Saturday, May 28, 2011

Little Mr Liam

Daddy and Liam

Ready for summer

So here we are almost 5 months down the road and this little guy is really growing!  People always said time would fly when you have a kid but now I believe it!  Its been a time warp since he was born.  Everyday is getting more interesting as he develops and learns.  Its so fun to watch him rolling around on the floor and playing with toys while "talking" up a storm.  He is such a happy baby and always wakes up with a smile and goes to bed without fuss.  He is sleeping all night and has so much energy in the day its a bit tiring at times!  He just had his 4 month check up (a bit late) a few days ago and got his shots so he has not been feeling very well.  But I have to tell you the guy is tough! (just like dad)  He really didn't get very sick and still has always had a smile for Mama and I.  He was pretty much himself last night playing and carrying on like usual till he gets tired and ready for a bath and bedtime.  Oh and Liam loves his baths!  I see many a wet floor in my future as he gets bigger because he can already splash water out of the tub!  He will get to thrashing and laughing and I end up almost as wet as he is! 

Did I mention he sleeps? Well he sure does,  not only did he pick his own bedtime (at 9) all by himself  but he goes to bed without a fuss.  Just lay him in his crib and its lights out till morning!  I hear we got really lucky so I wont question that and just be happy.  He really is a wonderful son and just a perfect little person.  Well I just wanted to give an update and share some pictures with all of you!  Now its time for work, if you have time leave some comments below I love reading them and I respond to them all!      
Ahhh this is the life
All smiles!
Talking away

"I am so damn cute  you cant help but smile at me"

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rock Star of Jewelry

I first met Victoria on Twitter and little did I know she was a true rock star of jewelry!  Not only are her designs worn by top celebrity's but she teaches people how to make it as well.  She takes metal and makes it glamorous, pieces that grab you and make you stare!  I decided this was someone I wanted to get to know as I am delving into jewelry myself.  I wanted to pick the brain of the best! So here is my interview with the one and only Victoria Tillotson.

Give us a bit of history on yourself.  My background is firmly rooted in liberal arts academia, but I've collected jewelry my entire life starting with rhinestones and 1950s kitsch in the 1980s and moving through ethnic jewelry and finally modernism.  I made kooki jewelry in high school with blue electrical wire, those bubbles with toys in them from a gumball machine, and vintage beads.  People liked it!  Why it didn't dawn on me then to go to design school I don't know, but i didn't.  In 2007 I bailed out of my doctoral program in Comparative Literature and moved to NYC with my husband, where I had started taking jewelry classes in 1998.  I did finish my Ph.D. but realized my passion was no longer there.  I began assisting another professor at SVA (School of Visual Arts) One thing led to another and in 2002 I was offered a position at School of Visual Arts, where I have taught ever since. 
My main inspiration is sterling silver modernist jewelry of the 1950s-1970s, and within that Israeli modernism in particular.  I love bold striking forms that make you look!

When it comes to your work you combine a few of my favorite things, art, true craftsmanship, and function.  What is your process from concept to reality?  Since I don't have formal art training and don't draw (although perhaps I should not admit to this!!) I get flashes of images in my head and then write them down.  Designing anything is a dynamic process as you know, and the object will take various permutations along the way.  You kind of have to just let the piece take the lead.  I may make a piece in copper or brass at first. 

Designing commercial work - meaning pieces to sell to mass market- and designing "art" pieces have two different processes: for commercial stuff, production ease and adhering to a price point are key and I design with them in mind.  For the arty pieces it's more about vision and precision.  The eye can see to 100th of a millimeter and it's hard to hide mistakes when you're making geometric shapes.  It's easy to bury mistakes in the kind of jewelry people dub "organic," - and I get mad at my students when they try to get away with this!  My one-offs tend to be very architectural, they need to be perfect and that takes time.

In the world of jewelry and fashion the styles change almost daily, how do you keep things fresh and interesting?  I don't worry about it. I make what I like and if I like it, someone else always does too.

You are a professor of jewelry making at School of Visual Arts in New York City, give us a sense of the core base of learning and skills you teach.  Also what is your goal as a teacher of your craft and what do you instill in your students?  My beginners learn basic jewelry making skills including sawing, forming, soldering, polishing and stone setting.  I start with making a sterling ring of their own design set with a round or oval cabochon.  This teaches a lot of critical techniques in one project, and they have something to show for it.  I always tell people:  "I'm going to teach you the right way to do it, and then after that you can do what you want."  Yes, I want perfection.  Am I going to get it 100%? No.  I mainly want people to make jewelry that expresses themselves and have fun doing it.

