Not many individuals appear to have heard of Harpo, but it surely ticks lots of the bins for a Everlasting Model reader: craft, authenticity, a basic model, and all household owned.
It’s a retailer in Paris, promoting jewelry and different crafts made by Native People such because the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni. It’s been there since 1971, based by Gerard ‘Harpo’ Nadaud, and run at the moment by him and his three daughters: Dorothée, Valentine and Ella.
At one level throughout our interview, I requested Valentine (pictured under, together with her father) why Harpo solely works with Amerindians nonetheless – and never, for instance, a number of the expert non-tribespeople that she mentioned now make glorious work, and have been typically educated by these tribes.
(A lot of them, menswear followers can be unsurprised to listen to, are Japanese.)
“It’s a query of generations now,” she mentioned. “My father began working with a number of craftspeople, and so they handed the work on to their kids – and on the identical time our father handed elements of the enterprise to us. On condition that historical past, it might simply appear unusual now to work with anybody else.”
The silver and turquoise jewelry – for which there was one thing of a vogue in menswear lately – ranges vastly in value.
A easy stamped bracelet may be €65, however a fancy piece – maybe utilizing a uncommon kind of turquoise, or made by a well-known artisan – may be €6000 or €7000.
This makes it an exquisite place to go to as a vacationer. You should purchase a bit reward (I purchased a pair for my daughters) or spend money on one thing particular, having spent an hour speaking to Valentine concerning the historical past of a specific design and maker.
There are additionally ancillary items, equivalent to bolo ties, concho belts and hand-woven rugs. I used to be notably to see the latter, given our latest article on the craft of Navajo weaving.
Nonetheless, the factor I spent most time chatting to Valentine about was what makes specific items particular: what are the components that govern high quality, model and value?
The very first thing she defined was the several types of turquoise used. The silver received’t range a lot, however some turquoise could be very wanted – as a result of it’s are, or as a result of it has specific traits.
For instance, ‘sleeping magnificence’ turquoise comes from a mine in Arizona that closed in 2012, and so has a restricted provide. The identify comes from the mountains across the mine, that are formed one thing like a sleeping girl. The massive cuff under is made in that turquoise.
Different varieties are valued for his or her depth of color, or as a result of they’re a specific shade within the broad color spectrum of turquoise, from muddy inexperienced to azure blue.
None of that is objectively higher or worse. For instance, I’ve a classic cuff that has extra veins and hues, which isn’t thought-about fairly so worthwhile. However I just like the impact.
The one factor that objectively turquoise ought to have is density. It’s a naturally porous stone, and if it’s not dense sufficient it could possibly turn out to be brittle. Poorer high quality stones generally have resin injected into them, to maintain them collectively.
The second factor that makes specific items particular is the artisan.
Most jewelry at Harpo has the identify or stamp of the maker on it, so even in case you don’t recognise the stamp patterns, you may inform which have been made by the identical artist.
In actual fact, one thing that units Harpo aside is that 90% of the items they maintain are distinctive – they’re not duplicates, with the identical designs being made yr after yr, however particular person works. Extra like artworks in that sense.
When it comes to particular makers, one distinguished instance is Navajo artist Sunshine Reeves, who made the flask proven under.
As with most items made on this model – with repeated stamped patterns – it’s simple to inform it’s handmade due to the little variations in the best way every stamp has been positioned.
Larger names make their very own stamps, which makes them extra recognisable. And infrequently they’re handed down between generations.
That’s why some – just like the stamp above – may be many a long time outdated, even when initially they have been simply created from iron that was mendacity round, equivalent to railroad nails.
Reeves’s work is fairly typical for Navajo work, which tends to be extra masculine and sometimes ‘western’, with silver designs round a single stone.
Zuni work typically appears extra trendy, even perhaps a bit ‘new age’.
Bracelets made with inlays of various items of turquoise – like the one I’m sporting under – are typical Zuni. The problem with these is slicing the stone so each bit has the very same curve because the bracelet itself, sitting flush with its neighbour.
It’s additionally Zuni that are inclined to make extra enjoyable items, or reference popular culture, equivalent to items utilizing cartoon characters which might be generally known as ‘Zuni-toons’. My Pink Rabbit pin is in that custom.
As you would possibly anticipate, the longer you speak about these kinds and traditions, the extra particulars and idiosyncrasies you uncover.
For instance, the ring above is an instance of ‘shadow field’ method, the place the artist makes a silver dome over a flat piece, leaving a bit cave that may be left empty, or partially crammed with a stone.
The shop itself is stuffed with tales too. There’s an enormous piece of museum-quality turquoise – the scale of a small youngster – sitting in entrance of the workplace. It’s fairly worthwhile, however apparently would require a number of folks to maneuver.
The central glass cupboard, in the meantime, incorporates an outdated saddle from a well-known store in Arizona run by silversmith Victor Begay. So many individuals have requested to purchase that that it now has an indication studying ‘Not on the market’.
The in entrance of one of many cupboards is a motorbike helmet embellished with lots of of items of turquoise, and a pair of bull horns.
“My sister Dorothée had this bucket of stones for ages, and all the time mentioned she was going to embellish one thing for the store,” recollects Valentine. “Throughout lockdown, with time on her arms, we lastly did it. She acquired this outdated bike helmet and began adorning the entire thing.”
There are comparable tales – of outdated myths or simply household shenanigans – in all places in Harpo, and also you get an actual sense of historical past and persona.
Because the hyperlinks all through this piece attest, Harpo does promote on-line, so that they’re fairly accessible. There are additionally some worldwide stockists, which I’ve listed under.
However as with most outlets PS covers, it’s actually price visiting in individual in case you can. Paris appears to be higher at this than London – giving good area to fairly area of interest or quirky shops.
Maybe London has simply turn out to be too costly, or mainstream.
19 Rue de Turbigo, Paris
Pictures: Alex Natt @adnatt
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