Simply the breast! Łódź woman turns ‘mum milk’ into gorgeous jewellery
A Łódź studio has found itself thrust further into the public eye after releasing a range of jewellery that utilizes breast milk.
First founded in 2014 by Marta Ewa Rżanek, the latest line from 4 Seasons Jewelry, titled the Mother’s Milk Collection, was years in the making and directly inspired by its creator’s own experiences of parenthood.
A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź, Rżanek is no stranger to success having already scooped the 2015 Amberif Award for a collection that saw her combine Baltic amber with upcycled leather to striking effect.
Seeking to promote “the power of femininity”, her philosophy has always sought to build a bridge between “stories, emotions and beautiful memories,” a strategy that has manifested itself particularly strongly with the addition of the Mother’s Milk range to her portfolio.
The concept was born in 2015 after Rżanek’s friend, also a young mother, placed an order for a ring.
“Circling between themes relating to children,” she explains, “we started toying with ideas to immortalize those early memories of motherhood.
“This collection is my most personal to date,” she continues. “Having fed my own daughter for two years, and because I deal with jewellery professionally, I wanted to channel my own experiences into my work.”
This was by no means as easy it might sound. Working with a host of food specialists and biologists, Rżanek had to find a way to make the jewellery as durable and perfect as possible, a process that took in excess of two years.
“In the end,” she says, “we found a special conservation and consolidation process that, when combined with jewellery resin, enabled us to produce a permanent material that perfectly captured those extraordinary times a mother spends breastfeeding.”
Typically using twenty-five millilitres of milk to create a necklace or bracelet, the resulting stones are smooth, hard and also warm due to their ability to maintain room temperature.
“You could liken the material to amber,” she says, “only it’s not as prone to damage – if you drop a stone made from mother’s milk on the ground, it’s not going to crack. The only thing you can’t really do is leave it exposed to direct sunlight for a length of time as otherwise the stones are in danger of turning yellow.”
Though often defined by their pearl-like colour (“Only more transparent,” says Rżanek), no stone is the same with colours oscillating between snow-white to soft yellow or even caramel shades. Once, says Rżanek, a stone turned green. Only later did she realize that this was because of the medication that the mother had been taking.
Usually receiving the milk by post, orders have come from as far afield as Germany and Great Britain, each often with an intensely personal story.
Remembering some of the more emotive moments in her professional career, Rżanek recalls one time she was asked to make an engagement ring – it’s not uncommon, she says, for men to secretly swipe mother’s milk kept in the fridge to surprise their partners with a unique gift.
On another occasion, a stone was made using milk destined for an infant that had tragically passed away.
“There’s a lot of powerful moments when you’re producing items with such sentimental value,” she tells TFN, “for instance, happy emotions when you get re-orders from those having a second child.” Moments like this, says Rżanek, make her work worthwhile.
Even so, with breastfeeding a topic that still carries the tendency to horrify some, she admits that the collection has, on occasion, been met with scepticism and suspicion. Despite that, on the whole her work has received an overwhelmingly positive reception, a point affirmed by the number of orders she’s received.
“In general,” says Rżanek, “the reaction is very positive. People are curious about this kind of jewellery as well as the production process that it entails.”
This, however, is not the first time that the designer has chosen to express the joys of motherhood through jewellery. Another best-selling line, for example, has seen her preserve locks of children’s hair by enclosing them within decorative glass balls skilfully attached to pendants and bracelets.
Does the future hold any further innovations?
“No plans as yet,” she answers, “but who knows what might happen later down the line!”