| THE HANDS BEHIND MAIDEN VOYAGE JEWELRY |
WORDS BY MARIEL ZAYAS-BAZAN
FEW MATCH THE DRIVE OF THEIR SPORTSTER.
And fewer do so with measurable consistency. But Megan Rugani, creator of Maiden Voyage Jewelry, has been through hell and back and still makes it to her studio on time.
Exuding a genuine cool many strive too hard for, simply put, the California native is bona fide. Her 2018 motorcycle wreck might’ve crushed a toe but it didn’t crush her spirit. “My token fun fact now is that I’m missing a toe,” she begins, “buy me a couple drinks and you can find out which one.”
Rugani’s work mirrors her personality; it’s playful yet focused, with a business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back duality that makes for a collection of the most elegantly racy pieces you won’t see anywhere else.
Raised torching alloys in her pop’s garage, metalwork proved to be a kindred knack she couldn’t deny. “I grew up around oxy acetylene tanks and ferrous metals floating around my dads garage, along with his motorcycles and my brother’s truck, which he was fabricating parts for at the age of 16,” Rugani explains.
Her early regard for metal evolved through stints at trade schools, community classes and mentorships. “I still use the skills I learned on the first day of class in 2012,” she tells us.
But Maiden Voyage Jewelry is more than the product of trade school skill. Rugani has an undeniable eye for detail, smithing treasures like tiny, lifelike stiletto knives, cooly dubbed “cut-a-bitch” earrings out of 14k gold, sterling silver, tiger’s eye, and onyx.
That eye extends beyond her own work, humbly, to those she deeply admires, like Megan Sanchez. “She’s a highly evolved woman, a pleasure to speak with, and creatively, her ideas penetrate a higher plane,” Rugani discloses, “I feel like I learn something about myself when viewing each of her illustrations.”
Inspired by Ukiyo-E, 60’s graphics, esotericism, tattoo art, and art nouveau, among much else, Maiden Voyage is an amalgam of everything dainty and tough. It’s depth made simple—a doorway to an alternate universe etched on a bracelet.
Her juxtapositions have intrigued many, including Post Malone, whose taste seems to align with ours. But who could blame us? Rugani’s work is white-hot. Hand engraved peonies and butterflies flirt with flaming links and snakes on signets—charged combinations that are hard to ignore.
“I am frequently drawn to the typically masculine...which is a distinction I don’t totally like to make as opposed to feminine,” says Rugani, “I’d like to depolarize these constructs in the way that I can. I want jewelry to be sexy and I think much of sexiness comes from straddling the spectrum of gender expression—it’s not attractive to me to be too far in either direction.”
Balance persists throughout all of Rugani’s work, including her pen and ink illustration—yin yangs dotted on shovelheads, pyramid stairs that lead to nowhere, and religious iconography stippled with blasphemy. Flexing her creative muscle regularly, she knows damn well consistency’s key if she wants to slay the game. “It’s the act of creating that breeds creativity,” she claims. “The painter, Chuck Close, nailed it when he said: ‘Amateurs sit around and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get to work.’”
And that’s just what Rugani does. “It’s really exciting to look into future projects with some lavish AF materials,” she dishes. “If this year ends and I haven’t made a stupidly extravagant, engraved gold ring with stonework then what the hell did I even do?!”
Her purpose is reflected by her resolve. Ask any coffee shop illustrator about their magnum opus and they’d likely say it’s too much to tackle. But what would Rugani create with unlimited resources and a boundless budget? Her reply is a stunning take on a vice:
“I’d like to make a gold cigarette vessel that has stone inlays making up the outside of the tube, to mimic the appearance of a cigarette—white bone as the paper, amber or jasper as the filter, and a ruby at the tip as the burning cherry. I’d fabricate a “pack” out of gold, and engrave my own esoteric branding all around. The cigarette vessel would be worn as a necklace with that ONE emergency cig that’s crucial for us quitters on a night out.”
Since she was a kid Rugani wanted to “be better than the boys and break all the rules,” she admits. Her dreams are still that simple, except she’s made both her reality. A dive into Maiden Voyage—with fine chains that slowly break the norms we’re conditioned to uphold—reveals there’s more to life than tossing our bodies out of bed and praying for sweet death.
Decked in chunky chains, glossed nails, and defying the reaper on a Sunday, Megan Rugani is sharp. And if the world was listening, all she’d say is a fitting “you can dance if you want to.”