Spotlight #18: Laura of Hunter Gatherer Chicago on her fascinating jewelry

One art-form I mainly discovered through the internet is jewelry. Sure, I’ve browsed through jewelry at local jewelers before, but nothing really got to me until I found some great independent brands online. Earlier this year I introduced you to one of my favorite brands, BloodMilk, and today I’m happy to share another one, Hunter Gatherer Chicago.

Hunter Gatherer is the name of the brand under which Chicago based artist Laura Prieto-Velasco releases her jewelry. Her timeless pieces are accompanied by a great concept and/or collaboration with another artist – something that makes the brand stand out. I asked Laura some questions on her jewelry, inspiration and recent collaborations with talented artists like Krist Mort and Helena Aguilar Mayans. Enjoy!

Bleaq: Hi! Could you introduce yourself and Hunter Gatherer Jewelry shortly?

HG: I am an independent artist/designer with a background in Fine Art and Design. I currently teach Design and Sculpture courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I formed Hunter Gatherer in 2011 as a side project to explore wearable functional work. My goal with Hunter Gatherer is to use the ancient format of jewelry as a platform for a dialogue about how ancient ideas and practices shape modern life.

Hunter Gatherer celebrates the tangled heritage of the metropolitan by telling its tales and looking to our ancestors. It adorns the urban nomad with limited edition designs inspired by ethnographic research to complement an elegant, minimalist wardrobe.


You describe your jewelry as ‘adornments for the urban nomad’. Could you explain how you see an urban nomad? And is the urban nomad the main source of your inspiration or are there others too?

HG: I think of the “urban nomad” as anyone who’s navigating the contemporary world through a “hunting and gathering” experience. Searching for, supplying and trading goods are essential for survival in any community. These experiences cause cultural exchange via the exchange of commodities. The ancient tendency to marry portability with aesthetic functionality, in jewelry and other objects, is one of the hidden cultural indicators that I find particularly fascinating.

Your jewelry was recently featured in the short film ‘Nida’ by photographer Krist Mort, together with clothing by Ovate. Can you tell about the concept of the film and how the collaboration came to be?

HG: I came across Krist’s work through Instagram and was immediately drawn to her aesthetic sensibility. There is a sense of time lost in her photos, as well as a sense of the past and the future. She contacted me several months ago to inquire about using some jewelry for a short fashion film she was developing. I didn’t know she was using clothing from Audrey (Ovate) until Krist shared some sample images with me. I was blown away by the results. The way she worked with silhouettes and shadow allowed Audrey’s and my work to interact quite poetically. The slow movement, erosion, and layering of these images created a sense of being and non-being. It’s a gorgeous liminal concept for a fashion piece. I’m looking forward to possible future projects with these talented women as well as others.

– ‘Nida’ by Krist Mort

The film shows that your work is a great match to the clothing of Ovate. I could also see your work matched with, for instance, the fashion of Haider Ackermann. What are your favorite fashion designers, and are you planning on more collaborations in the future?

HG: That is such a hard question to answer – I am drawn to fashion on many levels, all very different angles on the subject. As a whole I think I am most inspired by streetwear. But I also appreciate designers who take care to create functional yet refreshing looks.

As for Haider Ackerman, you pretty much hit the nail on the head! I adore the elegant functionality of Haider Ackermann’s designs. They are classic, yet futuristic pieces, tailored to allow the clothing to unravel from the body beautifully. I like seeing the way designers consider details in the use and life of a garment. Barbara I Gongini also comes to mind when considering those who design with the ethos of creating wearable pieces that complement a variety of styles.

Collaboration has become an important part of my practice within the past few months; so much so that I have decided to shift my focus to working with others rather than creating seasonal collections. I still have new designs in the works but am giving myself time for them to fully develop and mature rather than rushing them to meet the standards of the fashion industry. It is a lot more rewarding for me this way and am much happier producing work this way as a result.

Noctex approached me a several months ago with a request to create some basic silver rings to pair with her 2014 fall collection, “Permeance”, and responded with proposing the “Maneo” stacking ring set which was very much inspired by her approach to flexible and customizable design.

Currently, I’m working on a collection of jewelry for Hogan McLaughlin, a Chicago-based designer and professional dancer, to pair with his upcoming collection. I had used some of his dresses for a shoot with Lykanthea, and loved how his work interacted with the movements of the body. I had the idea of using his movements as a starting point for these designs, so we got together one evening and I documented Hogan’s gestures in long exposure “light drawing” photographs. I’ve just begun sorting through them to create a small group of metal pieces based on the linear qualities captured in the images.

