Lani and Chaz Miller of The Ancient Link incorporate history into their unique jewelry items. Here is their story.
ABI: How do you present and sell your work wholesale when it is in limited editions?
LM: Our work appeals to those inclined towards limited editions, including art galleries, museum gift shops and specialty catalogs. We have learned, sometimes the hard way, our work is not suited to mass marketing and so we cater to a niche market where the primary draw is its historic and sometimes limited nature. At shows, our booth makes plain what our product line is all about.
Our main banner loudly proclaims “wear a piece of history” alongside a large reproduction of a beautiful woman from antiquity wearing jewelry. Additionally, we use table talkers which quickly clarify the presented product line.
Many of our pieces are one of a kind; however, many designs can be reproduced in large numbers depending upon the relic used as the centerpiece. For example, ancient Roman glass and coins are consistently available. However, where limited edition rules apply, customers also opt to purchase pieces using a different material for the same design or from another line altogether.
ABI: Your story is a big part of each sale. What is your story and how do you tell it?
LM: Our story often makes the sale as we are frequently asked diverse questions about our product line and background. Chaz once had a sideline as an antiquities dealer and frequently purchased strings of ancient beads. I had been a textile artist all of my life and decided to use my textile skills on metal after reading Arline Fisch’s book, Textile Techniques in Metal.
One day while looking at the collection of dusty ancient beads, a light bulb went off over my head… these beads should live again as jewelry, but this time, incorporated into modern designs. Every piece comes with a provenance card which tells the origin of the materials and how we came to obtain them. All of our customers, both retail and wholesale, appreciate this as it gives each piece a tangible story.
ABI: How do you acquire your unusual materials?
LM: Chaz has remained in touch with his colleagues in the antiquities business since making the transition from dealer to studio jeweler. Since his friends know what we do now, many intentionally save and offer ancient beads for his review before making them available to the general market. Modern laws prohibit the export of antiquities from their countries of origin, so most of these come from European estate sales and have been circulating in private collections for decades.
ABI: Where do you get inspiration for your jewelry designs?
LM: We initially based our designs on classical prototypes; however, quickly realized inspiration for modern jewelry should come from modern sources. As a result, it often comes from contemporary art and the world around us. We have taken many courses to master the technical aspects of jewelry creation, but have intentionally avoided those devoted to design as we want all of our artworks to come from within.
Often we are asked where the idea for a certain piece came from, and while seeming vague at first; an accurate answer might be, “Because it needed to be done.” Our designs are as intentionally unique as the materials we use.