Capturing the Beauty of Botanicals

Amber Mahler

It’s a long way from California to the East Coast, but the opportunity to learn metalsmithing at a renowned crafts school made the journey worthwhile for this nature-inspired jewelry designer. 

“The true beauty of casting from nature is that the texture is already inherently present in each plant specimen.” —Amber Mahler

Amber Mahler

     Strolling through the autumn woods near her Asheville home is more than a form of exercise for Amber Mahler, the metal artist behind North Carolina-based Mani Designs. With each rustling step, she discovers the artistic potential in spent seedpods or crooked twigs. The scavenger hunt continues in her own garden, where blueberry bushes mingle with snap-pea, grape, and miniature-kiwi vines, and succulent sedum plants form a carpet of foliage and flowers—all provender for her art. 
     “The true beauty of casting from nature is that the texture is already inherently present in each plant specimen,” says Amber. “My role is to put it in its best light and make it wearable.” In her skilled hands, Lilliputian buds and tiny branches become gold-vermeil or silver necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and stickpins. Her fascination with botanical found objects results in bespoke pieces that are shinier interpretations of the real thing. 
     Amber learned the technique of lost-wax casting while a student at the Penland School of Crafts, although in many ways she is self-taught, as she tends to follow her instincts rather than the rules. One difference in her method is that instead of sculpting a figure in wax, she uses the plant matter itself, which burns away in the process.
      Because she came to metalsmithing a little later than most practitioners, Amber has felt freer to forge her own path. “I am more interested in capturing something lovely than in receiving accolades for sculpting it,” she says. “I am still largely motivated by that intrigue, and funny as it may sound, I also feel as though I am collaborating with my garden.” 

“Capturing the Beauty of Botanicals” can be found in our October 2015 issue, available for purchase online




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