How was pole class?
Pole class wass awesome. They just introduced this new skit: I got to do an inversion for the first time today which was huge accomplishment, and I can get my knees to my chest which I’ve been trying to do for like a year and a half.
Wait, lets back up. What is pole class? Is it like stripper dancing?
Yeah! It’s stripper dancing. But there are different pole classes. In some you wear high heels, some you don’t. This one is like a pole studio within a yoga studio so its kinda like showing you how to move your body in a sensual way but its still more of an acrobatic focus..
So will you be able to get a job as a stripper later on?
I could’ve probably gotten a job as a stripper before fucking pole class. (laughter)
But you’re always taking classes, right?
Yeah.
You do the hot yoga, don’t you? And what’s that called?
Yes, I do the hot yoga: its called Bikram but there are a lot of different types of hot yoga.
Whats the most intense hot yoga you’ve done? Bikram?
Yeah, it’s probably Bikram.
I met a girl once who did like a yoga marathon thing where she did it everyday for a certain amount of time for like a month and a half. Is that something that?
I did that. I did it everyday for almost two months. Or 4 months, or something like that.
What does that do to you?
Well, I did it because crocheting busted my body so badly that I was just in pain all the time and I had been pretty athletic as a kid. Never playing any sports, but I would do things like gymnastics and dance and figure skating, a little ballet: like Canadian girl stuff. And when I was traveling a lot for jewelry, which I still am, but then not having an apartment and was basically crocheting in the passenger seat of a car for like a year, it just busted my body super bad and I was in a lot of pain.
Did you start crocheting with metal or were you at first using fabrics and stuff?
I probably learned how to knit like a year or a year and a half before I started making jewelry. And I knew how to knit pretty well. My grandmother had taught me how, but it never really stuck. I just didn’t really care.
How old were you when she tried to teach you?
I think she tried just every now and again, but I don’t know. [Eventually] I bought my own needles and just got super good at it, and it just kind of stuck. I lived in Montreal and it was super cold and we would just watch movies and I would knit and crochet and then I started taking fibers classes.
And then you started working with chain?
Yeah I started working with chain because I always had different projects for my fibers class so I’d go into these fabric stores, and I don’t really know how to sew – I don’t really get inspiration on how to make something unless I know how to make it. So I’d go to these trim and fabric stores and it was all shit, I didn’t want to work with any of it. But there was this costume chain and I bought a bunch of it and tried desperately to work it into my work. I tried knitting it and it would fall apart. I became really determined to figure it out. But it was also really difficult to source.
How many years were you doing it by yourself before you started teaching other people?
Maybe a year.
It was only a year before you started needing assistance?
Yeah.
That’s fast, don’t you think?
Yeah. Well, basically I had started selling a couple pieces at this shop, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, cause I was doing an internship with Judy [Rosen] who does these high waist, slutty jeans. You’ve seen her stuff. I interned for her. But I was there very early and she mentioned me a little bit, but her design philosophy is very different from mine and I was only really wanting mine at that time.
What are your design philosophies?
When it comes to crocheting chain, it’s really about not forcing it.
Like not forcing materials to do something else?
Yeah, you just can’t with this stuff. It’s about making it look as harmonious as it can.
What would forcing it end up making it look like?
Maybe knobby, or it could break and the whole thing’s fucked and you just wasted all your time and your materials. It’s a pain in the ass.. there’s that and then, I mean usually if I have an idea I have to make it pretty fast, I don’t really draw it or anything.
Were you into jewelry before?
Oh yeah, I wore jewelry but not really fine jewelry.
What makes a piece of jewelry good to you? Or what makes you excited or the jewelry respected or appreciated by you?
That’s a tough one. Colors. I get really attracted to certain colors and I don’t like stuff that’s too trendy usually.
One of the things I really appreciate about what you make is that it’s not didactic or figurative, but it’s also not modernist.
Yeah, but it is kind of minimalist in a way. The thing with this technique that I’ve loved about it is that its not something that I like created every aspect of. I’m not claiming that I’m the first person to ever crochet chain, but I definitely developed my own language with it. And for the longest time I never had even a clasp, so I just had to make stuff at least 22 inches so it could fit over your head. And I just remember when I was sitting here trying to make pieces to sell, I was like combing through all the jewelry district spots that you could buy anything and it just never worked. It was always like the holes weren’t big enough or whatever. It was just like there was nothing made that I could integrate in a harmonious way and it just always looked shitty. And I also had zero jewelry experience and no silver-smithing experience ever. I soldered something for the first time a year ago: I just don’t do that. I have someone now that’s worked with me for 3 years now who does that and we’ve developed work together. When she first started working for me she was also doing crochet work so she has a base understanding of what my requirements are to be able to integrate a piece of hardware into a piece.
