Trophy Case

This Portland-Made Bracelet Has One Wild Backstory

Involving a waterlogged bronze babe and a full-on police investigation.

By Alena Willbur August 14, 2018 Published in the September 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Michael Novak

If you’re wearing a faceted bronze cuff from local jewelry maker Lauren Main, you’re also wearing an excellent conversation starter—because this bronze led to a full-on police investigation.

Here’s the story, according to Main: In 1967, Portland philanthropist Howard Vollum, cofounder of Portland tech biz Tektronix, commissioned a piece from artist Frederic Littman for his wife, Jean: a 270-pound cast-bronze sculpture of a woman holding up a toddler. Mother and Child lived on the Vollums’ West Hills property for decades, until 2007, when son Larry began remodeling his (by then deceased) parents’ estate. He hired security to watch over the property during the renovation.

That December, Mother and Child went missing. A month later, police caught the thieves bronze-handed, with mangled limbs of the precious sculpture they had attempted to sell for scrap. The culprits? The security guard and her boyfriend.

Image: Michael Novak

Mother was returned to the Vollums—minus the child. The thieves tossed the bronze babe into the Willamette River in their haste to cover up the crime; only an armless, legless mama remained. Recasting the statue was near impossible, so it sat amid the weeds until 2016, when the family offered use of the sculpture to a new neighbor, Main, who relies on recycled materials to make jewelry.

The end result: a one-of-a-kind line—pendants, rings, and cuffs—full of eclectic angles and raw beauty. Main trims sections of the bronze off a little at a time, using the contours of the statue (which still resides on the Vollum estate) to influence her hand-shaped designs. Sometimes she even lets a bit of rugged, green-hued metal that once oxidized inside Mother peek through like a geode.

And the sculpture lives on. 

Find Revere by Lauren Main’s “Sculpture Series” collection, including that $250 bronze cuff, at her website. Check her site for upcoming pop-up stores.

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