Although it might be the last place you would look — underneath the rumbling of the JMZ train, elevated above Broadway in East Williamsburg — there’s a studio where two women are handcrafting utterly arresting jewelry.
As you might expect, it’s not pretty.
Jill Martinelli and Sabine Le Guyader, the two designers who work under the moniker Lady Grey, set up shop in Brooklyn in 2006. Having relocated from Boston, where both attended art school and started their company, the women hoped New York would prove more receptive to their somewhat creepy, always organic, and sophisticated metal jewelry.
One of Lady Grey’s best customers, Stephanie Trong, executive editor at NYLON magazine, summed up their jewelry’s appeal, “Lady Grey pieces are fantastically original, elegant and even wicked — definitely for the girl who wants something beautiful but not too precious.
“Whenever I wear my bone[-shaped] bangles, it never fails — at least three strangers will ask me where I got them.”
Because they live and work in Brooklyn, their neighborhood has been the inspiration behind many pieces of art.
“Growing up in Florida, everything was so clean, so absurdly clean,” said Martinelli. “Living in this area, with many abandoned buildings and new ones being built — it’s inspiring, as we’re working a lot with grids right now — and they’re burnt and melted, and it works with decomposing architectural type pieces. It’s kind of natural and organic in a way, and there’s a duality with the architecture and the man-made aspects.”
And of course, there’s the rust.
“We love rust,” Le Guyader adds.
After attending the Massachusetts College of Art together, Martinelli and Le Guyader relocated to the big apple to launch their jewelry line.
Martinelli told GO Brooklyn, “Our jewelry has always started off as very conceptual, almost art project-y, so we wanted to combine those ideas with wearable jewelry.
“We were always pushed in school to do sculpture … most people didn’t make jewelry. We didn’t want to ‘sell out,’ but we still wanted to do it. So we maintain the integrity behind metal-smithing by making everything ourselves — not sending it out to China to be mass produced.”
Hollander and Lexer, a men’s shop in Boerum Hill, carries Lady Grey’s jewelry and when a buyer from Rum — a boutique in Osaka, Japan — spotted it, he contacted Lady Grey immediately. The collections — which range in price from $75 rings to $750 for gold necklaces —can be found from the United States to Japan and the United Kingdom. High-end denim shop Earnest Sewn and Curve in SoHo are among other local shops carrying their wares.
Currently, Lady Grey has four collections: Mortality (featuring skulls and crosses), Metallurgy (raw crystals and tangles of copper and bronze chains), Anatomy (bone-shaped bracelets, rings and necklaces) and Nature (branches, animals).
Metallurgy was largely inspired by a field trip Lady Grey took to Dead Horse Bay. After finding a hand-drawn map they found online, the girls trekked across this trash-strewn beach — a part of Floyd Bennet Field — in search of new ideas.
Martinelli remembers the trip fondly.
“You know how you go to the beach in search of a bottle? You can’t go there without seeing one; there’s hundreds of them all washed up and peeking out from the sand,” she recalled. “We literally had to wear hunting boots on the beach. The locals even warned us, ‘Be careful out there!’ ”
LeGuyader added, “It’s kind of creepy, really, but it’s definitely one of the coolest places in Brooklyn.”
Their latest collection, an extension of the Metallurgy line coming out this fall, steers away from their usual subject matter — teeth, bones and branches — and delves into a different kind of nature, one introducing space and science.
“Think orbits, molecular structures, crystal formations and lots of geometric shapes. Think fifth grade earth science class,” Martinelli chirped.
Le Guyader added, “We don’t cast off of ready-made objects, and now we’re constructing things out of raw materials..”
It’s no surprise to us that stars have gravitated toward the dark sensibilities of Lady Grey. Although the designers declined to name names, you may soon be catching their pieces on a host of celebrities: think rock star daughters and runway models.
— additional reporting by Lisa J. Curtis
Lady Grey jewelry is available at Hollander and Lexer [358 Atlantic Ave. between Hoyt and Bond streets in Boerum Hill, (718) 797-9190]. For more information, visit www.ladygreyjewelry.com.