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The Alara Atelier

atelier noun [AT-ell-yay] 1: an artist's or designer's studio or workroom

So, what is an atelier? Literally, a workspace. The Alara Atelier houses the bulk of Alara’s jewelry manufacturing and crafting machinery, tools, and humans. And while it is a manufacturing space, it is also a place for private design consultation. One can specifically request to have jewelry made (or not) during your appointment. 

More importantly, this is a place where art, craft, and camaraderie intersect. Since the artisanal workspace is enclosed behind glass walls, the alchemy of the craft performed by human hands is part of the experience, no matter what. But the remaining spaces in this atelier are comfortable living spaces from which one can experience the visual conceptualization of a possible piece from the comfort of a leather rocker; or experience the “hard rock” nature of everything from mineral specimens to precisely-cut rare gems and fine diamonds; all  from a sapphire blue, yards- long sofa. Go ahead—put your feet up on the ottoman. That steampunk liquor cabinet? It’s here for you, too. Think both comfy and non-traditional when experiencing this space.

You are surrounded by late 18th- and early 19th- century European oils with a story that is personal to Alara’s founder, Babs Noelle. The collection of family paintings is literally the only thing of value that her mother and father were able to bring to the US when they emigrated from Germany in 1954. “Growing up, I was aware that the artwork on our walls was far more sumptuous than the remainder of our décor,” she says. “People always commented on the fanciness upon entering our home. As it turns out, I’ve never had a home myself where this collection seemed to fit. But the moment I saw the Atelier space, I immediately envisioned the paintings hanging on the walls.”

Juxtaposed  with the paintings are the featured mineral specimens, which bring together everything: the crystals from the earth reminding us of the gemstones we treasure…across from the glassed-in workshop that makes possible the human contribution to the personal and fine decoration we wear.

Much like the jewelry created within the space, eclecticism reigns supreme at the Alara Atelier:  a rustic farm door slides adjacent to a modern, internally-lit, sculpture of an elegant female form. While one meeting table features a natural edge of  wormhole black walnut; another artisanal table features swirls of pearlized resin. “This mixture of decorative aesthetics is meant to celebrate not just many different types of beauty, but many different styles of jewelry,” Noelle explains. “And with perhaps a formal event as a possible exception, most folks that embrace the Rocky Mountain West personal style wear a mix of casual and dressy jewels together: a classic, diamond-heavy wedding set is adjacent to a slew of silver bangles…or a gem-encrusted pendant along with bronze earrings.”

With the original Alara Jewelry gallery also on Main Street in downtown Bozeman, it begs the question: “Why an Atelier?“

Growth, from both business volume and human perspectives, was demanding an expansion, but how? Pull up stakes entirely, and bank on a different part of town, and have a larger enterprise, all under one roof? “No way. Downtown runs in my veins,” says Noelle. Much like how she acquired her original location by the fortuitous notice of a “For Lease” sign in its window, her walk to work revealed the new location—at the other end of downtown. The space had a shape more conducive to fulfilling her dream of a “fishbowl studio.”

The two locations work in concert, bringing out the best that Alara has to offer. “Our curated jewelry collection of work by seventy-plus designers, found at our original gallery location, is always available for reference and inspiration,” interjects Noelle. “In fact, we encourage people to take a spin through our gallery to point out examples of features they like—or don’t—because we can be sure to make those items available during their custom design appointment at the Atelier.”

Noelle firmly believes that the more design details, jewelry art eras, beautiful gems, and  fascinating crafting techniques to which one is exposed, the closer one is to finding a personal, wearable artwork that celebrates the personal joys in life…whether they be individual in nature, or part of a loving bond. “And with over 70 designers in our quiver,” Noelle shares, “I don’t know of many jewelers who can boast more aesthetic variety.”

Coming full circle to the atelier concept, the Alara Atelier is soon to be home to a first-in-Montana, nationally-recognized jeweler apprentice program. “What a wonderful and fitting, light-filled space in which to learn the ancient craft of jewelry-making,” beams Noelle.

The Alara Atelier is located at 424 E Main Street and is available via private appointment only. In addition to hosting custom design consultations, the Atelier is also where the Alara team offers private curated shopping experiences, gemstone and diamond private viewings, estate evaluations, and jewelry box reviews.

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