A world traveller since childhood, American designer Mehera Blum delves deep into the cultures of foreign lands to create one-of-a-kind hand-sculpted pieces of wearable and portable art. Each design has exquisite beauty, and is distinctive because it’s carefully crafted by a master artisan, with flourishes added by Mehera. Each one is, in its own way, a burst of ‘anthropological delight’.
I talked to Mehera about the gifts of travel, her personal relationships with the artisans who work for her, and why, in an age of mass consumerism and fast fashion, she insists on having her designs crafted slowly, intimately, and with love.
Mehera, you started out as an actress in LA, and you had a good start at this, but then something happened that caused your life to take a turn. What was it?
I had only just graduated from school, but I had started working professionally; I had done TV, theatre, films, commercials, the whole spectrum. But I was having a lot of trouble remembering my lines because – I didn’t know it at the time – but I had really high, almost fatal levels of mercury poisoning.
How did the mercury get into your system?
I think from fish, from sushi, but it’s hard to say. The memory problems were really bad for a number of years.
So you changed the course of your career, became a designer, and launched your label Blumera. Now, you travel to different countries, look for inspiration in traditional textiles, crafts and exotic locations, and design beautiful objects made by skilled local artisans. All while getting to know your artisans intimately.
They are part of my life. Of course this is a business, but there’s no disconnect for me, which is partly why I work so many hours – there’s no going home. This is it. And for the artists it’s their life, their art, and it’s like our two worlds are merging. They’re offering their skills and I’m offering my creativity and vision and then we’re creating something together, and that’s the language that we communicate through: it’s through that co-creation.
Mehera at work in Bali with a local wood-carver, making carved wooden clutches
Have you gone for handmade production as a conscious protest against fast fashion?
I don’t get really into the politics of it. Of course I have opinions, but it’s not my way to put my energy into political action – and I really appreciate the people who do because we need that right now – but my way to be of highest service is to give love and beauty in my unique way.
Do you believe that beauty can bring people happiness?
I believe so, yes. That’s why people go to nature. Beauty is a higher vibration.
Do you think that handmade items – as opposed to mass-produced ones coming out of factories – have a higher vibration?
They do. Someone’s heart, someone’s energy, someone’s vibration is in it as opposed to a machine. There’s attention to detail, every single piece is a little bit different…
Your latest collection features your mother’s artwork. She was an American artist who loved to travel and particularly loved Iran.
Yes. In my last collection I used her paintings and printed them on fabric. And my newest collection is wood carved clutches: I’m taking her paintings and then printing them on paper, and taking the paper and gluing it to wood, and then carving directly into the wood.
You’ve talked about your mother as being not only your creative muse but your best friend, your soul mate…
She was my whole world. I remember as a seven year old going to school and crying every day because I didn’t want to let her go. We always had a really close relationship. And I didn’t even know that it was unique, I didn’t realize until now, only from talking to other people.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, and you closed your business for three years in order to become her caregiver as her health declined. Did it deepen your bond to have that time together?
Yes. When I was caring for her, people would say to me “Oh, you’re such a good daughter,” but to me there was no question of being a good daughter. In my mind there was no other thing.
In 2013 the cancer went into the bones, and she would have spasms and compression fractures, and in order to get out of bed it would take hours. To sit up, it would take sometimes three hours. I would take my hand under her head and I would go slowly, slowly, barely moving, to lift her head.
But it wasn’t all serious. All kinds of things happened, there were funny things that happened too, and things that are so intimate to go through with someone, but especially with someone that you love so deeply.
Artwork by Laurie Blum – see www.laurieblum.com
How do you think that experience has changed you?
I realized later, in the last year, what a gift I had been given, to be able to take care of her. I realized that this is what true selflessness is; I didn’t know it before. It’d heard people talk about it but I didn’t really know. I didn’t want anything back, I just wanted her to be ok, and that is such a gift to be able to experience that. It’s an overflow of love.
You’re still intimately connected with her creatively, by giving her work tangible form…
Yes. Yes, because I have nowhere else to put it. I do feel that something happened when my mom passed: I feel that I’ve become dead to the world in a way, and completely like a pure channel for the work.
Blumera’s latest collection features Laurie Blum’s artwork carved into wood
You’re currently creating a documentary series about your travels, your sources of inspiration, and the artisans you work with in different places, from Europe to Asia to South America. With you on camera, is this bringing you full circle to your acting days? Only this time you’re telling your own story?
As an actress, I used to say things like “I want to do things that will bring love to the audience,” and I would say these words without really knowing what it meant. And now I know what it means. I think I’ve suffered in the years since, and I believe that suffering can be a very beautiful thing. I believe that suffering has a really important place in our lives in a spiritual way, because that’s what peels the onion, you know? Because of the suffering I’ve been through, I’m more true to who I am, and more able to give of myself purely.
BRAVA List: Mehera Blum
My greatest achievement is: Taking care of my mother, and the great love that permeated that time and sustains me in this time.
What I value most in my friends is: Loyalty, understanding, sympathy, thoughtfulness.
My personal motto is: Find what’s in your heart to do, and then just do it.
The quality I most like in a man is: True masculinity, which encompasses all facets of character: compassion, being grounded, fair and honest, spiritual. I value femininity in the same way.
My idea of perfect happiness is: Being free of all worries, detached from the outcome of all work, and being a pure channel for the creative inspirations that come.
Blumera is sold in a variety of countries including the US, Germany, Japan and the UK. It’s possible to order online. Bespoke designs are also available on request.
For more information, see www.blumera.com
Learn more about Mehera’s world and travels through: