Made in 1985, Mignon Faget's 18 in. "Gumbo Necklace" features sterling silver crabs, okra and shrimp among keishi pearls and beads of peridot and fluorite. Learn more »
Nationally renowned New Orleans jewelry designer Mignon Faget began her career in the late 1960s by designing women’s apparel. Faget was born in the city in 1933. She graduated fromNewcomb College in 1955 with a specialty in metalwork; she then studied at l’Atelier la Grande Chaumière in Paris, France, and Parsons School of Design in New York. After a brief period of working with textiles, her creative impulses reverted to her academic studies by creating sculptural jewelry for women and men, an endeavor that has continued for more than four decades. Today, Faget is considered Louisiana’s “grand dame of jewelry design.”
Faget’s interests in fashion developed during childhood under the direction of her mother, Mignon Cress Faget, who sewed the dresses her daughter designed. Young Mignon designed the dresses worn by her entire high school graduation class at the Academy of Sacred Heart; the gowns she wore for the freshman beauty courts, the Newcomb freshman beauty court, and as 1953 homecoming queen; and the flower girl’s dress and bridesmaids’ dresses in her own wedding party. Faget later studied printmaking under Sue Ferguson Gussow, who advised Faget to make a career in design. It was in Gussow’s class that Faget created her first hand-printed textile, a concept she would develop in clothing with an underlying architectural structure; these she later developed into sculptural nail-studded textiles. Faget garnered considerable attention when in its April 1969 issue New Orleans Magazine featured her models wearing her nail-studded designs and posing in Audubon Park with leather-clad members of the Galloping Goose Motorcycle Club, an outlaw club founded in Los Angeles in 1942.
Early Career in Jewelry Design
Faget began designing jewelry in 1970; it represented a return to her undergraduate specialty in metalwork at Newcomb College under sculptor Jules Struppeck. During the 1950s, Struppeck initiated the Newcomb sculpture foundry and in 1952 published The Creation of Sculpture, one of the first sculpture textbooks to illustrate the bronze casting process. Both accomplishments motivated Faget, and her design philosophies reflect his instruction on the transformation of nature into sculpture. She studied printmaking under James Steg and took Robert Durant “Robin” Feild’s course “Design in Nature.” Feild advocated the reduction of components within nature to an abstracted form, a concept that governed Faget’s designs throughout her career. She admired Frank Lloyd Wright for his emphasis on simplicity and honesty in materials and craftwork.
Although unaware of the Newcomb Pottery enterprise that ended in 1940, just over a decade before her entrance at the college, Faget was also inspired by indigenous motifs of nature as well as by local architecture and architectural detail. Her career began when, finding a scarcity in finely crafted accessories, she melted sterling silver bonbon dishes she had received as wedding gifts to create a buckle as a gift to fellow artist Jean Seidenberg.
The buckle was inspired by a sand dollar she collected during her college years. Faget, who sought to make beautifully crafted jewelry available to women at affordable prices, subsequently built on the theme of the sea. Her first jewelry collection featured a variety of sea shells crafted in simple clean lines reminiscent of the work of Danish silversmith Georg Jensen. Faget’s work, which immediately generated a receptive local audience, quickly found markets in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.
During her career, Faget has introduced more than thirty major jewelry collections, each based on a specific theme that reflects the cultural heritage of her native land. She accompanies her announcements and advertising with an explanation of the creative impulse for the collection. Her oeuvre includes such whimsical pieces as her Animal Crackers; others focus on Louisiana cuisine, seafood, or favorites like Snowballs.
Several of Faget’s collections focus on architecture and New Orleans cemeteries, notably Colonnade (1983), Romanesque Return (1990), Schema (1992), Cruxx (1993), and Ironworks I and II (2006–2007). She explores the European and American past as they are manifested in her environment. The sculptural works in Romanesque Return were inspired by medieval-styled architectural elements in the Howard Memorial Library—dragonlike beasts, engaged columns, medallions, and voussoirs (wedge-shaped stones). The library, located on Lee Circle, was based on a design by architect Henry Hobson Richardson, whose distinctive architectural style became known as “Richardsonian Romanesque.” Cruxx also represents the ever-present religiosity in her native city.
Within six years of establishing herself as a jewelry designer, Faget was described by Times-Picayune fashion editor Diane Sustendal as “our best-known nationally recognized artist in the field of jewelry design.” Through the years, this appellation has been assigned consistently to Faget.
Faget is deeply rooted in her native city, and her accomplishments reflect her cultural heritage. From her earliest days, her contributions have included philanthropic work. She has executed numerous special commissions for educational, social, business, and philanthropic organizations. Faget, who has followed her own creative instincts for more than four decades, typifies the artist who explores the natural world that envelops her with an inquiring mind and creative soul. Her perseverance in a male-dominated field outside the influential environment of New York opened the field for other designers of art jewelry across the United States.
Cite This Entry
Chicago Manual of Style
Bonner, Judith H. "Mignon Faget." In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010–. Article published September 12, 2012. http://www.knowla.org/entry/1249/&view=summary.
Bonner, Judith H. "Mignon Faget." KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 12 Sept 2012. Web. 22 Jan. 2017.
Would you like to learn more about this topic from books and other reading materials?
Bonner, Judith H. Mignon Faget: A Life in Art and Design. New Orleans: The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2010.