Jewelry designer William Ehrlich’s latest show at Jason Jacques Gallery is a homecoming in more ways than one. An avid art collector, Ehrlich was introduced to Jacques many years ago by a mutual acquaintance who knew both men were on the hunt for Clément Massier ceramics. Ehrlich grew to trust the budding gallerist as he proved adept at scouring European markets for the coveted iridescent vases.
“Jason would call me from Europe and I would wire him money to American Express,” Ehrlich recalls. “There were no cell phones that would allow you to send a picture, so he’d make a land call, describe the piece, and I’d say, ‘okay.’ He really had a great eye so I just learned to trust him. A lot of the work I have comes from Jason.”
When the trained architect and former real estate developer’s endeavors in jewelry began some eight years ago, Jacques was one of his early supporters—this is Ehrlich’s second exhibition at the New York gallery. For this show, titled “All That Glitters,” Ehrlich’s sparkling confections are shown alongside (and, at times, even draped over) Clement Massier vases from the gallery’s collection, which are also for sale.
On the centennial of Massier’s passing in 1917, Ehrlich hopes to honor his legacy through jewelry. At one point, Ehrlich gestures to a rose-shaped pin adorned with moss-green stones, which props up against an earth-toned Massier vase painted in a loose, floral pattern. “You can see in this piece how I tried to color-key it to some of the ceramic,” he says. “The colors, the way they work, the forms, there is clearly a relationship.”
Yet Ehrlich makes his jewelry in a way that’s undoubtedly the 21st century. Using AutoCAD, the graphics program popular with architects, Ehrlich scans in a hand drawing of a piece and AutoCAD drives a laser-cutting machine to erect the shape he desires. Ehrlich’s signature shapes are rendered in German silver and look like stacked layers from the side. This special construction aligns well with AutoCAD's capabilities since the program is designed to create models of buildings, computer chips, and other structures. “This is really how you build a building—with floor plates and columns,” Ehrlich explains. “Inside it’s all open, but from the top, it reads as a solid.”
Pins, earrings, and necklaces all boast this unique form, which—though it may sound overly technical—reads as pure jewelry fun. The pieces’ structural elements serve as perfect prongs for showing off what’s meant to steal the show: the combinations of shimmering diamonds and semiprecious stones that Ehrlich has selected for each custom piece.
Aside from the modernity of the technical, there’s a logic in showing the jewelry alongside the ceramics. Each brings out colors and motifs in the other that may be otherwise lost on spectators. The Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts motifs in Ehrlich’s jewelry can be traced back to Massier, who was a pioneer of the Art Nouveau movement in France, while Ehrlich’s clean lines and plays with color bring out a more contemporary spirit in the vases. Ehrlich concludes simply: “It’s a great opportunity to be able to show my work with the pottery I’ve been in love with for a long time now.”
“All That Glitters” is on view at Jason Jacques Gallery until January 28.