Louzart is perhaps more of a state of mind than even a jewelry mind. It's colorful, unique, and screams for attention. The creator of Louzart, Lou Romine Ratliff, is similarly fabulous. I had the honor recently of chatting with her about her steampunk-meets-high-art creations. Read on to learn more about Louzart, hear Lou's advice for curvy fashionistas and much more...
I’m such a jewelry lover myself, and usually I feel frustrated that jewelry just isn’t… well, big enough! Outrageous enough! Colorful enough! Is that why you started creating jewelry?
I’ve collected wild and large jewelry pieces since I was in high school. I’ve never had my ears pierced, as I have hundreds of pairs of huge colorful vintage clips that I wasn’t going to get rid of or pay to have retooled. I taught middle school for 30 years, and my jewelry was always my banner of recognition, not to mention unusual clothing and accessories. The kids really liked my “look”. When I retired, I began looking at some of the pieces and thought I could probably do this, too. And, I did. That’s how my little jewelry industry began.
Louzart uses some wonderful, unusual materials, many of them looking vaguely like ‘found’ items from the past. What’s the most unusual material you’ve ever used in your jewelry?
The most unusual piece of jewelry I ever created was a cuff bracelet made with fake dog poop. I saw it in a gag shop and thought it would be a hoot as jewelry. It sold immediately! So did the necklace I created out of fake barf! I never created with those two items again. I didn’t want a tag on my jewelry that it was nothing but crap.
Haha! I doubt very much that anyone would think that. So, do you wear your own creations?
Sometimes I wear my own creations and have sold them right off of my body! More often than not, I wear my own collection pieces.
How did you first find the steampunk aesthetic, and what do you love most about it?
Ah, steampunk…I’ve been a devotee for several years of the Victorian/Edwardian industrial period. I like the raw, heavy and industrial tool box look about it. My father collected mechanical pieces small and huge, most were steam powered, and as a kid, the look of it with all of its brass, cast metal, noise, and smell, etc. fascinated me. I’d give him the credit from my love of steampunk.
I think that definitely makes you one of the most authentic people in steampunk right now, then. How can new fans find and buy your work?
The easiest place for new fans to find me is on Etsy at my shop called Louzart. They can find all manner of jewelry, in different genres, altered bottles and jars, altered dolls, plus wall hanging décor, and in the summer they can find my clothing line called Gypsy Rags. All of my items are hand done using a myriad of media and none are ever duplicated. If an item is small enough, I’ll upcycle it into something that I find interesting and wearable.
I’m also in retail at the prestigious Mac Worthington Gallery of Contemporary Art in Columbus, OH, as well as shops called Simply Vague (one at Tuttle Mall & one at Polaris Mall) in Columbus, OH and a kicky little boutique in Grove City, OH called Déjà vu.
What’s your greatest advice for curvy fashionistas?
I’m not sure how to raise consciousness for the curvy or older fashionistas. I always get oodles of comments, all good – though there are snickers from time to time, from strangers. Many of them say they love the look but couldn’t carry it off. I think younger gals in the majority know exactly what their style is, or the look they want to achieve, curvy or not. They’ve been exposed to a lot more edgy fashion and accessories than us older gals. As for the curvy gal…GO for it. That little black dress and black hose look is OUT. Many of the plus size retailers were heading in the right direction, but then got slack. It’s just too plain and everyday for my tastes. I’m hoping that my style will translate into a statement to the curvy gals, don’t worry about it. If you’re covered up, you can do it!
Are there any celebrities that you especially enjoy watching for cutting edge fashion or accessories? Are there certain songs, bands or movies that inspire your work?
I’ve never modeled myself after any notable gals. Perhaps I’m just too independent for that. I’m not inspired by movies, books or music. I’m only inspired by the firing of my mental synapses and don’t always know how anything’s going to look when completed.
Just the way I'd expect a lovely and independent gal such as yourself to be! What are your biggest plans for 2014?
My biggest plan for 2014 is to continue with Louzart and remain focused on the rare and unusual.