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Artist

Maker Stories

Tavia Brown’s “Industrial Delicate” Rings to Last a Lifetime

May 20, 2013

“I very clearly remember being six years old and knowing I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. And it never changed,” said jewelry artist Tavia Brown. “I ventured down my artistic journey in my childhood and ended up in college discovering metalsmithing.”

That drive, discovery, and dedication lead Tavia to found taviametal in 2001, and stay true to her craft through business ventures, marriage, and motherhood. Fittingly, her latest collection celebrates one of those special occasions in life–saying “I do.”

Tavia incorporates metals not traditionally used in wedding jewelry, like titanium and rose gold, and textural elements into her original designs to create unique rings for men and women. She calls her style “industrial delicate,” referring to the juxtaposition of tenacious metals with elegant design, and although her pieces are a bit bolder than some wedding bands, they are perfect for making the statement, “our love is solid.”

“In my first jewelry class I found my match in this small-scale, three-dimensional medium,” Tavia said. “I knew then that this was what I was going to do.”

The artist now creates her pieces in her own Charlottesville, VA studio, but before setting out on her own she worked as a bench jeweler for a high-end jewelry designer. “I worked in the jewelry studio and daydreamed about having my own studio business,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do it; I didn’t have a concrete plan. I just knew I was going to do it.”

Taviametal started out as a part-time endeavor, but grew over time as Tavia transitioned from exhibiting her own work at small shows while still working full-time at her bench job. Over the next few years, she got married, cut back her day job hours, and started planning for her future while helping her husband, who is an entrepreneur himself, with his business.

“Eventually, I knew kids would be the next step and I quit my job for the jewelry designer to get accustomed to not having that paycheck,” Tavia said. “I wanted to ensure that I would still follow my dream and take that big leap after having kids. So I worked part-time for my husband and part-time for taviametal, nurturing both businesses. I eventually switched and made taviametal my full-time commitment in 2007. Since then, my husband and I have continued to support each other in our individual business adventures, helping each other grow.”

Along the way, Tavia also discovered the joy of working with titanium–which is now her signature metal.”I had a very close-knit group of metalsmithing/blacksmithing friends and we would have these Monster Metal weekends during which we would take turns at each other’s studios learning a new technique or trying out a new material,” she explained. “Well, one weekend we tried our hand at titanium. I found that I really liked the color and the weight; and I loved the industrial feel and look to it, which fell right in line with my aesthetics.”

“I discovered that I could use the titanium for my rings, taking advantage of that natural gray color to contrast with other materials and continue the layering of textures that I like to create in these rings,” she continued. “I also found I could apply a heat patina which adds even more color – blue, purple, bronze – to the recesses of the designs. Titanium definitely has its challenges. Some basic metalsmithing techniques cannot be used with it, such as soldering – which is a main practice. So I fabricate my titanium jewelry by cold joining contrasting materials and friction fitting the layers, with an emphasis on textures and design. I really love these challenges about titanium. It keeps me creating in ways that take me outside the box. It pushes me to come up with new and interesting designs, and I am constantly exploring.”

“There are times where I get inspiration simply from the material… its challenges, limitations, and look intrigue me,” said Tavia. “Other times it’s just texture, the juxtaposition and tactility of different textures together, and the manipulation of the materials into amazing surfaces… Another impetus for me is family. This is a recurring theme in my work since college.”

Now, as a mother of two, Tavia is inspired by her children and says that over the years she’s been lucky to be able to mold her schedule around what’s best for her whole family.

“I want my kids to see that you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to,” she said. “I want them to know that they can dream as big as they want… On days where I must work longer than the usual I take my kids to the studio with me after school. I have carved out a kid area in my office, complete with easel, art supplies, toys, TV, movies, hula hoops, snacks, and more. Even though I am working, it is fun to be together at the studio.”

Tavia says that one of the biggest lessons she’s learned so far is “to breathe and be kind to myself and know that it will all work out.” She explained, “If I do my best, my kids will be their best. That’s not to say the ride hasn’t had its moments of difficulty; some days just have tears and other days are full of laughter. Each day is a new day of parenting with new challenges, so I am constantly learning – not just as a mom but also as a metalsmith and business owner.”

