Designer: John Hardy
One day in 1975, during a round-the-world voyage as an art student in Ontario, Canadian designer John Hardy stopped at the tropical Asian island of Bali and decided to settle there.
"I fell in love with the gorgeousness of everything about the island—the natural landscape, the spectacular Hindu rituals of the people, and the opulence of their classical arts," he says.
He began creating jewelry, studying traditional techniques with Balinese artisans. "I wanted to use totally traditional Balinese crafts and re-invent them in a way that's useful, timeless and at the same time, modern," says Hardy. In the past, Balinese kings maintained villages of metalsmiths to make everything from ceremonial offering bowls and dance ornaments to jewelry. Most of the artisans Hardy works with are descendants of those royal metalsmiths, whose extraordinary skill and genetic memory of ancient traditions are lavished upon each item, imparting a strength, texture and integrity that machines simply cannot emulate.
"People can't believe my designs aren't made by machines because they are so perfectly rendered. But because there are always certain tiny imperfections in handwork, each piece is infused with a human energy that you can't get from a machine-produced product. It's like the difference between a beautiful hand-woven garment and a machine-woven cloth. Each piece has a 'hand'."
In 1989 he fell in love again, this time with someone who also recognized the rich culture and creative power in Bali. This was Cynthia, who would become his wife and muse. Working together—with John's ideas and Cynthia's gift for logistics—the business grew very quickly.
Today John Hardy jewelry is found in the best stores in America, such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. And his limited edition line of precious jewelry Cinta—inspired by one-of-a-kind pieces designed for Cynthia—is found on the covers of the top fashion magazines. The showroom and offices in New York are on the top floor of the landmark Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea, overlooking the Hudson River.
Nonetheless, John and Cynthia Hardy, who now have two young daughters, remain committed to the life lessons they learned from the Balinese, and they continue to make Bali their home. The design studio in Bali—where some six hundred artisans handcraft the jewelry—is also an organic farm. Livestock, rice and vegetable gardens thrive between the studio buildings. Every day, the entire studio takes lunch there under a spreading banyan tree; every year, the John Hardy staff pay homage at the local village temple.
Along with the hand-crafted jewelry, John Hardy has expanded his collections to home wares and executive accessories. From cuff links to necklaces, corkscrews to letter openers, Hardy creates 'contemporary heirlooms' imbued with enduring beauty, functionality and comfort. Hardy believes that the things we wear or use every day should look and feel beautiful, that they are an integral part of the family and the way we live, and should not be reserved for special occasions.
John and Cynthia Hardy believe in a notion of "sustainable luxury"—that the value of an object depends not only on the quality of its materials and the expertise of its craftsmanship, but also on the feeling of well-being of the artisan who makes it. "I think you can feel the hand of the artisan in our pieces" says Hardy. "There's a warmth of spirit that remains in the silver, in the gold."
PRODUCT VIDEOS:John Hardy Batu Kali
John Hardy Batu Kali
VIDEO: John Hardy In the Golden Sands of Jaisalmer >>