8311½ W. Third St., Los Angeles
There’s more to shopping in Los Angeles than Rodeo Drive, Robertson Boulevard, and the Sunset Strip. One recently emerged destination is West Third Street, which—in addition to funky boutiques and healthy brunch spots—must boast more cold-pressed juice bars than any mile in America. So sip your $12 blend of kale, parsley, dates, and alkaline water, then head to August, an oasis of nature-inspired jewelry lovingly curated by owner Bill Hermsen. “I like that it’s not quite as polished as other neighborhoods, but it’s certainly not rough,” he says, adding that the local business association set up a public valet for the parking-challenged area. Because it’s very L.A. to valet for kale juice.
August is the only L.A. purveyor of the work of a community of jewelers whose connections run deeper than style. At the core of Hermsen’s collection is Ted Muehling, whose exquisite abstract designs (think jade earrings in the shape of lily pads) and decorative objects (white bisque, snail-shape salt cellars) are sold in just six stores in the world. “It’s an honor and a privilege to have his work,” says Hermsen, who got his own start in Muehling’s New York City shop after graduating from Fashion Institute of Technology two decades ago.
Family of Jewelers
Many of August’s artists also worked for Muehling: There’s Gabriella Kiss, whose figurative designs come from nature (antler cuffs in oxidized bronze, ant studs in 18k gold) and who, says Hermsen, is Muehling’s best friend. Maria Beaulieu (delicate, handmade gold chains and tourmaline pendants) apprenticed for Muehling. And Lola Brooks (sapphire rings and rusty diamond droplet earrings) worked for Kiss. “They’re very connected but they all have their own voice,” Hermsen says.
Hermsen moved to Los Angeles in 1998 to work for a cult clothing label called Dosa. He decided the fashion industry wasn’t his thing, but L.A. was. “I thought I’d be here for two years and move back to New York, but no,” he recalls. “I absolutely love it.” No doubt a contributing factor is Claus Hansen, his partner, whom he met two months after moving to L.A. Hansen, a visual effects creative director, comes from Copenhagen, which is the inspiration for August’s design—warm, white oak and bronze cabinets, with splashes of color from flowers and one wall of de Gournay wallpaper.
Seeds of Faith
You could easily miss one not-for-sale item in August. In the shadow of a spectacular seasonal arrangement (by local florist Holly Flora) are what look like three perfectly smooth sunflower seeds. “This lovely woman comes in a few times a year,” Hermsen says. “She was walking out one time, took them out of her purse, and put them down. ‘Don’t try to eat them!’ ” he says, as if in her voice. Turns out they’re porcelain, made by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei for his Tate Modern exhibition, Sunflower Seeds. “We’ve had children playing with them, but I don’t say anything. I feel like they’re a gift and they belong here, and hopefully they’ll stay.” He pauses, reflecting on his unabashed optimism. “I believe people do the right thing. I have faith.”
Photographs by Natasha Lee