Thursday, October 29, 2009

emily o'brien interview

Emily O’Brien is a busy girl! With a full time job as manager at Dinosaur Design, Emily balances a great variety of projects. Her jewellery has been snapped up at the National Gallery of Australia and her performance art ‘Optical eyes’ is about to tour. The jewellery range, which if you missed her shows you may never have seen, is so intricate and delicate, each piece could tell a story like art pieces to keep forever. So special, yet so hidden, till today! I have grabbed the talented crafter for an Interview and to showcase some of these little gems!

Do you have a label name for your Jewellery? I haven't really established a label name yet. I have always found it difficult sticking to one idea and for this reason I don't have one! I guess I use my own name for my jewellery pieces, but for my performance art group I managed to fluke it and come up with the name ‘optical eyes’, which perfectly represents what I'm trying to achieve in that field.

Is their a favourite piece of yours and if so which one? With my jewellery I really enjoy playing on words. I find my chip on the shoulder brooch probably the most successful. I also really enjoyed the processes of making my personal baggage series. They're much darker and personal but the element of mystery and sentiment was really fun to explore.

Where do you design and create? Do you have a studio space? At the moment I am working from my garage. It’s a minimal set up, but its working for me at the moment. I hope to move back into a larger studio space when I have more time on my hands!

Do you have a preferred choice in colour and materials? I enjoy working with most materials and I'm a colour freak so I'll add colour wherever I can! But when it comes to the treatment of silver I like it blackened or whitened and nothing in between. I have a real aversion to polished silver. I like the 'softness' that the black or whitened treatment gives. I also enjoy working with aluminium. It’s very soft and so easy to saw! My lecturer Johannes Kuhnen was a pro at annodising aluminium and I learnt the ropes of him. I had a lot of fun experimenting with resist prints and creating layers of colour on aluminium.

Tell me about your background, what led you to design these pieces? I initially started off wanting to do glass art the Canberra School of Art under Steven Proctor, but I was finding it difficult to get accepted so I went and studied Interior Design and Furniture Design. I knew I wanted to be an artist, but I was desperate to study and learn new skills. After graduating from Interior Design I worked heavily as sets and prop design and then costume design. It was whilst working as a costume designer that I realized I was more concerned with working with the body and self. I decided to concern myself more with the tactility of objects and how materials and the way we dress or adorn ourselves represents who we are. This was when I decided I wanted to do Gold and Silversmithing over glass. But in the end my lecturers had a very utilitarian approach to making and I don’t think they initially appreciated my organic approach to goldsmithing. I think this led me to become cheekier and want to push the boundaries of jewellery. I wanted to create narrative jewellery that was also seen as art and not just craft. I found this strange phenomenon amongst goldsmiths with their 'status Brooches’ at gallery openings and I felt the need to comment on this but in a playful way, hence the 'chip on the shoulder'. My personal baggage series came very much from within. They represent personal experiences. I wanted to create charms that commemorate the more devastating life changing experiences we all go through as opposed to the more celebratory events.

What was your first project and what path did this take you on? This is a tricky question. I've feel like I’ve been doing projects for as long as I can remember!! I guess the first major project I did and got paid well for was shortly after I completed my interior design degree. I worked as a costume and prop designer for a multicultural festival ceremony in Canberra. I had a month to make 165 costumes and on top of that I was working 9-5. I work best under pressure!

Who inspires you? And where do you turn for inspiration? I'm inspired by my many things I suppose, and they constantly shift and change. I'm drawn to artists that know how to have fun and often use colour, like Folkert de Jong and Bruce Nauman. I love the playfulness and sometimes seriousness of Otto Kunzli and Gerard Richter’s jewellery. I love the sculptural fashions of issey Miyake and Fortuney. I am heavily into 1960’s minimal furniture design and the psychedelic era and I also get alot of inspiration from films like Vampyros Lesbos, Suspiria, Spellbound..... I could go on forever but I’d just bore you!

Do you have any other creative outlets? hobbies? obsessions? I'm obsessed with psychedelia, be it art, music, fashion.. and this has somehow led me into performance art. I felt kind of frustrated going to so many friends’ gigs and feeling like I was an outsider or had nothing to offer or any input. I really wanted to be a part of what was going on in this scene because there’s so much exciting shit happening locally, but I’m not musically inclined whatsoever. Then I though to myself that visually these gigs can be pretty monotonous. So I decided I'd cut lose and throw some colour around and see what kind of reaction I could get. I just got back from touring for electro fringe this year with John Kilduf from the United States and a bunch of other amazing performers from Australia and Japan. But my obsessions don’t stop there; I like to collect 60's-70's furniture, art, posters and vintage/antique textiles. I am constantly looking at ways of making my home feel more cozy and colourful. I love to entertain so the two go hand in hand I suppose. I am always on the look out for beautiful objects. My house is cluttered with objects and they vary in styles, era and materials.

How do you balance this great variety of creative output? Is jewellery your main focus? And how to you manage your time with this variety? I’m not sure how I do it. Its been a hectic year and I’m looking forward to approaching next year a little differently. I’m hoping to replace my performance art with more installation works and put the focus back on my jewellery in 2010. I’ve always liked to be busy and explore new fields. It keeps me on my toes and it doesn’t allow things to get too stagnate for me which is really important. I find I am too easily distracted so I have to work fast.

Are your designs art pieces? Or wearable? My jewellery aims to be art as wearables. Jewellery in my mind should be personal and sentimental. I believe it’s a representation of the wearer. Like a part of their soul is on display.

Who do you design for? I design primarily for myself. I have done some commission work but I’d like to think that clients approach me for my style and ideas and not just my skills!

Are they somewhere to be seen now? No, sadly not at the moment

What's your proudest achievement? I was pretty pleased to be invited to exhibit in the international craft exhibition, ‘Talente’ in Munich and to also receive a grant to travel there. But early this year the National Gallery of Australia bought some of my 'Hair Chair' combs so I'm pretty thrilled to have that on my resume now!

Where do you see the range going? and what are you looking for to next? I hope to create a new range of hair combs and hopefully launch them in time for the racing carnival next year. Fascinators need a revamp!! I am working on an installation piece at the moment which will be based on puns and parodies.

Which five words best describe you? I have absolutely no idea
 (ha! That’s 5 words!