Everybody"s Fancy

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Interview with Rachel Rader

Did you always want to make jewelry?

The jewelry I've been making is really an extension of my empire: the Mermaid Empire. I wanted to make pieces that people could wear that related to my sculptural glass work. I've been making jewelry for as long as I can remember creating. I love that jewelry is the one form of craft that you can make and show off on your body to the world. You can't very well do that with a ceramic teapot. Well, I guess you could but it would look very silly.

Where did you get started?

I received a Bachelors in Fine Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University in Material Studies with a focus in Metalsmithing and Glass making. Susie Ganch really opened my eyes to the possibilities in conceptual jewelry making. She's an amazing instructor! But before that, I would collect shells on the beach when visiting my Grandpa in Florida. I used to talk my Dad into drilling holes in the shells so that I could turn them into jewelry.

What is your design process?

It's a very organic process. I make all the parts I need in a monochromatic scale out of clay, glass and found objects, then I sew a little cushion. Next, I spend hours watching Hulu and covering the little cushion in all the made-parts with thread and needle. It's so satisfying covering every little nook and cranny of such a small space.

I've noticed a lot of your work has an aquatic theme, can you give us an idea of where this started?

I watched The Little Mermaid on VHS as a little girl, until the tape wore out. Since then, I've had an increasing fascination with the ocean. It's the one last place on earth that seems to enchant people with a mysteriousness found in fairy tales. A vast portion of the ocean is unexplored, and I suppose it's human nature to deem mystery synonymous with magic like the magical forests in European folklore. The magical creatures of these tales always lived in the dark mysterious woods just outside of the kingdom.

Favorite materials to work with?

Austrian crystal beads, pearls, and anything luxurious. But I really love pairing all of those precious materials with the unexpected like plastic seaweed.

Resources you're willing to share with other jewelers & the public?

If you haven't been to the Seattle Aquarium, go and pet the sea anemones!

Have you ever made a piece that embarrassed you?

I'm always making work that puts my inner feelings out into the public. So, when I go to explain why I made the object I wonder if it's a bit TMI, (too much information). I was making a lot of work before the Mermaid Jewels that focused in on my frustrations as a young woman who's Dad really wants her to find a nice Jewish husband. My attitude in reaction was that I wanted to be my own Prince Charming and that I could do it all on my own. See? TMI. I'm still aware of this theme in my work, but I work with it in a more subdued tone.

Who is your design hero?

Andreas Schl├╝ter. He designed the Amber Room which is now in the Catherine Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It's a room covered in amber. It doesn't get more decadent than that! Unless you're eating chocolate cake in the Amber Room, and washing it down with hot chocolate.