I met Waris Ahluwalia last May after I had exited our neighborhood coffee shop and started a hazy stroll down Gay Street. Sitting on the curb, he invited me to join him.

Months later, he generously agreed to let me and a group of New Museum members visit him in his studio at the CFDA incubator, a program backed by Vogue and intended to foster the talents of the most promising up-and-coming “makers”.

Waris’ talent is hard to pinpoint. By trade, he is a jewelry designer, but his approach to his work is more akin to cultural anthropologist. A self-proclaimed lover of beauty and romance, he designs bracelets, pendants, and rings inspired by nature, and has similar designs executed in the techniques native to a each place he works in, such as Thailand or India. This, for example, could result in two diamond rings that are similar in description but when it comes to the nuances really couldn’t be more different – one is heavy and rough, the other small and precise. It’s a beautiful enterprise and each piece merits its value because it is unique and handmade.

My favorite object was a chain-link ruby bracelet. Ruby is my birthstone but I’ve never seen it look so tough.

Birds are a reoccurring theme. And while some of his designs seem to have a deceptively pop influence, their forms are without fail rooted in something much more ephemeral – the volumetric shape of talons or the silhouettes of wings.

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Jarrett Gregory

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