Photo by Commercial Art Lab.

The Jewelry Designer Using Prosthetic Eyeballs Instead of Gemstones

Artificial body parts are a thing—embrace it.

by Gabriella Karefa-Johnson
Apr 20 2018, 12:02am

Photo by Commercial Art Lab.

For a modern dresser, the complex constellation that we call our wardrobe is made up of pieces that orbit around each other like different stars and planets, changing the gravity of our self-presentation with any minor shift. Our constant moon is the jewelry we never take off.

No one understands the grounding force of everyday jewels quite like Maria Tash, the New York-based designer, whose fans collect her signature delicate hoops on the outer edges of their ears, in their conches and septums, and sometimes, more conventionally, in their earlobes. Her piercings stay with their wearer always, becoming part of their bodily physics. It’s no surprise that Tash’s newest range takes on the human body in an entirely new way, featuring the "Tash eye collection" which treats artificial eyes as a new type of gemstone, trimmed in a process referred to as the “Tash cut” and set in precious metals paved with diamonds.

Photo by Commercial Art Lab.

"When I was shopping and hanging out in the West Village in the late 1980s, I found a store that sold prosthetic eyes in sterling silver," recounts the designer. "It was the first time I saw really intricate artificial eyes and I remember being so impressed with them." The intrigue makes sense. As we talk at her presentation at the Ludlow Hotel its hard to ignore how striking her own pool-like emerald eyes are. They light up as I greedily grab a particularly unnerving hazel oculus set in gold. "I have green eyes and they’re the feature on my face that I always emphasize,” Tash told me later. "But green is hard to find, and you don’t want doll eyes! It’s the gradation that makes it beautiful, not static color." It’s true—there is an uncanny realism to the particular specimens she sources online and from optical manufacturers in the city. And just as she is with the fine stones and metals she’s used since day one, Tash is picky about rarity and quality: “It's not about a dominant color to the irises, I look at the capillary structure that’s been painted as well as the layers to the iris, and how realistic they are."

In addition to their technical splendor, Tash’s rings evoke the kind of New Age spirituality meets hyper-luxury that has been ruling the runways (remember Gucci’s third eye makeup look?). But the history of the eye in costume and adornment didn’t start in the Fall collection. In fact, Tash has a history all of her own: "My first tattoo was an Eye of Horus which is an ancient symbol of protection, royal power, and good health," she eagerly offers. The eye has always been an emblem of balance and insight, both of which are tenets that shine through in the work of Maria Tash.

We can’t wait to see what territory she explores next.