Leftover Oyster Shells Become One-of-a-Kind Jewelry in & Other Stories’ Co-Lab With Artist Mia Larsson
Fashion’s got a thing for pearls and shells at the moment, but we’ve never quite seen them like this before. Stockholm-based jeweler Mia Larsson makes her artful pieces by hand from recycled materials and residu from the sea, like leftover oyster and mussel shells that she collects from local restaurants. Her unique way of creating – always with sustainability at the forefront of what she does – caught the attention of the co-labs team at & Other Stories, and the result of their joined efforts is only days from coming out.
The limited edition collection of seven jewelry pieces is handcrafted in Mia Larsson’s Stockholm studio from recycled silver and upcycled oyster shells, giving new life to treasures from the ocean that would otherwise be discarded as mere waste. With this as their inspiration, the & Other Stories design team has drawn up a ready-to-wear collection to accompany the jewelry ass well, coming in eco-friendly materials like Tencell, organic cotton and recycled polyester.
Spending her childhood by the coast in the south of Sweden, Mia’s love for the big blue has always been an important part of her life. “I’m really fascinated by the ocean and so devastated and scared to see what’s happening to it – from all the plastics, to the death of the seabed, and algae blooms”, she tells us. “My family used to have a summer house in Skåne by the Kattegat ocean, and I loved being under the surface even before I could swim. I could spend hours in the water even though my lips turned blue and my ears were aching.”
It was during her studies at Konstfack University for Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm that the fascination turned into something a bit more tactile as she discovered shells as the perfect material for her crafts. “I initially used the shells in my master’s exam for sustainability reasons as I needed to find a smart leftover material that was organic and decomposable. I was very happy when it turned out that leftover mussels and oysters from restaurants was the right one, as I have seen them in the sand since childhood. When I studied them, I found that they were part of a perfect cycle: nutritious foods used in meals for festive occasions that bring people together – turned beautiful waste that can be used for things like jewelry.”
“The mother of pearl [the shimmering inner shell layer]”, she explains, “is made by the little mussel or oyster as a protection from intruders. They make this beautiful high-tech ceramic material that is super strong and researched upon for its qualities. The oyster also cleans water, so the oyster and mussel plants can also be used as sewage plants.”
What does the process of sourcing these materials and making them into jewelry look like?
It’s a similar process every time. I mostly get the shells from restaurants, but also from friends and family that save them for me. It can sometimes feel a bit weird when I come to a restaurant at nighttime with my IKEA bag and walk through the place into the kitchen. It’s often during the weekend, because that’s when there are most shells to collect.
I clean them in my bathtub and put them on newspapers all over my apartment to dry. My teenage kids are actually starting to feel a bit embarrassed when they have friends over… After that I bring the shells to my studio and clean them from corals and other organisms before sanding and polishing them in different ways; sawing them into different shapes. I’m mostly inspired by the material itself, so I play around with the shells and silver, and try them on before I sketch.
How did the collaboration between you and & Other Stories happen?
I was contacted by & Other Stories’ co-lab team as they had been interested in my jewelry for some time. My way of working, as well as my view on sustainability and materials, became the starting point, so we had a first meeting in my studio to see if we could make it work.
After that followed several other meetings, and we decided that I should collect the shells from restaurants and treat each shell in my studio. The recycled silver would then be handcrafted in India out of my prototypes. I showed sketches first and then samples, so we developed the collection together. It was a fun, fluid and open process.
The & Other Stories team was very open-minded. Alongside my co-lab collection, their designers made a capsule fashion collection as well, which was a very new and inspiring process for me.
How would you describe the result of this collaboration?
I’m very happy with the result and that we could keep my expression and values. I’m also very happy with the teamwork, which has been especially fun and inspiring for me as I mostly work alone or in smaller teams. They really listened to my views and cared for all details in the process – from the making of the jewelry to the packaging and campaign.
The jewelry box is crafted by the same small company that makes my own boxes here in Stockholm, and the small dust bag inside is made with leftover fabric from the capsule collection by a women’s collective for newly arrived, Yalla Trappan, so that’s great too.
I’m also very fond of the campaign. Photographer and filmmaker Adrian Levander made a beautiful film, and the great female photographer Märta Thisner shot the pictures. Märta and I first worked together when I did my master project, Moving Matter, at Ädelab Konstfack in 2012, so the circle is sort of complete.
The collaboration between Mia Larsson and & Other Stories, as well as the accompanying ready-to-wear collection, will be available in selected stores and online on May 21.
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