Friday, March 01, 2013

Marrying the Designer with the Traveler

Carved coral earrings from the Italian side of my family, remixed with antique trade bead tubes found at Mozambique Island. 14k and 10k gold hardware.

I've been working hard over the past few days to update my Alexandra Amaro jewelry website. I am trying to bridge the gap between what I am making in art school for my senior thesis and the work that I make otherwise. Check out the progress here.

For a long time I've felt like I have two distinct jewelry styles: "designer Ali" and "worldly Ali".

The first is clean, almost minimalist organic geometry. It's what happens when I sit down and sketch out a plan for a piece. "Designer Ali" is commercial, appealing to a wide audience, easy to wear. It is also, in the words of many a professor and peer at CCA, "safe work." Safe work isn't necessarily bad, but it isn't innovative or especially outstanding.

My other style, "worldly Ali," has its roots in what I loved making in Mozambique: fusion work that brings together various antique, ethnic, travel-inspired elements in a high-touch presentation. I've refined that look, and I love it. But it's very different from "designer Ali."

I often think that if you put the two categories of work side by side, nobody would ever believe that the same artist made them. On a certain level, this has always bothered me. I've long wanted to reconcile these two parts of my creative self, to marry them and create a hybrid offspring. With each new piece I make for my senior project, I believe I am coming closer.

The big question I am asked these days is, "So what are you going to do once you graduate?"

Honestly, I don't know. I have lots of ideas, I can see several viable paths to follow, but I don't really know what I want in terms of a grand strategy.

I know a few things, though:

- I want to continue working in the style of my senior thesis work. "Origins and Routes" is the kind of work I've always dreamed of doing. I find it highly fulfilling, exciting, and motivating (even when it's frustrating). I love working with materials from distant places and times. I am obsessed with where things came from, who used to own them, what path they traveled to reach me. I like telling stories about identity and place through materials. This style of cultural re-mix work speaks to me in a major way, and I feel that I should keep doing it, even if it's not immediately obvious who would buy it or where I would sell it successfully.

- I don't enjoy making the same thing twice. Yes, this will improve once I get an assistant and don't have to do 100% of the grunt work (e.g. filing, sanding, polishing, cutting) associated with metalsmithing. However, it's a fact that I am a one-of-a-kind girl. That said, I know that being able to work in some sort of production model is helpful (necessary, even). I believe the solution is to work in series, but the details are still becoming clear.

- I want to make things that nobody else could make. Us metalsmiths are a pretty versatile lot. We have mad skills, and once we are trained we can work in essentially any style, making any kind of piece. I could make a Tiffany-style solitaire engagement ring just as readily as I could make a necklace out of found objects and melted plastic. So it comes down to a unique vision. I believe my Origins and Routes work is on the right path here, too. Yes, technically others could assemble or form these pieces, but nobody will ever have the same vision I do when it comes to the cultural mash-up.

- I don't want to grow to hate being a jeweler. I know it's a possibility, that burn-out is hugely common especially when acting as a one woman operation. But I really, really, really want to avoid it. I also don't want my hands to crap out on me. I have problems with tendonitis and fatigue and pain, but it's manageable as long as I don't abuse my body with long hours and horribly repetitive tasks.

Other than that, it's pretty much up in the air. I have faith that as graduation draws closer, answers will become more obvious. Until then, I will continue to prepare as much as possible for that elusive next step. Website updates, photo shoots, business plan brainstorming, gallery and boutique scouting, and everything else that seems of use no matter which path I decide to follow.


Anonymous said...

gorgoeus model.
how would it look with no lipstick? the earrings will look stunning with her eyes....

Ali la Loca said...

Yes, she is lovely.

We did a shoot with a neutral lip and it definitely makes the jewelry the 100% focus. I do like the colored lip, for a more fashion look, but probably for a portfolio I'd stay more subtle.

Thanks for your ideas!