The first time I met Heather Wobbe I came face to face with an Amazon Goddess. She is well dressed, friendly, and fun. And she also happens to be the tallest woman I’ve ever seen in real life!
She is absolutely mesmerizing.
Her handcrafted jewelry line, Modern Artifacts, is mesmerizing too. Her jewelry is elegant, detailed, and full of glorious gemstones. I got to ask Heather Wobbe about Modern Artifacts and see dozens of original designs that range from Texas necklaces, gold leaf & patina cuff bracelets, and drop down dangling gemstone earrings.
BB: What is Modern Artifacts?
HW: Modern Artifacts is a handmade jewelry brand based out of Houston, TX. We specialize in unique, Neo-Bohemian inspired designs that blend ancient textures with modern design.
BB: How did you come up with the name for your company?
HW: The name was inspired by my experiences working in museums and on an archaeology dig a few years ago. I wanted the brand’s identity to reflect my inspiration for the work – the aged beauty of archaeological artifacts and the silhouettes of minimal contemporary design.
BB: Tell us about your background and experience.
HW: I received my BFA from Steven F. Austin where I was lucky enough to study a variety of ancient metalworking techniques. From Lost Wax Casting to Mokume-Gane, I quickly fell in love with metals after being incidentally exposed to it in high school.
Before I left for college I was awarded an internship at the Houston Museum of Natural Science as a Curatorial Assistant, where I was taught how to handle and catalog artifacts and specimens for the museum – this is where the seeds for Modern Artifacts were planted. A few years later I had the opportunity to work with the Yates Community Archaeology Project in partnership with the Rutherford B. Yates Museum in Freedman’s Town here in Houston, this too had a great impact on me and the aesthetics of my work. My background was just as much Anthropology as it was Art, and from the very beginning I wanted to find a way to mix my two passions together.
BB: What is your studio like? Where is it?
HW: My main studio is just outside of town on some family property. A year ago I built a two story 800 sq.ft. Tuff Shed from Home Depot and then added insulation, A/C, and put the flooring in myself. Though sometimes I think it would be wonderful to work in the city in a close-knit studio community, I love owning my own little creative paradise with a killer view of the Texas countryside just outside my window.
I hate to admit it, but to be honest my studio is often controlled chaos. I do organize things as best as I can but there are projects going all over the place. Not only is it my jewelry studio but I also oil paint, sew, and make costumes as a hobby so it is full of all kinds of things – I am a somewhat of an art supplies hoarder. I work on an antique jeweler’s bench that was given to me while I was still in college and I absolutely treasure it! I used to live in a loft on the historic square in downtown Nacogdoches and when the jewelry store across the street closed, it was gifted to me by the owners – a gesture that will always mean the world to me.
BB: What are some of your favorite gemstones to work with and why?
HW: Currently I am obsessed with working with conflict free raw diamonds, fossils, agate geodes, quartz crystals, marbled white howlite and lapis lazuli – making sure that all of our stones are ethically sourced. When I was at the HMNS I worked heavily in Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals and came to appreciate the natural beauty of what can be found in the earth.
Lapis has been a sacred stone to many cultures throughout time so naturally I wanted to use it due to it’s historical significance – even the Ancient Egyptians prized it over gold. Howlite first caught my eye as it was a great alternative to working with marble, it was sturdier and yet it allowed me to achieve a similar look. I’ve had a huge fossil and mineral collection going for years, and it has definitely influenced my work. As a young girl I would bring rough quartz, jasper, and fossilized wood pieces home from the rocky playground at school thinking I had found real treasures – that feeling is what I try to relive in my work.
BB: What are some of your favorite techniques to use in your jewelry?
HW: The brand is known for our signature patina, a verdant green finish seen throughout the collection. This technique is achieved by applying a homemade chemical solution that I brush on with a torch, the fire creating unique textures on each piece. Though I currently don’t have access to a forge, producing mokume-gane is still my greatest joy when it comes to metalworking. This traditional Japanese technique of patterning metal is truly a labor of love and takes a lot of effort and patience to create but few things compare to the beauty of “wood grain” patterned metal.
I use it sparingly in our collection but it is an exalted material whenever it is incorporated. Lost wax casting, cold forging, and hand piercing also play a big part in my work. I recently ordered a few ounces of ancient bronze casting grain and a box of cuttlefish bones to produce a new line of one-off cast pieces, I am hoping to launch that collection at the end of the year so make sure to keep your eyes out for those!
BB: What’s next for Modern Artifacts?
HW: Currently, I am looking into expanding our retail presence and adding a few new faces to our team. Because of demand for the work, I am looking into hiring a few metalworkers/jewelers to help out in the studio as it is becoming a challenge to keep up with production by myself. Where so many brands are outsourcing work overseas, it is important for me to keep things local. There are so many talented craftsmen and women here in Texas and a big lack of opportunities for them so I want to do my part to support the creative community here.
BB: Where can people find your work?
HW: You can always shop the collection on our website www.modernartifacts.design but for those who like to try on pieces and see them in person we are currently carried at Space Montrose and the Holland Street Gallery, with new retail partners on the horizon. We just finished up two months as a featured brand at LAUNCH HTX downtown and am excited to announce we have just been invited back for November and December.
Modern Artifacts also has booths at Pop Ups almost every weekend, for a list of our upcoming and previous markets check out our Events page on the website. Recently we have joined the First Saturday Arts Market in the Heights and the Market at Sawyer Yards so you will be seeing us there most months as well.