Truth be told, we can’t think of 2 things we love more than jewelry and food—both give us life! Jewelry designer and trained chef, Lauren Harwell Godfrey, is literally the embodiment of our dream woman. She makes the most exquisite, colorful gems and is a bonafide pro in the kitchen. Lauren’s career has spanned over 20 years and in addition to being a natural creative director / designer and a dedicated philanthropist, she has also cooked in some of San Francisco’s most esteemed establishments. It’s truly this unique recipe that makes Lauren Harwell Godfrey so genuinely lovely.
Things are a little different right now, we’re in an unprecedented time…where are you getting inspiration from and how are you staying motivated these days?
I get inspiration from my surroundings. I normally live in San Francisco but I am currently sheltering in place out in the middle of farm land in Sonoma, CA. My home here is designed around a 19th century barn from New Jersey. There’s a lot of raw texture in the wood, and it’s been interesting to see how that influences my work: I definitely have some more textural pieces in production. I am a bit of a workaholic and love designing, so it’s not hard for me to stay motivated. I’ve also had some incredible media coverage over the past few weeks which means I have a lot of new eyes on my work. That is certainly motivating!
Speaking of, what are you wearing in quarantine? What’s your daily uniform? Are you still accessorizing with your jewelry?
Summer in San Francisco is usually freezing, but it’s hot in Sonoma so I’ve been able to bust out my vacation wardrobe! Lots of Lemlem. I also love vintage Mexican Puebla Blouses and have those in constant rotation. Many days I look normal from the waist up but am wearing pajama pants. I am still wearing lots of jewelry. There’s a takeaway coffee window in town that I show up to most mornings in a mask or bandana and sweats and lots of jewels. It’s a whole look.
You came to jewelry design by way of the culinary world…you are a formally trained chef and former restaurant chef. Tell us more about your journey and the fork in the road (no pun intended!) when you moved from the culinary world into jewelry design. What was the learning curve?
I actually went from advertising to culinary to jewelry. The thruline there was creating. I spent over 15 years as an art director/creative director in advertising and hit a wall where I was no longer finding it creatively fulfilling. So, I went to culinary school at the San Francisco Cooking school—a wonderful program started by Jodi Liano, who I really admire. I ex-terned under Matt Accarrino at SPQR in San Francisco and spent a year staging at Bar Tartine under Cortney Burns and Nick Balla who I loved working for. I enjoyed it very much but couldn’t figure out what I was contributing to the culinary world that wasn’t already there. I started making jewelry for myself as a creative outlet and got a great response. It became an unintentional business, but one that I loved, so I decided to turn it into an intentional business and here I am.
Your line is so rich in color with your use of stones and enamel, have you always been drawn to creating with such vibrancy?
I do love color. I think it comes from my time as an art director. I spent a lot of time investigating color in my career in advertising. I also think a lot about how it makes me feel. It makes me happy and I like my jewelry to have good energy. Color is a way to bring that to life.
You often describe your jewelry as talismans and we love that sentiment. We know that jewelry can be so integral to a person’s confidence and strength. What do you wear that is your talisman and touchstone?
One of the very first fine jewelry pieces I made was an evil eye motif locket that holds a perfume I created. I rarely take it off and it means a lot to me because it’s a beautiful reminder of the beginning of this journey. That eye has seen it all!
Tell us about both of your current designs and initiatives benefitting the NAACP as well as the World Central Kitchen?
Philanthropy is very important to me. I am on the board of a wonderful non-profit called Futures Without Violence and find it crucial to give back, especially at times like these. When COVID-19 first hit I learned that a devastating number of families were facing sudden food insecurity. Imagining parents not able to feed their children broke my heart. So, I started by donating a portion of proceeds to No Kid Hungry alongside many of my jewelry peers, and then I designed a heart made of Malachite to benefit World Central Kitchen – both groups who were leading the efforts to provide this basic need. The design concept was that by laying my signature triangle motif over the heart, it looked like a broken heart being put back together and an “=” symbol on the bail stands for the importance of working together to create equality, in this case, access to food. When George Floyd was murdered and the fight for justice for Black lives was reignited, I thought this same motif, only this time in black onyx, could be another way to give back. This time I chose to give 100% of the profits to NAACP, the nation’s oldest grassroots civil rights organization. I was completely overwhelmed by the response. So far I’ve been able to donate $61,204 and the orders keep coming!
Who are your style muses?
Zoe Kravitz, Cynthia Erivo, Tracee Ellis Ross and Aurora James come to mind. I’m inspired by original women who create their own style.
Who was your last Zoom / Facetime with?
Probably my mom. I’ve been calling her a lot. I’ve needed to see her face.
Since we know you are a whiz in the kitchen, what have you been cooking up?
I’ve been deep diving into sourdough bread — it’s high maintenance and needs constant attention so it’s a great SIP project. There’s a lot of discard when you have a starter. I’ve been keeping all the discard in the jar and have been using it to make sourdough & buttermilk biscuits with strawberries and whipped cream for dessert. It’s dangerous!
What’s next on the horizon for you and the brand?
Lots of fun projects coming up, but one I’m especially excited about is a collaboration with Muzo, the sustainable emerald mining company. They sent me a bunch of emeralds to play with in quarantine and I created original designs with them. It will be a lot of work to get those out in the next couple of months, but I’m incredibly excited for the end result.