The Iranian community in Los Angeles has solidified their presence through monumental amounts of decadence, with reality TV shows like The Shahs of Sunset and the iconic reference in Clueless, when Cher speaks of the Persian mafia, “You can’t hang with them unless you own a BMW”.
Lillian Shalom grew up in the epicentre of this cultural understanding, though her curiosity brought her backstage at rock shows and planted her firmly in the art world. Studying at the Otis College in Los Angeles, it was her embrace of nature and geometric design that enlightened and evolved her process.
With a natural curiosity towards music, painting and eventually the domain of jewellery – Lillian’s work mixes urban and organic references. But it was only when she delved into Egyptian antiquities and Persian poetry that Lillian found her aesthetic. Most recently her work has become synonymous with retro bohemian decadence and heavily adorned by Erykah Badu (Badu has 20 plus pieces and counting).
MILLE caught up with Lillian to find out how being an autodidact enriched her youth, how she got to working with Badu as well as the importance of art deco and nouveau.
Where did you grow up?
Beverly Hills, but my parents are Iranian – my mother is from Tehran and my father is from a smaller town, Rasht.
How has your culture informed your upbringing? Do you feel like your family supports your art?
My parents are definitely more involved than others within our culture. Maybe not in comparison to Americans. I was never really influenced by anyone really. I had to figure out things on my own. Books, research and flea markets. I used to go to the library to check out classical CDs.
Where do you get your art nouveau inspiration?
I just kind of stumbled upon it as a kid. I didn’t know what it was but I knew I liked it. I vibe towards nouveau more, but as a designer I focus on art deco more because it’s more comprehensible for the masses. The art nouveau period is a very short period of time and a lot of people don’t even know what it is so I use elements of it like nature and females.
How did you get into jewellery?
I always collected jewellery and was fascinated by antiques and ancient history and the meaning of jewellery. And then I started a line with a friend after she saw me doing crafty stuff by myself.
Let’s talk about the bugs, how did you get into those?
It was inspired by my collection of bugs. And then, when I was doing research on ancient jewellery, I saw a lot of beetles were used in Egypt and then it was revived in the art nouveau period. I just tried to make my own approach to them.
How did you get involved with Erykah Badu?
A friend showed her my Instagram and then she reached out to me. I didn’t realize it was her initially. Her friend e-mailed me saying my friend Erykah is interested. I thought it was for a store so I asked ‘does your friend have a store’, and then she told me it was for Erykah Badu. So I said ‘we’ll make it work’.
What projects have you worked with Erykah on as far as design?
Erykah first picked the Galileo pieces [armoured rings with deco design] in all different metals like black, silver and gold. She saw a picture and really vibed with that. Then off of that, I showed her the rest of my work and she really liked my Nietzsche piece that had the beetle in it. From there we met up and started brainstorming. We came up with some custom pieces together, like the claws and the grills I did for her. She’s just become one of the biggest collectors of my pieces.
What are you currently working on right now?
I’m working on a more minimal collection, as minimal as I can get. More organic shapes inspire me now – whereas before it was more angular, aggressive, pointy and sharp. Getting more into the nouveau. Fluid but more minimal.