So how did it go from making a single piece and interning in New York and then a year later teaching someone else how to make these?
Well I was making all these single pieces and I was trying to sell them at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly but it just wasn’t working out. It was really expensive. And then I pulled it out of there and I was also interning for Peter Coffin at that time and he would bring me to all kinds of gallery openings and I would just like, have a bag of all my shit and I would wear a piece and just be hawking it at gallery opening. [laughter]
Really? You were actually trying to sell them to people?
Well. They would be like, “Oh my god, that’s so amazing.” and I’m just like, “Well I’ve got a whole bag of this.” and they’re all, “Oh my god, I’ve never seen anything like this. “ or “I really wanna buy one. How do I get one?”
You get that response a lot.
Well, yeah. It’s kind of like, the second people touch it they must have it.
Why do you think that is?
I think people can’t really tell how its made right away and it looks really hand made and I think just weight of it is very luxurious and it adjusts to your body temperature. Its kind of like when you have your leather jacket and it just becomes you or your pair of blue jeans and they just become you, these kind of do the same thing. And it feels amazing though. Because I’m working with it all the time, I’m sick to death of it but if I take a break for a while and don’t touch it, when I do again it’s a really beautiful feeling.
Wait. Let’s backtrack again to where you’re hawking your stuff at galleries.
Okay, so I’m like hawking my stuff to like people who like run DIA: Beacon and shit [laughter]. Or no, Justin Lieberman: I used to hang out in this coffee shop all the time and he was always there and he bought something off of me for his girlfriend once. So he was one of my first clients.
How much would a piece cost back then?
Usually I tried to get it to retail from $200 to $550.
And then if you sold someone something at a gallery or something?
Well, Justin’s piece at the coffee shop I sold to him for like $450. That’s pretty big. I mean at that time it also took me a lot longer to make them also.
And you were making them all by yourself?
Yeah.
That’s crazy.
But what ended up happening was that they were sitting at Judy’s spot, and that summer I just became really interested in New York and I was ready to just stay and not finish school. But I had to go back to school and I was bored to death. So the way that I would make it feel like it was worth my time was that I would just crochet all the time. So I ended up getting really good at it and I got really fast at it. So then I came back to New York eventually and I shot my look book. I went to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly to try to get a check or something cause they had sold one piece in a matter of seven months and I just ended up taking everything and Michelle was like, “You gotta go to No. 6, you gotta go to No. 6.” So went to No. 6 and I remember them just taking out this bag and throwing everything on the table and Karen being like, “Oh my fucking god: what can we have?” So I just left it and scribbled everything down and I called Karen from the bus like 2 hours later, and she told me they had already sold a $500 piece. And then three days later there was a feature in the New York Times and Clare Danes bought a piece and, I don’t know, it just had impact. And it was great because they were just selling a lot and it was fueling it, you know. I was getting more money to buy materials, then I started looking for silver, which is also a pain in the ass. But it was all really, really fun. I was making one of a kind pieces. Everything was different. Everything would sell. And Karen was always asking me to make things “like this or like this”, but it was so fun. Then I started selling at Reborn in Montreal. And I still sell at these places, they’re two of my shops. But she had seen me at a craft fair and that was a similar story, all one of a kind pieces and again really fun.
So how has your jewelry evolved from that point to now?
Well since that point, I have graduated school, I had made those masks, and I was trying to make a collection, and make my own line sheets, and figure out my own pricing and stuff. [Ö] Mary-Catharine [Arielle’s business partner] had quit Pop Montreal and moved back to Vancouver to work with her brother and had made a bunch of money doing that and the thing is, she had crashed on our couch for like four months so she offered to fly me out to Vancouver as a gesture or just saying thank you for letting me stay on your couch for so long. And I went to Vancouver and she was planning a drive across the States, which was totally something I wanted to do really badly. And what ended up happening was I got to Vancouver and within the first couple of days I got a call from an organization in New York called GenArt, who I had had a couple of meetings with, and they asked me to participate in the [event] “Fresh Faces of Fashion”, but they said that I had to have a lookbook and solid collection and that I had to have my prices together. And that was happening within like a month. So Mary-Catharine just helped me with it. And I had this whole sample kit, and I had all of my prices. So basically what we did was on this trip, in each city we stopped, I had a few shops in mind that we would go to and I would really just wear a piece and try a bunch of shit on and kinda just wait until they asked what the jewelry was and then we’d like roll out the sample kit.
It sounds like a racket.
Yeah it was really fun. And that’s where I met Greg, who owns Assembly New York now. He was running Scout and he placed an order on the spot and that’s where I met Jade from Creatures of Comfort. It’s funny, I met them both in LA at that time and now they’re both in New York. And that’s where I met Stand Up ComedyÖ
During this road trip?
