Candy Colored Gems

September 15th, 2011 by Amy Zurcher

Interview with Elizabeth Finn

Green Tourmaline Slice Ring, $1000
Amy: How would you describe your work?
Elizabeth: Elegant and concise.
Amy: What motivates you to make work?
Elizabeth: I am really enjoying the challenge of getting my work in as many stores as possible. That drives me so much—wanting to get my jewelry on as many people as possible without compromising my own personal style and sense of aesthetic.
Amy: What inspires you?
Elizabeth: My grandmother, texture, Jeff Koons. I recently saw the jewelry collection at the V&A and that was mind-blowingly inspirational.
Amy: What are some “must haves” in your studio work space?
Elizabeth: Everything I have is an absolute “must have,” and I find I’m really lacking a lot of essential tools.  Oh and GOOD LIGHTING… can’t stress this enough.
Amy: Are there any SCAD artists that you admire?
Elizabeth: Robert McIntosh, a great friend of mine who is a very talented and successful animator. Beyond his animation, though, he’s an excellent painter and visual artist.
Amy: What are you most proud of?
Elizabeth: My jewelry line!
Amy: What is your background?
Elizabeth: Born and raised in New Orleans by totally insane but very smart people.
Amy: If you were not an artist, you would be a _________.
Elizabeth: Probably a curator or gallerist. I wish that I had traveled to France more. I had the opportunity to work with the Paris-based Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Miami with some amazing artists during Basel and if I weren’t a designer I would definitely follow that line of work. I also worked at Basel this past year helping coordinate Ryan McGinness’ show at a strip club and it was an incredible experience. I think working with artists to get their work out into the public has a very important role in society.
Amy: What challenges do you face when creating?
Elizabeth: Budgetary challenges are the worst. Gold is so expensive!
Amy: What is your design process? Does it start with a sketch? The stone? Or how?
Elizabeth: I never sketch. I start with either a concept or a stone but I work entirely in the material that I know the piece will be made from, and in this case that is gold…my mishaps tend to get very expensive. Every piece is handmade and I currently don’t use any castings in the line.
16ct Tourmaline Slice Ring, $1700
Amy: What blocks your creativity?
Elizabeth: Personal drama, either my own or someone else’s.
Amy: What is the most important thing to you in life?
Elizabeth: My autonomy.
Amy: What is the most important thing to you about your work?
Elizabeth: That I’m still able to make it in ten or twenty years.
Amy: What do you want people to take away?
Elizabeth: Something personal that they covet and can ultimately pass down to their children, or grandchildren.
Amy: How has your life or childhood influenced your work?
Elizabeth: My grandmother was a huge influence. She has amazing style and exposed me to such unique, strange and beautiful jewelry from very early on. And my brother Ryan who is an incredibly weird artist. He exposed me to a lot of artwork that shaped my development as an artist and a creative person. He too is SCAD alumni.
 
Tourmaline Drop Necklace, $640
Amy: Any SCAD professors that had a special impact on you?
Elizabeth: I suppose all of them. My favorite classes were taught by Taweesak Molsawat who is no longer teaching at SCAD. I loved casting, making my own molds. Also, another class was enameling (I think that was with Nell), I really got to go all out in there. The funny thing is that I don’t use either of those techniques in my work currently…but I’m sure I will soon.
Amy: As a successful jewelry designer what advice could you give current jewelry and metal students or other recent graduates?
Elizabeth: Get a job working for another designer… for a while, like at least a few years. Be creative, have fun, make it yourself and don’t sell out. But do listen, so many of my best selling items have developed because of really constructive criticism from friends and store owners.
 
Lapis Pendant Necklace, $700
 Amy: How did you first get your jewelry to major markets?
Elizabeth: The same way I do now, I contacted the store with line sheets and a body of work. Tenacity was key.
Amy: Any big mistakes or pitfalls you could warn against?
Elizabeth: Do not make business personal and don’t take everything about your business personally.
 
Pink Tourmaline Drop Earrings, $800
Amy: Any notable stores that have carried your work?
Elizabeth: To be honest, they are all really great and each store I’m with has an amazing reputation, but yes… I’m currently with Fred Segal in Los Angeles. I’ve had Cindy Sherman buy something at one boutique, and then Liv Tyler at another. That’s the great thing about being in New York City, there’s constant exposure and the store owners are willing to take a risk on an unknown designer simply because they believe in the work.
 
Blue Lapis Drops, $950
Amy: If you could collaborate with any other artist (living or dead), who would that be (AND if you can think of anything, what would you be creating?)
Elizabeth: Oooooh, this is too difficult to answer. I love so many of the contemporary artists out now. I think it would be fun to be in a Ryan Trecartin video or something. Something performance-based where you really get to cut loose. I’ve done some modeling for Ryan McGinness and was photographed by Terry Richardson—that’s all participation at some capacity. But if I were to make something, it would be a performance or a performance-based image of some sort.
 
Turquoise Tourmaline Studs, $680
Amy: What skills do you use in your current business that you did not realize you might need when still in school?
Elizabeth: I’m much better at separating myself from my work than I ever thought I would be. In school I always was so effected by a critique or whatever, but now if I hear something negative about my work I’m able to shrug it off. I strongly believe in the jewelry that I make and have a lot of confidence in it… now if only I could apply that same line of thinking to my personal life, I’d be golden.
Elizabeth Finn graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2003 with a BFA in metals and jewelry.

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