Monday, March 10, 2008

Holly Rittenhouse: Subtle Discovery

Holly Rittenhouse in Her Studio

Thanks for stopping by...

One of my favorite Los Angeles boutique stores is freehand located on Third Street among some of the best haunts in town. I love to stop in and gaze at the beautiful jewelry, ceramics, fibers and wood pieces...and the staff is always friendly and accommodating. Not long ago, I went in search of some new jewelry designers and found several works on display that knocked my socks off including the work of Holly Rittenhouse. I am finding that many jewelry designers started their studies and careers in fine turns out that Holly is no exception; originally studying fine art and sculpture, but then turning her focus to jewelry design. Here's what she had to say:

You studied fine art and sculpture, but then chose to focus on jewelry design. Tell us what attracted you to this form of expression?

Jewelry design has all the ingredients of making art, but it’s more fun and rewarding because I can focus solely on aesthetics, form, and function. When making fine art, at least with my background, the emphasis was always on content, then aesthetics. But then I got older and my focus changed. I love jewelry design because I can put my energies into combining form and function with aesthetics.

How would you describe your style?

Contemporary to begin with. I would like to be able to say Modern too, however I think I may not fall into that description strictly. Geometric perhaps, and also casual. I’ve always found it hard to stick to one “style” because a lot of things interest me.
Where do you find your inspiration?

I do look to the Modernist jewelers from the Mid-Century. I also make note of how mechanisms work, on a simple scale, both man-made mechanisms and those in the natural world. And I can’t help but see jewelers working all around me who make the most inspiring work! I love to see it.

I find your work beautifully subtle. What do you find most challenging about achieving this effect?

Why thank you. I would say that ultimately the way it looks is a reflection of the way I solve problems and search for solutions through elements I find intriguing. I self edit A LOT. I think I must be searching for just that particular piece of jewelry that has an element of discovery to it; and you have to get up close to find it. The search is the challenge.

What do you do when you struggle with inspiration?

I have all these parts and bits on my workbench left from unfinished thoughts, or 3-dimensional note-taking if you will, which I use as building blocks for the next group of pieces. I also look at books, or go online to a website called Metalcyberspace. It is an amazing resource of people and information. It has a huge directory of jewelers’ websites. Sometimes, too, I just get out of the studio for a little while; take in new sights and sounds so-to-speak.

What is most challenging for you as an artist to spend the time an energy necessary to make your work successful as a business?

This is something I’m just learning about and I am finding it very challenging indeed to think of what I make as a business. Coming from the fine art background I have, I find it interesting that the things I’m creating cross the line into product. This is a counter intuitive intersection to me. The other challenge is one everyone knows about, organizing time. I have to remember not to let all the tasks involved with business creep in on the highest priority, making the jewelry itself. So I’ve needed to identify the times of day I’m best at being creative and use those to the best advantage. The rest of the hours, p.m. mostly, I use to take care of everything else. My biggest challenge is that I’m not a“p.m.” person.

What do you think are the best ways to market one-of-a-kind jewelry?

My first thought is to say through galleries that promote the Arts and Crafts. Right now, I think that is where people are best able to appreciate and understand the context of this unique jewelry. But it would be nice to come up with new venues for the Arts and Crafts; new ways for people to come across them. Again, I see it as that intersection of art and product/merchandise. It’s new to me and I’m giving it a lot of thought.

You recently tried marketing your jewelry to wholesalers. What was that experience like?

It was eye opening! Of course it was also my first event like it. Up until now I have sold my work only on consignment through galleries.The ACC Baltimore show presented me with a whole new set of variables. I enjoyed being a part of the community of Artists and Craftspeople for that week. Most fascinating is seeing/watching who buyers are, what they look for, what they ask about. Putting yourself in their shoes, you understand that they have looked at 750 booths (overloading!) in a day or two and are making decisions about where to put their money for the coming year–and not a good economic one either.

What advise do you have for other jewelry designers?

Set yourself apart. Advise I need to always keep in mind too.

Holly's amazing work can be seen by May in the following locations:

Mimosa in Saratoga Springs
Ozworks Gallery in Cold Spring
Pistachios in Chicago
Cockerill in Cinncinati
Artswork in LeClaire, Iowa
Silver Works and More in Lawrence, KS
Discoveries in Tustin, CA
Holly also has plans to do retail shows this year such as the La QuintaArts Festival march 14-16 and the Tuscon 4th Street Spring Fair in April.
In the Los Angeles area, Holly's work is also shown at the Pasadena Museum of History and be sure to visit her website:

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