Dark + Dawn's Magical Jewelry Casts A Spell
"I have definitely noticed a real momentum in the obsession about occultism and darker, morbid subjects over the last several years."
Striking a perfect balance between tough and whimsical, Dark + Dawn jewelry takes inspiration from religious symbolism, alchemy and architecture to create exceptional necklaces, rings and bracelets. The sterling silver pieces have an old world artisanship aesthetic to them and each piece looks like a one of a kind vintage find. We spoke to Dark + Dawn's designer Tyler Durtschi about how his label came about, how he utilizes various materials to create his unique pieces and who flocks to Dark + Dawn.
What initially attracted you to making jewelry?
Tyler Durtschi: The path to making jewelry has been kind of all over the place for me. Most of my schooling was in engineering and computer science. I switched majors a lot within those fields, but art is something that was a constant, even though it wasn't my main focus. Eventually I got burned out on all the engineering, and focused on sculpture. I graduated, moved to L.A., and got a mind numbing job at a law office to pay the bills. Around that time I started collecting a lot of religious medallions, crosses, and some other random pendants from flea markets, and made some necklaces for friends. At some point there were things I wanted that I couldn't just find, so I started trying to figure out how to make the stuff on my own. The jewelry district in downtown L.A. was/is an incredible resource. It's packed with shop after shop of tools and supplies (and a dizzying amount of massive gaudy awful diamond encrusted gold pendants). If I didn't know how to do something, I would just ask the people working in the shops, and more often than not they would either spend the time to explain things, or point me in the direction of someone else who would help me. It was a lot of trial and error, but eventually I figured out how to make what I wanted, and it went from there.
Why the name Dark + Dawn?
The first thing that was really locked down when I started thinking about a name was the symmetry and layout. I knew I wanted two words that started with the same letter, separated by the word "and." I was agonizing over it for a while and bouncing ideas back and forth with friends. Finally, a buddy suggested Dark and Dawn. It was a perfect fit both within the framework I wanted and in the feeling of the phrase, and it stuck.
You work with bones and create jewelry that look like physical parts (skulls, claws), what compels you to use body parts or re-create them in your work?
I'm fascinated by the structure and mechanics behind the façade of things. Biological structures like bones and claws are interesting to me because, just like a beam or gear or bolt, they play a very specific role in a machine. It's a perfect foil to my other geometric/architectural type stuff. And they look cool.
What role do symbolism/alchemy play in your work?
The association to alchemy kind of just makes sense. I'm taking silver and gold and melting it, hammering it, and polishing it into these refined forms. I have no delusions of creating gold out of nothing, but it's a pretty close fit. Alchemy equates the changing of base metals into gold, to the transformation and purification of the individual, and in some sense I feel like I'm on that path through making jewelry. The symbolism associated with alchemy is beautiful because similarly it has a base meaning along with an allegorical meaning.
How has your work changed since you started creating jewelry?
More than anything I've learned how to do more with the materials I'm working with. My aesthetic and the things that inspire me haven't changed a lot. In the beginning I was limited to using silver wire and sheet, and bending/hammering/soldering it to make what I wanted. I slowly started doing more casting and setting stones, which opens up a whole world of possibilities. Using real bones and teeth has been a nice tangent to the way I have been working for a while, and I will definitely continue to explore using more unconventional materials and found objects in my jewelry.
There seems to be an increased interest in less whimsical and more edgy, tough jewelry. What attracts women to wear jewelry like that and Dark + Dawn jewelry in particular?
From the start I've considered Dark + Dawn very much a unisex line of jewelry. I have definitely noticed a real momentum in the obsession about occultism and darker, morbid subjects over the last several years, but I have no idea what is at the root of all that. I think what attracts people to my jewelry is the fact that it's all handmade with quality materials, clean lines, and attention to detail.
Images by Scott León/ Image of Tyler Durtschi by Myles Pettengill