Lauren Harwell Godfrey is one of those people with creativity coursing through her veins.
After conquering careers as an art director and a chef, the California-based mom fell for jewelry design and there was no turning back: Now, she’s the founder of Harwell Godfrey, a handcrafted fine jewelry line with aesthetic roots in ancient textile and ethnic patterns and surprise elements like engravings and perfume inserts. The collection, which fuses concepts of history and modern day heirlooms, is also conceived with healing in mind, as each gemstone is hand-chosen for the charge it carries.
Most recently, to support COVID-19 disaster relief, Harwell Godfrey is donating 30% of proceeds from an 18k gold, malachite and diamond pendant to José Andrés’ nonprofit World Central Kitchen.
Here, she describes her creative process, her quest for balance in motherhood and the joy of a perfect tomato:
Live The Process: Over the course of your career, you’ve been an art director, a chef and now a coveted jewelry designer. To what do you attribute that diverse creative energy?
Lauren Harwell Godfrey: I have had many professional lives! What they all have in common is that they center upon making things. That is what I love to do. My creative energy is at its best when there are many outlets, not just one. I have found a real passion in making fine jewelry and I feel like there is still so much I want to explore in this space. That said, I am always open to other avenues of inspiration. I grew up with a mom who told me that I had it in me to do or be anything I wanted. I am very thankful that she always encouraged my creative exploits. I am drawn to working visually and love the process of manipulating materials with my hands.
LTP: What is it about certain gems—and other materials you use—that attracts you?
LHG: For my one-of-a-kind handmade pieces, I was attracted to the scale (I went big), the unadulterated beauty (I used a lot of raw, un-manipulated stones) and the metaphysical energy in the stones. We could all benefit from some good vibes right now, and I loved finding and working with stones that had been used historically for their healing energy. This found its way into my fine jewelry, where I still use healing stones like lapis, malachite and turquoise alongside fine stones like diamonds, sapphires and emeralds that also have special energies ascribed to them.
LTP: Can you talk a bit about your collections inspirations—from “The Four Elements” to block printing and weaving?
LHG: The inspiration for “The Four Elements” came from the idea that many stones have been said to fall under the healing energies of water, air, fire and earth and was a way to create a collection around those groupings. When I designed the collection, I used inlay as a way to create clear patterns in the designs. I fell in love with the inlay technique and started noticing that a lot of the objects I am attracted to and collect for my home are old African pieces that are heavy in geometric patterning. I think there’s something very beautiful about how very simple shapes can be configured to make complex and interesting patterns. This is the direction my work is heading in. Also, I am very proud to be a black female jewelry designer who is descended from African people. I enjoy weaving my own take on that rich visual design vocabulary into my work.
LTP: As a mother, running your own business, how do you find balance? Has motherhood affected your creativity?
LHG: Ah yes… balance! It’s actually the reason I think this business has really worked for me. When I need a break from business, I can flip the mom switch and, when I need a break from my 3-year-old, I can dive into jewelry. This isn’t a seamless process, but it’s actually been pretty great. I am the type who goes all in on things and tends to be a hard-on-myself perfectionist. You can’t be a perfectionist as a mom; it’s humbling. I am grateful for how these two wonderful aspects of my life have complemented each other. My creative journey was most deeply impacted while I was pregnant. I was a creative machine. You couldn’t stop me. It was insane.
LTP: Your pieces often include unexpected elements like perfume inserts. Do you have anything new in that realm upcoming?
LHG: I love unexpected elements. I think a lot about details and add special hidden engravings to a lot of my pieces. I just launched a new collection called “Valley of the Moon.” It was inspired by my home in Sonoma (named after a Jack London novel written there) and my son who was born right around the time of the supermoon in 2016. It’s an unexpected take on a classic jewelry shape.
The perfume I made for the inserts is an ongoing obsession of mine. I made it with a local (to the SF Bay Area) female perfumer and still wear it every day. It’s all natural and the most amazing scent. I have dreams of launching it as a fragrance totally separate from the jewelry, one day.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
LHG: Happiness looks like taking a break from the news and hiding from the world at our home in Sonoma. There would be delicious sun gold tomatoes growing in our garden and my son and I would be eating them straight from the vines. Then we’d make fresh salsa and my husband would have one of his dreamy margaritas waiting for me. Bliss.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
LHG: I “Live The Process” by looking for inspiration everywhere. We can all do that more by staying open and truly taking in the world around us. Also, find what speaks to you and dive into it. I’m really pushing myself to read more books and magazines, listen to more podcasts and go to more museums and galleries (when that’s possible).