interview by Damon Locks photos by Arthur Mullen
This Chicago jewelry maker has been creating her wares for sale since 2009. I have admired her work for years and decided that it was high time to spread the word about this talented artist/designer.
Your designs are very sculptural, did you grow up with a background in sculpture? How did you arrive at this combination of materials for your jewelry?
I was never formally trained in either sculpture or jewelry design but consider my parents and upbringing to have had a large influence on my work; both of my parents are self-employed glassblowers. I grew up in rural Massachusetts, where my family was always outside playing in my father’s tree farm or our vegetable garden. I first remember creating sculptures inspired by these surroundings using the elements at hand such as wood, moss, and clay.
At seven my parents taught me the basics of glassblowing. The malleability of glass when heated with a flame was entrancing to me. This love of glass continued into my twenties where I found myself searching for new techniques to express myself artistically. I came across stained glass and really took to it; I liked that the properties of stained glass and soldering had many similarities to molten glass in the ways it can be manipulated. This continuous process of exploring and developing my vision for my work has recently brought me to experiment with torched copper enameling, which involves melting glass powder onto copper sheets to create striking colorful patterns. I love the transformative properties that occurs with all of these methods of manipulating glass and metal.
For me, I see your work having a futuristic, science fiction aesthetic mixed with elaborate jewelry from an imaginary ancient culture – the perfect accent to a ceremonial outfit on a far off planet. That is most likely a reflection of my own interests that I impose on your work. Knowing you a little bit, your personal style feels more organic, closer to the countryside than to interplanetary exploration. How do you envision the feel of your work? Do you have a context in mind when you are designing?
When I started experimenting with making jewelry I was initially inspired by tribal jewelry and adornments I had collected from South Asia. I loved the strength in the shapes and the feeling of empowerment they give to the wearer. I strive to create jewelry that incorporates both these bold shapes as well as more delicate and organic elements. The patterns in the copper enamel and the more intricate metalwork that I do tend to emulate things I see in nature.
Are there resources that you go to for inspiration?
Definitely a change of scenery whether to a different neighborhood in the city or a new state energizes both myself and my work. My last visit to Colorado inspired me greatly. The multi-colored lichen growths on rocks I came across influenced the patterns I now make with copper enamel. I also feel that I am influenced by the architecture and shapes that I see while living in Chicago- it definitely contributes to a more industrial look with many of my pieces.
What does your average work day consist of?
I work out of my apartment so it’s easy to get caught up in my work. I can spend hours in my studio, which is great because I really enjoy it, but I am striving towards a more balanced approach. It is something I have yet to master.
Would you ever want your business to be larger so you would have to have others involved in production and sales?
My jewelry feels like an extension of myself and at this point I feel if I had others working with me it wouldn’t feel as personal. Right now I am really enjoying the solitude and satisfaction of creating everything on my own.
You can find Etta’s work at Etta Kostick Jewelry: http://www.ettakostick.com/