Lykanthea and I have been working together for the past year on several projects, including a music video for her track “Telos” that was recently released on October 31. She and I also recently co-released a capsule collection of matte black cuffs with phrases taken from the lyrics of her recently released EP Migration. Daniel Tovar/Aisthemata created the video and remix of the track “Parturition” for it.

– Video for the Hunter Gatherer X Lykanthea Capsule collection

– Lykanthea ‘Telos’ video featuring Hunther Gatherer Jewelry

Your collaborations with talented photographers like Krist Mort and Helena Aguilar Mayans show your interest in art and photography. Who are your favorite artists?

HG: The projects with Krist Mort and Helena Aguilar Mayans helped me to see my work in new ways. Krist describes “Nida” as an investigation of “stillness in motion” by using “very simple and subtle movements, making the shadow be the one that actually moves and takes on different shapes.” I’ve been exploring the silhouetting of the body through the use of simple jewelry forms, and her ideas about passive light and active shadows really interested me. Helena’s vision activated the work in a folkloric way, drawing references from the feminine in nature. Her photos personify pieces such as the brutal branch ring and nomad necklace in striking compositions with model Gisela Bu.

As for favorite artists – there is so much interesting work being made at a rapid pace that it’s hard to cite specific people. But Isa Genzken is someone I’ve followed through most of my career. She is constantly challenging aesthetic ideals and canons of contemporary art. Her concepts, approach and style resonate with me. You can’t easily define her or put her work into one artistic genre or movement. That’s incredibly inspiring to me and I aspire to be equally as undefinable.






– Photos by Helena Aguilar Mayans

It’s probably like asking parents which of their kids they like best, but do you have a piece or collection that you like best? If so, why that one?

HG: I don’t have a favorite, though I do see my designs as having their own souls. Some of these pieces reflect their inspirations, and they exude their own “personality” taking on a life of their own. For example, the Brutal Branch series, which includes large sculptural branch rings, reflect a point in my life where I felt vulnerable on the inside though I was told I projected a sense of “toughness”. Though aggressive, their forms simultaneously possess a raw, fragile elegance that is ultimately inspired by streetwear and jewelry. For everyday wear, I gravitate towards pieces such as the matte black Santorini or Dhiri Rings or Slag Cuff designs. They add a little bit of refinement to my casual daily staples. They also lend visual structure to draped, feminine clothing. That said, while I design for my personal aesthetic, I do try to create pieces that can find their way into different styles and wardrobes.

You’re active on social media: next to your website your active on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. How important is the internet for you as an artist?

HG: I use these as a journal to showcase glimpses of new work or work in progress. I am naturally a visual person, so I tend to gravitate towards visual platforms. In traditional media, like print, the human is somewhat removed once the image is released into the world. Social media is an interesting way to share these images in a way that makes them –  and you – accessible. It ultimately allows for a more intimate, interactive experience between maker/designer and their audience.



– Lykanthea X Hunther Gatherer Collaboration

Can you tell a bit about what you’re currently working on? What’s coming up for Hunter Gatherer Jewelry?

HG: Lots of collaborations! I made some custom pieces for Velvit Vault, an online concept boutique that carries the work of many talented independent designers and artists. As I mentioned earlier, a small capsule collection inspired by Hogan as a dancer is in the works as we speak. 2015 will see even more collaborative projects, but I can’t share details just yet. However, I can say I will be introducing new materials and techniques for accessories, leather goods and hopefully some house wares.

– Velvit Vault Capsule Collection



– Images by Krist Mort

Last but not least: can you recommend a book, movie or artist you’ve enjoyed lately?

HG: This summer I had the pleasure of visiting Isa Genzken’s retrospective at the MCA Chicago several times, which was very meaningful to me. Simon Starling also exhibited several pieces at the same time that focused on materiality and the pairing of politics with self-defeating performances.

I also recently saw the Magritte exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was curated with a beautifully dark, ominous atmosphere that allowed me to interact with each piece in an intimate way.

I also really enjoyed the somewhat recent film Under the Skin. I thought this was a beautiful and poetic interpretation of the genre of science fiction.

Music is a big inspiration for me, too. I like to begin my mornings with something beautiful and somber to get my day started. Chelsea Wolfe’s recent album Pain is Beauty is perfect for that. Coming Apart, by Kim Gordon and Bill Nace of Body/Head, is often on during late nights in the studio. The dissonant quality of this album really fuels me creatively and pairs nicely with all the noise of my constant hammering.

– Image by Krist Mort

That’s all for today! A big thanks goes out to Laura for answering all my questions so thoroughly. You can buy Laura’s jewelry in her shop, and follow the brand on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Thank you all for reading, see you on wednesday!

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