Friday, July 11, 2008

Andrea Janosik: Leather and Silver Sensations!

Andrea Janosik

I found Andrea Janosik's stunning work through an internet search. What creativity and skill! I figured that her unusual background was bound to have influenced her highly unique style. Andrea was born in Slovakia, lived in Zambia, Africa as a child, studied in Germany and moved to America where she graduated from the Parsons School of Design and now has a studio in Brooklyn. Here's what she had to say:

Growing up in places so vastly different from each other has, above all, made me appreciate diversity and change, extremes and contrasts. There is no country I could call mine - patriotism is a strange concept to me. It is not a coincidence that I have lived in NY longer than any other city (13 years), feeling more comfortable in the cultural mix of my neighborhood (Williamsburg, Brooklyn) than any other place I've seen.My background has taught me a thing or two about personal rights and liberties: Seen through the eyes of a child and a teenager, Slovakia was controlled (back then the socialist Czechoslovakia), Zambia was wild, Germany was ordered. In comparison NY felt free, has let me be, whoever I wanted to become - What a great spot!

When did you first decide to become a jewelry designer?

In college. I was very indecisive, but I knew that 3D was my thing. As much as I loved drawing and painting - building and constructing something with my hands came more naturally, gave me a bigger thrill. I like to imagine objects in space, not on a flat surface. While spending a year in the product design department and a year in sculpture, I took a course in metalsmithing and knew that was it: small-scaled sculptures that were not styrofoam models but actual end-products, and could even be pieces of art.

What do you think was most valuable about your experience at Parsons?

Parsons had fabulous teachers. They were supportive and inspirational, but also eager to pass on their practical skills.Parsons was also rigorous. It gave me structure that I badly needed, and taught me to be disciplined about my time and my goals. Deadlines are still very important - if I don't schedule and plan, nothing gets done. It was at Parsons where I first combined metal with leather. We were asked to make an object that expressed our personal view of beauty. I made a ring: a simple construction out of sterling silver holding, on the inside, a foam rubber cushion lined with suede. For me 'beauty' was soft and fragile, in need of protection - and what better material to protect it with than cold, sturdy metal.

That 'beauty' ring was just a simple idea, but it started my years-long silver/leather obsession. I first stretched suede or patent over foam, and let it protrude out of perfectly clean, even structures. After using solid, bold colors, I played around with earthy tones. Patterns were next - on both the hard and the soft surfaces. I utilized abstract shapes, then built in literal, humorous references to the African wildlife, since I ran into so many animal prints on leather. One collection turned out sweet, and light-hearted, with soft-petaled flowers, the next was dark and heavy, with only black leather cold and oxidized silver clusters.

Technically, my aim is to challenge myself to find yet new ways of holding the combo together: squeezing, pulling, stacking, stitching, tension-fitting. Visually, I strive to create designs that are bold, unconventional and different, or try to give an old idea a new twist. Repetition bores me.

Where do you find your inspiration?

New inspiration usually evolves from the last piece I finish. One idea comes out of another - it's a constant discovery, and hopefully, improvement.

What do you think are the challenges and opportunities in being both a creative designer and business person?The artistic development of my designs is crucial to me. However, I can't forget that I also have to run a business in order to make art. These are two separate, very different set of skills that I try to keep at a balance. I believe that if one outweighs, the other starts to suffer. Being my own boss of course also means that work never stops. Luckily, I enjoy falling asleep thinking about a visual idea that needs a technical solution.

What advice do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?

The jewelry world is big, ranging from fine/precious to fashion/commercial jewelry, from crafty to artsy/gallery, from mass-produced to one-of-a-kind, from business-oriented to academic. It took me a while to figure this out - only then was I able to find a place in it that worked for me. This summer I had an intern in my studio, a RISD student in her first year of metals. Having exposure to my end of the spectrum gave her a better understanding of what is possible, and what she might be able to do in the future - be it fine or applied art.

Andrea introduces a new collection every year in February at the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore.

It was a pleasure!

Thanks for stopping by.


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