Runway Influences Jewelry

The popularity in men’s jewelry has been steadily increasing over the past few years and Halo Designs has been responding by crafting a few refreshing takes on current men’s style trends.

Skull motifs are cropping up everywhere from Hello Kitty to high fashion runway. Halo Designs has taken a really elegant (and anatomical correct) approach to this theme by creating a gorgeous Skull Keychain out of sterling silver. You won’t want to hide this gorgeous piece in your pocket.

Suit dressing and gentlemanly style are making a come back. Add the finishing touches to your French dress shirt with a classy pair of silver cufflinks as seen on the runways in Milan.

This fall, the menswear fashion definitely has some shine and drama. DSquared paid homage to their national sport, hockey, while simultaneously conjuring Rocky Horror.  Halo Designs’ fantastical sterling and white gold snake necklace will certainly add extravagance to your wardrobe.

Halo Designs, Black Stingray Leather with Sterling Clasp, Black Patina and Onyx, $1050

Both men and women’s runways are featuring animal prints and exotic skins for fall 2010. Take a look at what Missoni, Burberry and Armani have added to this wild scene, then visit Julia Groos at Halo Designs to order one of her amazing limited-edition stingray skin cuffs.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Smithsonian Craft Show

 Halo Design’s booth display at the Smithsonian Crafts Show, 2010.

Halo Designs was recently awarded a coveted booth at the prestigious Smithsonian Craft Show .  With the help of her husband Fredrick Lee, Julia traveled to DC towing her display and hundreds of new jewelry pieces to the stunning National Building Museum venue. Over 120 artists showcased their crafts ranging from ceramics, jewelry, wearable art and furniture to glass, paper and wood.

Here is an interview with jewelry designer, Julia Gross after the show:

1.) Why was attending the Smithsonian Crafts Show a special opportunity?
The National Building Museum is a fantastic venue. The event is really well established and well attended. This was its 28th year. The Smithsonian Women’s Committee run the show and they do an exceptional job. Everything is very well organized and they make sure that the vendors are well taken care of with breaks and meals. It is as enjoyable for the exhibitors as it is for the visitors.

2.) Did any artists exhibiting at the Smithsonian Crafts Show stand out to you?
The jeweler, John Iverson, won best of show. His work and his booth were really interesting. I enjoyed the fact that everything he did was very minimal. He only displayed a few pieces at a time, which reflected the visual simplicity of his work.

Other artists that I admired were:
Peter Harrison  –  A young furniture designer who works in wood, steel and concrete furniture.

William Kidd  – He made wild ceramics that look like gigantic flower pods from a different planet.

3.) What was the best thing about exhibiting at the Smithsonian Craft Show?
Even though we worked really long hours, being surrounded by such great talent in an incredibly beautiful space made the hours fly by. It also helped that Fred joined me. I was able to take short breaks and see some of the artwork. Having him there really made the event fun. He also dresses so nicely- I think his handsome presence helps with sales!

4.) Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
I want to thank the clients and friends (old and new) who came to support me! 

Set up and take down of the Halo Design booth at the Smithsonian Crafts Show, 2010.

Interview conducted by INGE MILDE & Associates.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


2010 is shaping up to be a very busy year! 

There are so many amazing upcoming events I thought I should give you a glimpse into what this year has in store for fans of Halo Designs. Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter to receive special invitations and promotions. Click here to sign up for the Halo newsletter


The Smithsonian Crafts Show 
Juried show and sale of American fine craft
April 22-25th, 2010
Click here for details


Halo Designs Studio will be hosting a special gathering just for you an your mother. It will be an opportunity to see new designs, enjoy some libations and meet my mother.
Save the date: Saturday, May 8th, 2010


Get your glitter on! We will be having an open-house party in September. Details to come…

Photo: From left to right one-of-a-kind broach, sterling, fine silver, iron, 18K and 22K gold with diamonds and pearl, price $ 2800, Interior at the Smithsonian Crafts Show, Sterling silver earrings on model.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sensual and Sinister Designs: Serpent Cuffs

Over the years, I have become known for my daring, made-to-order, cuff bracelets. My love affair with making these pieces started years ago in Germany when my good friend, Roswitha and I forged a partnership where she designed glass-bead belts and I crafted the belt-buckles. Overtime, the popular belts morphed into bold bracelets. Below are photos of my design process for a Serpent Cuff.

I hand select the leather and treat the process much like choosing gems. I make them with rugged stingray, snake or lizard leather –the same kind that is used for making cowboy boots. 
Style-saavy men or woman alike love these conversation-starting bracelets. Some of my clients wear them daily as part of their treasured wardrobe. 

Right now, I am working on hand-carving a venomous scorpion for a clasp. I’ll be sure to post photos of that piece soon.


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