My advanced students do more, well, advanced techniques like hollow construction, boxes/hinges, settings for faceted stones, gypsy or flush settings, chain making, etc.  They design and create their own projects.  I work on techniques one on one, but its more of a studio class.

I look at your "laundry list" of accomplishments with awe and to me you are at the pinnacle of success.  Is there one metric by which you judge your success?  This is challenging to answer and my fumblings that follow will illustrate it!  For me like many people, it's tough not to fall into the trap of feeling that money=success.  For artists like ourselves, this is a particularly perilous way of thinking that must be avoided.  Instead I think:  what about my career do I like and what is fun?  I like writing books, I like getting press and being in books,  I like being on TV and opining about jewelry, I like teaching.  So since these are the things I do and the things I like, I guess-guess?! - I'm successful.  But the naked truth is that I am never satisfied with what I am doing or have done.  It's just how it is.  I think i could be the jewelry version of Oprah and still not feel successful!  So the answer is... there is no answer.

What are you striving for at the moment and what are your future goals?  I want to learn some new techniques.  After all the more public ventures I just spoke about this must sound weird.  But one thing I constantly battle with as a self-taught jeweler is the feeling that I'm inferior to those who went to, say, RISD or Pforzheim.  I can teach anything; but I always want to be able to do everything.  I don't like the "those who can, do; those who can't, teach" mentality that so many people unwittingly cling to.  Otherwise, I am also involved in another book project way out of the realm of jewelry.  More on that later!

Now to go off topic and away from jewelry, in an effort to see more who "YOU" are as a person tell us who "YOU" are!  I'm 43, married and have a six-year-old son named Rijk.  I was born and raised in RI and say it like Rhode Islanders do: "road-Eyelan."  I went to Moses Brown School and  tried as hard as I could to break the mold of the prep school student.  Just to prove I was 100% weird, I chose Hampshire College.  I love mid-century modern design, particularly Paulin and Jacobson;  I have a weakness for Louis Vuitton; a favorite dinner is nachos and a margarita followed by pink cake from Amy's Bread in Manhattan; I will never say no to a jellybean; I almost exclusively listen to punk, old and new.  My favorite bands are New Bomb Turks and  Distillers plus lots of the archaic hardcore from the 1980s; favorite colors are orange and purple; I have a 1981 BMW R65 but it doesn't go;  my favorite plants are cacti; when i feel truly unhinged, I get my ears stretched.  Somehow this sort of lunacy grounds me.  I will end up with 1" plugs when I'm in my 50s, and it's not going to be pretty!  My favorite places are Bryce Canyon, Paris and the beach; favorite authors are Jean Genet, Oscar Wilde, Georges Bataille and Pat Barker.  For fun i love yard sales and flea markets, going out for drinks, the occasional mosh pit even though I am way to old, eating to much popcorn at the movies with my son and, corny as it is, long uninterrupted  hours in my studio.

To end this can you give fellow jewelry makers and designers a bit of advice?  What do you feel is the most important thing for them to remember?  Never give up. Never! There have been many times I have thought about giving in and trading entrepreneurship for a "real job."  It is so freaking hard sometimes.  You just have to be able to keep clear in your vision no matter how many people try to push you this way or that, or just flat out tell you no.  Train yourself to look at every challenge as an opportunity.  Every single thing, from "oh no, they're out of the metal I wanted" to "Vogue Magazine said no to the samples I sent for a story for the twentieth time" to "I'm not going to be able to pay my bills this month."  Learning this resiliency does NOT come easy and at first it's hard to weather.  But you MUST learn how to convert a no into a yes.  And you MUST do it again and again.  And when you have truly mastered that, you will be successful.

So much for emotional advice.  From a practical standpoint, every designer needs a business arm of their company/craft.  Whether it's a friend with an MBA who can help you with the basic P&L sheet to an expert in capitalization, you need someone.  Why?  Because without a business plan, the stresses of running a company will erode your creativity and you will be depleted.  There are lots of people in your life who can fill this role, if you can't afford or don't want to hire someone and they want to help. Let them! Give them some beautiful pieces and it will be a 100% win-win.

SVA studio

I want to thank Victoria for doing this amazing and inspirational interview with me.  There were some key points in it that I needed to hear as an artist, and I hope it can help others as well.  You can find her on Twitter at @chicmetal and find her amazing jewelry on her etsy shop chicmetal and if your looking for her book here is the direct link Chic Metal Jewelry Making