Native New Orleanian Lilah Jurgens grew up surrounded by the city's history and rich interior design. Today, as owner and designer of Portico Aesthetics (www.porticoaesthetics.com), she employs passions for both when creating framed, hand-cast plaster intaglios as well as barware adorned with intaglios etched or stamped on metal. The former is sold exclusively through Bremermann Designs (3943 Magazine St., 504-891-7763; www.bremermanndesigns.com) and select pieces of the latter will be available at Friend & Company (7713 Maple St., 504-866-5433; www.friendandcompany.com) this fall.
Intaglios are reliefs made by cutting, carving or engraving a flat surface and then making plaster molds. They are typically associated with classical Roman-Greco motifs appreciated for their timeless beauty. But Jurgens reinterprets hers with a modern aesthetic.
Inspired by a collection of Mardi Gras doubloons (including the original Rex doubloon produced in 1960) she inherited from her grandmother, Jurgens taught herself the craft of intaglio making. She also uses antique porcelain and a cache of rare 19th-century coins depicting the French Monarchy for her re-imagined treasures.
"I started collecting English porcelain, but the pieces themselves were really dated," says Jurgens, whose delicate finds are usually shades of blue or terra cotta. "I tried to imagine what they would look like in white porcelain or plaster and on a larger scale."
Jurgens' framed intaglios are mounted against a variety of marble, agate and watercolor papers, all imported from Europe and hand-painted. The frames are gold or silver leaf. The barware includes acrylic designs — highball and lowball glasses, an ice bucket, decanters and three-piece shakers — as well as silver-plated mint julep cups.
"The barware was a way to offer the same quality but at lower prices," she says. "New Orleans has a great mixology culture, and I thought it was a great way to celebrate that."
For Mardi Gras 2015, a set of lowball glasses with bronze intaglios featuring the original 1960 Rex doubloon will be available to Rex members.
"Our work is done with one goal in mind: to reinvigorate traditional design," Jurgens says. — Lee Cutrone