Amy Tavern Jewelry

Hello. My name is Kandace Brigleb, hailing from Portland, Oregon where I am beyond grateful to spend my days designing away with my husband, Raymond, at Needmore Designs and keeping up, just barely, with my tenacious daughter, Zoë. In work and in play, I am honored to meet and design with people who simply blow my mind with their creativity and vision.

The first pieces of Amy Tavern’s jewelry that I collected were a simple set of silver earrings. (Or so I thought.) These simple earrings were the quiet but unmistakable beginnings of a deep appreciation for Amy’s work. Predictably, new pieces soon followed: a simple brooch here, a stunning necklace there and, to my great delight, my wedding rings. While Amy’s work has evolved considerably over the years, her perspective and impeccable style have remained consistent and clear.

Amy is currently a resident artist at the Penland School of Crafts. Lately, she has been preparing a Solo Exhibition for the Velvet da Vinci Gallery in San Francisco. The show, which is running this month, is a stunning study and reinterpretation of vintage and existing pieces from her grandmother’s jewelry box as well as her own collection. (Given that the other half of my jewelry collection comes from my own grandma and great grandmother, I found this to be a compelling combination.) And so, I was delighted to chat with Amy about everything from her inspiration for the project and design in general to tips for aspiring jewelry collectors like myself.

How did you get started as a designer?
I did lots of beadwork when I was in high school and college and it led to my interest in metalsmithing. In college I studied Arts Administration and took two semesters of studio art my senior year. I loved these courses, especially my ceramics and sculpture classes. I was also an art history minor. I was interested in learning metalsmithing but my school did not have a jewelry program. When I graduated from college I promised myself I would learn metalsmithing someday. About three years later I started taking lessons with metalsmith, Barbara Crocker, in Great Barrington, MA. I studied with her for about a year and then moved to Seattle. A year later I went back to school to get my BFA in Metal Design.

Who is your style icon?
Bjork (and a huge inspiration for me in so many ways!)

Cleopatra before and after. Example from Amy's jewelry box/fabricated memory series.

Where do you draw inspiration from these days?
Graffiti, aerial views, rust and other signs of age, grids, historical jewelry and costume, the work of Agnes Martin and Gerhard Richter.

What is you favorite era for jewelry design?
Renaissance, Victorian, Edwardian

What do you look for when picking out jewelry for yourself?
It varies with every purchase and is usually based on a feeling. I am drawn to all kinds of jewelry and do not discriminate–I love studio jewelry, antique and vintage pieces, trendy stuff, ethnic pieces. My collection includes all of these things. I have heirlooms, pieces made by friends, and things from H&M. I often gravitate towards chains and brooches and pieces that incorporate some kind of fiber or tassels. Jewelry is my go-to souvenir so I always bring something home from every trip. Pieces often symbolize the place I am in in an literal manner, while others are more figurative.

Do you have any jewelry finding/collecting tips?
I always research the museums, galleries, and jewelry stores before I travel and try to revisit favorite places when I return somewhere. A few favorites include De Vera in San Francisco and Erie Basin in Brooklyn.

How did you come up with the theme for your solo show?
My work is formal by nature, but for this show, and for my work in general, I knew it was time to add personal significance to make it stronger, to push it further. I talked to my mentor, Lori Talcott, and to other artist friends about where their ideas come from and how I could add content or concept to my work beyond its inherent formalism. I was given lots to think about and so I did just that, I thought about it and I thought about it a lot. When I was working I was thinking, when I was walking to lunch I was thinking, when I was driving to the grocery store I was thinking. I realized I needed to start with what I know, so I began to consider my own personal history with jewelry. I was interested in studying it to figure out why I make jewelry and to analyze my artistic process. I would come up with ideas and move them around in my head, consider, change, delete, and reconsider until finally I came up with an idea that was multi-faceted and felt authentic to myself.

One series is based on a jewelry box full of costume jewelry that once belonged to my grandmother. The box and its contents, except for one piece, are lost. I tried to remember as many pieces as I could and then recreated them with my formal vocabulary–planes, stylized teardrops, line.

Amy's pieces from collected materials.