Yeah, I just did a lot of invaluable ground research. All financed off of a fucking credit card. [Ö] MCat and I went to Paris and set up an appointment with Rendezvous [Showroom] and showed with them, generated some more interest, picked up some Japanese clients, and it just snowballed.
And then eventually you had to make patterns so that other people could manufacture them?
Yeah. Around that time that I had done the road trip I had put out a Myspace post to everyone just being like “I need a crocheter!” and that’s when Sophia wrote back to me and this other girl Monique. I met with them a couple of times and started training them how to do it and that’s one of the reasons the studio is in Montreal, because that’s where I started training these girls and they were great.
But do you feel like there’s been an aesthetic shift?
Oh definitely. I’m more playful now then I was because at that point I was really unsure of my footing, in a way, and this is not a negative thing at all, but I was trying to make extremely classic shapes and I was trying to make it all pretty simple. I was trying to make things quite practical for people. And, for one, I didn’t have color. I had gold plated silver, oxidized silver, silver, and then like midnight silver. That was my color palette that I could work with and I only had one cut of chain at that time which was just cable chain, big and small. And that’s how I worked out everything. It was just a lot simpler. The 2008 collection was like my basics. And we’re still selling a lot of that shit.
How many collections have you done so far?
Well, collections for where I had lookbooks, four. But I’ve done one lookbook a year basically and I’ve done another collection within each season, so now there have been like seven.
So is the main evolution being able to work with new materials and stuff?
Well, yeah I mean we found this stainless steel supplier. At that time silver was expensive, it was really expensive, but it was not nearly as expensive then as it is now. Things have changed a lot. I’ve become more experimental. In the first collection I didn’t have any wax carvings or brass carvings, for example. Each collection kind of has something new. My first collection was the basic one, and my second I had curved chain where I was able to make things more spaced out. And in my first collection, I was only working with one stitch and then I worked with a couple different kinds of stitches in the second collection and then the next collection I got color and was able to make really bombastic color pieces and that’s when I had spectrum introduced, which I’m still using. And now I have more colors at my disposal so that I can really plan out my palette. And now this last collection was the first one where we put stones in.
I ran into this girl the other day that was wearing one of your rings and it was literally a bundle of knots and at the very tip of there were like a couple of threads hanging out. What does that mean to you? As opposed to a traditional piece of jewelry, that’s normally self-contained.
Yeah it’s very static.
Exactly.
I mean, that’s how the world is isn’t it? [laughter] It’s just about not controlling it. I feel like the jewelry kind of reflects the way that I’ve worn clothing or how I cook, in that I make jewelry where I’ll have an idea and I just make it. I never have a recipe and I can’t always necessarily make the same thing twice. The jewelry, at least, I have one there to match it but if something fucks up then I’ll just turn it into something else. It reminds me of an ex who used to make these intense drawings and would fuck something up and be like, “GOD DAMNITTT!” and then he would just throw it all away and I never do that shit. I just make it work. I just make everything work.
But it’s also kind of like, an openness. I feel that your jewelry actually reflects that, as like a political position. Like, “Don’t try to contain it, don’t try to control it, just let it be and let it exist organically and see what happens and see how it feels.
Yeah, and just trust that it’s not broken. [laughter] Another thing about this whole adventure is that I was able to contain my whole studio in a suitcase and I could do it anywhere. Now I can’t do it anywhere because my body is all busted from doing it anywhere.
Yeah. What’s this thing on your wrist?
Yeah. That’s a ganglion cyst.
I remember a friend had one of those and she had to hit it with a book.
Yeah I don’t know. I’m supposed to hit it with a book, I’ve just never done it.
Does the jewelry you make reflect your experiences in life?
Yeah. It’s got to. I don’t really know how to explain it literally but I know it does. It’s gotten more confident. I think it definitely reflects in like a 5 degrees kind of way of all my influences. You know like painting and textiles and cars and weird signs in bodegas and commercial products that I just pay a lot of attention to.
When I was looking through your old lookbooks I started to recognize an undercurrent that was almost like a political stance.
Well, yeah. It’s funny because it’s kind of like a passive political stance. I’ve always been a lot better at knowing what I didn’t want to be than what I necessarily wanted to be. And I think you’ve even experienced this with me, like, “I don’t want it to be like that or I don’t want it to be like that.” And it definitely reflects an approach towards the world.
The girls that you photograph or the models that you photograph are such strong personalities.
All my models are just people that I get fixated on.
It’s really personal?
It’s really personal. And there have been a couple of shoots that I’ve done with models that I hadn’t personally chosen or that I hadn’t felt that strongly about and it just never goes right. I mean no ones ever seen those photos. [laughter] I’ve done maybe four shoots like that, and I just don’t show them.