Maker Stories

Cloudy Mountainscape for the Win

May 9, 2013

I actually couldn’t wait to sit down to this year’s Art Contest judging-and not because I’m an uber fan of the Jealous Curator. I knew it was going to be a really close contest with every one of the top five voted pieces being so special and so unique.

And I was right. It came down to two paintings but eventually Katie, Danielle and Matthew arrived at a consensus–Elise Wehle’s Cloudy Mountainscape was too exceptional to pass up and its paper cut texture would make an incredible print. So meet Elise, the winner of our latest design challenge and help us welcome her into our artist family!

What is one uncommon fact about you?
I’m still an avid Mario Kart racer for the Nintendo 64.

When did you first realize you’re an artist?
As a kid I used to love to draw animals. Everyone, including myself, thought I was going to grow up to be a zoologist. It wasn’t until middle school that I branched out and started drawing Star Wars characters (yeah, I was pretty nerdy). However, my nerdiness worked towards my benefit, and I realized I just loved drawing and making art more than even the subject matter. Soon after I decided I wanted to be an artist.

Where do you get inspiration for your art?
I definitely find inspiration from city walls covered in old and new posters. I can almost see the history of the wall when I tear off one poster only to discover another one underneath. I love when all the different layers of posters turns into one giant collage. I think the way time weathers and tears the paper is very beautiful. I try to copy that look in a lot of my work.

Describe your artistic process.
I usually start an artwork by finding an image or a photograph that I really love online. I like the idea of taking something that only exists as bits and pixels and turning it into something real and tangible again. I materialize the image by creating a transfer of the photo. Sometimes this is done through intaglio, a printmaking process I learned while in college, or sometimes I use gel medium and transfer the photo directly to paper. I then try to incorporate some type of hand-intensive technique into the artwork, usually in the form of weaving, paper cutting, or embroidery.

Describe your work space.
Oh boy, my work space is nothing fancy. Right now my studio is a small corner of my bedroom. In that corner I have a desk, a lamp, and a little stool, all three of which are covered in art supplies. Usually and inevitably, my creative process begins to spread all across the bedroom until the bed and floor are covered. Luckily, my husband has the patience of a saint and hasn’t complained about all the little pieces of paper we end up tracking across the house.

What advice would you give to another artist interested in entering one of our design challenges?
My first bit of advice would simply be to enter the competition. Don’t prevent yourself from taking advantage of such an awesome opportunity by worrying about whether your art is good enough. Just enter it and see what happens. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Those circumstances are not very common and should always be ventured.

My second piece of advice goes hand in hand with my first. I think Andy Warhol summed it up perfectly. He said, “Don’t think about making art. Just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” Whatever the outcome of this competition or any other artistic venture you attempt, don’t worry too much about the results. Just keep making more art. If you’re consistent, you’ll eventually stumble upon a great artistic breakthrough that someone will notice and adore.

Check out The Jealous Curator‘s post about Elise’s art!

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Kristy Hadeka & Sean Tice

May 7, 2013

Days before I made it to the Red Hook work space of Sean Tice and Kristy Hadeka, they were putting the finishing touches on Brooklyn Slate Co’s new home, a space that took a hard beating during Hurricane Sandy. A line painted on an exposed brick wall shows where the water came up last October. At the time they were beginning construction on their new office and showroom, and had begun to store all of their merchandise and computers.

Months later, their space is a rustic, welcoming meeting space where they can work on new designs and meet with clients. I was happy to learn that behind the homey facade, Sean and Kristy were as warm as their aesthetic–serving as true advocates of their new neighborhood and neighbors. Take a look inside their work space and see what makes Sean and Kristy (and Garp) of Brooklyn Slate Co such Uncommon Artists.