The other series is based on my own collection of jewelry. I spent hours photographing the collection and then spent hours studying it to see patterns in both things I had purchased and in the items given to me as gifts. I translated this information into new work made using only found and collected materials–some pieces are based on common threads in my collection, some pieces are based on specific pieces, and for others I simply thought about someone in particular and something he or she gave me.

What sort of process did you have for reinterpreting pieces from the past?
Again, I spent a lot of time thinking, mining my memory for as much information as possible, even a glimpse of a piece of jewelry from my past. I looked at books of antique and costume jewelry and did lots of image searching on Google. I sketched them first, wrote descriptions sometimes, and made paper models to scale. Then I would make the pieces in metal.

Was this your first United States Artists project? What did you think of the experience? Do you have any advice for someone considering this path for an artistic endeavor?
It was my first time using USA Projects. The experience was absolutely fascinating. At first I was not interested at all; the thought of asking people for money made me cringe. Then after some time I realized I had to try because my fear was not a good enough reason to not. At this point my idea had solidified and I was feeling more confident about my project.

My advice is to establish an on-line presence before launching a project. Start blogging, create a Facebook fan page, use Twitter–add content regularly and get people interested in what you are doing. This interaction will only help once it’s time to start asking for money. Be sure your project is specific and clear. Keep your video short and sweet, two minutes tops. Once you start marketing it, be sure to talk about the project everyday. Say something new as often as possible, provide links, be gracious, be really really positive all the time, and most importantly be thankful. Say thank you! (Editor’s note: Amy’s WEBSITEBLOGFACEBOOKTWITTER)

Lavender Pearls and Maple Leaf by Amy Tavern.

How do you balance your creative time and keeping up with your online presence?
I try to limit my time in front of the computer to an hour at the start of my day. I’ve been using Hootsuite to schedule posts which is a helpful and efficient tool. I try to take only 30 minutes to write a blog post.

What do you like to do when you are not in the studio? (Are you ever not in the studio?)
I spend so much time in my studio! I work nearly 7 days a week. When I’m not in there, I love spending time with my friends. I watch TV and movies. I read.

What is on your bookshelf? What are you reading currently?
The new issues of Vogue, Metalsmith, and American Craft magazines. Terry Winters: Paintings, Drawings, Prints 1994-2004 by Terry Winters. Daybook by Anne Truitt. The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor

What are you listening to these days?
Bjork – Biophilia, Minor Threat – The Complete Discography, Aloe Blacc – Good Things, Wild Flag – Wild Flag

What’s next for you?
After the show I hope to get back to some exploring in the studio. I would love to devote my remaining four months in my residency to trying new things and making samples: basically, to return to the place I was at nearly three years ago. I would like to play with layering more spray paint colors and also add texture to the metal before painting. I also have a new series of brooches in mind that combines embroidery and security envelops.

After the residency I will teach an 8-week concentration on beginning jewelry at Penland and then head to Australia to teach in July 2012. After that I will go to Belgium for a solo show. I hope to stay in Europe for about a year to travel, make work, do a residency, and/or teach.

Thanks, Amy! See more of Amy Tavern Jewelry.

P.S. Thank you, Jen, for the opportunity to talk about a designer that I so greatly admire. And also for the kick in the pants to start writing again. (Editor’s note: YAY!)

Amy in front of her installation.


Guest Blog by Kandace from Needmore Designs. You can also find Kandace on Twitter!

2 Responses to “Amy Tavern Jewelry”
  1. Melissa says:

    Jewelry rules my life – every piece I have is some sort of souvenir or gift, or has a special and distinct memory attached (i rarely buy jewelry that doesn’t). It’s cool to see someone else who feels exactly the same. Also, I’m really interested in the ‘Fabricated Memory’ series..I just imagine Amy as a young child, digging through an amazing jewelry box full of vintage costume jewelry – eyes wide, haha. Such a cool concept. My grandmas had epic collections as well, the only difference is that I can’t remember a single thing about any of the pieces!
    Keep it up, Amy. I love everything. Definitely going to be following your work!

  2. Clara Stil says:

    Aw, this was an extremely good post. Taking the time and actual
    effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and
    don’t seem to get nearly anything done.