Oak Park's Careful Peach welcomes jewelry designer Michael Michaud for an exclusive trunk show on April 22. Michaud, whose designs are available at select boutiques and museums, creates nature inspired pieces that are like no other jewelry on the market.
Michaud studied at the prestigious Rochester Institute of Technology School for American craftsmen and has been designing for his eponymous line since 1992. Before starting his own company, he designed jewelry for other companies. Inspired by the wealth of materials at the nearby wholesale flower market in New York City, he decided to try his hand at casting flowers in metal.
Of the delicate flowers he originally cast in silver, Michaud notes, "It took a lot of experimenting with temperature and texture to get it right. "
As his expertise grew, he decided to open his own design firm and branched out to other natural forms.
"Leaves came later on, when I lived out in Connecticut, in the woods. I started casting acorns, pussy willows, and all kinds of items found in nature. Everything is cast directly from nature. The pieces were actual leaves and flowers before I cast them."
Michaud traces his love of nature to childhood memories.
"My mother had a wonderful flower garden, and my father had a vegetable garden. I grew up one of three kids, and we lived with my grandmother, so we spent a lot of time outside."
As the business grew, Michaud turned to casting natural objects in bronze. "In silver, it was hard to make two pieces look exactly alike since I didn't use molds. Once I started making molds, it was easier to get a match for a pair of earrings. Bronze gave the pieces a really good feel. The patina done by hand really took off. I love the colorations you can achieve with bronze."
Today, Michaud designs about twelve collections a year, with each collection featuring a variety of pieces such as necklaces, earrings, brooches, and rings designed from a specific flora or fauna item.
A challenging piece that is favorite of many customers is the dandelion. "There are so many stems coming off, that it's one of my most challenging pieces. People really identify with it though because it's something you see in your own yard."
Michaud continues to find inspiration right outside his door, noting that a new line is inspired by the river birch in his yard which allows him to play with color and texture as he designs a dripping leave pattern.
After a lifetime of design, Michaud thinks his best work is still ahead of him, but he does recall his work on the 9/11 Survivor Tree as the most emotionally significant of his career.
"People often find meaning in my pieces when a flower or leaf reminds them of a specific person or place. For me, one of the most amazing experiences was when I was asked to create pieces for the museum of the visitor center at the 9/11 memorial. Shortly after the terrorist attacks, someone found the remains of a tree in the rubble, entirely covered in soot and rubble. It started growing out of the ashes."
The Callery pear tree was carefully tended and replanted at the newly opened memorial, and Michaud was brought in to cast the flowers for jewelry and ornaments.
"Taking cuttings from that tree, my hands were shaking. The whole experience was the most emotional thing I've done in my career. It was mind blowing."
Karen Morava, owner of the Careful Peach, has been selling Michaud's work since she first opened the Careful Peach over ten years ago. "I was at a gift show in San Francisco when I saw the most beautiful dandelion pin. I literally stopped in my tracks. It was like nothing I'd ever seen. Not only was it unique, but I felt it was timeless. It's beautifully crafted, fine jewelry."
She thinks the jewelry appeals to a wide range of her customers because of its quality and the fact that it transcends trends. "In this day and age where everything is so cheaply made and trends last a few years, Michael's jewelry is so finely crafted and does not go out of style. Everything in my shop is something that I've picked because I love it, but Michael's jewelry is my go-to for important gifts that I know people will love forever."
Morava is honored that Michaud will be spending the evening at the Careful Peach and excited to be able to showcase the range of his works at one special event during the trunk show on Friday April 22. She extends an invitation for cocktails and fine jewelry viewing from 5:30 to 7:30 at the store, located at 1024 North Blvd., Oak Park. For more information visit www.shopcarefulpeach.com or call 708.383.3066.
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