What are your most essential tools?
Sean: An oversized work table, drafting light box, and good music playing. Editor’s note: The music was indeed very, very good.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
Kristy: When we found this space, it was completely stripped down and raw. We built it out using materials and colors that make us feel really comfortable and at home. It’s open, airy, and relaxing – perfect for finding inspiration.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
K: Red Hook is a great neighborhood to walk around and explore – whenever we need a few minutes, we pick a direction and go for a walk.
S: Our dog also accompanies us at the shop on most days, so we take him to the park in the morning and late afternoon. I usually stop by Baked for a coffee or tea, then we go and throw the ball around.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
K: You should never be afraid to ask for help. Whether you need feedback on an idea you’re working on, or you find yourself managing an area of the business with which you have no experience, it’s important to know you can always go to someone you trust for feedback.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
S: We celebrate small victories every Friday with Beer Friday, when we pair a new beer we haven’t tried before with a cheese. Often, someone on our team will bring in something homemade for us all to enjoy, and we’ll pair a beer with that.
K: A big victory always requires the team head to the Ice House, one of our favorite watering holes in the neighborhood.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
S: We recently started developing other tabletop items that aren’t necessarily made of slate. I typically sketch ideas by hand, but I’m learning Google SketchUp so I can create more detailed renderings.

How do you recharge your creativity?
K: We both love running. It’s a great way to reset or gain perspective, especially when you’re stuck on an idea. There’s also so much to see in New York, and running is the best way to do it.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
S: Collaboration comes into play in two ways – on the one hand, we’re always exploring ways to collaborate with other producers in New York. Within the company, everyone is encouraged to speak up as new ideas come to them. Our shop and office are one and the same, which encourages open communication between everybody. Even if you’re not participating in a particular conversation, just overhearing a discussion can plant a seed in your own mind.

Design

Art Crush: Denise Fiedler

May 3, 2013

I think I have spring and summer fever. The lingering cold and snow here in Colorado has me daydreaming of warmer temperatures… and crushing on Denise Fiedler’s collages. They capture that easygoing charm of summertime so perfectly.

Denise started making collages in 2009 after one serendipitous bout of spring cleaning. While going through her attic, she stumbled upon a box of vintage books and newsprint, which she’d collected over the years from flea markets. Inspired by her forgotten treasures, she decided to transform these ephemeral materials into works of art. She calls this unique artistic endeavor paste.

The yellowing pages and iconic subject matter give her work a wonderful sense of nostalgia. It’s like we’re looking into the past at a simpler time of bicycle rides, ice cream cones, and family road trips in the ol’ station wagon.

To construct these delicate outlines, she carefully carves silhouettes from the vintage pages and assembles the cutouts to adeptly capture the design and essence of her subjects. Denise draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including architecture, animals, food, and people who have caught her eye.

Which one is your favorite? I think I need the ice cream collage. Just imagine, it would be summer on my wall all year round… that sounds pretty great.

See more from Denise in the Uncommon Artist Gallery and read more about the works featured above: Ice Cream, Sunglasses, Woody, Hydrangeas, Dogs.

Design

Art Crush: Audrey Heller

April 26, 2013

Miniatures fascinate me. Maybe it’s because I watched the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids a lot when I was little. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m 5’3″ and holding tiny things makes me feel like a giant… we’ll never know, but I do know this: Audrey Heller’s photographs are seriously crush-worthy.

Audrey transforms common foods and objects into exciting uncharted worlds for her tiny figurines to explore. Her playful and imaginative juxtapositions create some pretty surreal scenarios. Ordinary objects like grapes, cappuccinos, and breakfast cereal become unfamiliar – even dangerous – landscapes.

Like film stills, Audrey’s photos leave you wondering what came before the scene you’re looking at and, more importantly, what will happen to our tiny protagonists next. I’m a little worried about those scuba divers… I mean, how will they get out of that bowl? What if they get eaten? What happens when that shredded wheat gets soggy? Because you know it will…

Audrey is truly my favorite kind of artist – one who thinks outside the box and inspires us to do the same. You can’t help but use your imagination when looking at her photos. They make you think and that’s really what art should do, right?

Audrey Heller lives and works in her native San Francisco Bay Area. Since 1996, her photographs have been shown, shared, published, and collected around the world.

Get a peek inside Audrey’s studio here and learn more about the works featured above: Ripened, Cafe Society, Challenging Conditions, Bound, Fish Out of Water.