Left: Metalepsis Projects 2012 collection map. Right: A wood-black print of necklace e2.
Growing up in the 1980s, when Roger W. Sperry’s Right Brain-Left Brain Theory was ruling the American educational system, I was quickly classified as a right-brainer, an individual who recognizes the world through “intuitive, thoughtful and subjective terms,” as opposed to the “logical, analytical and objective” methods of left-brainers. Or, as I more tangibly learned in high school, a left-brainer intuitively grasps the periodic table while a right-brainer is left both bored and bewildered by the scientific chart. Consequently, when I was first introduced to Metalepsis Projects’ 2012 collection, I was momentarily intimidated. The conception of former architects Victoria Cho and Astrid Chastka, Metalepsis Projects interweaves architectural theory, including mid-century Scandinavian buildings, with inspirations from fine art—notably Sol LeWitt’s Finite Series—and the natural world into geometric bronze accessories that appear both tribal and elemental. Presented as a tabular display or in the designers’ words a “map,” the collection builds upon itself, interacting and evolving to create new compounds, just like fluorine and nitrogen. Only this time the corollary makes perfect sense, no matter your dominate brain lobe.
Erin Dixon: Tell us about your professional backgrounds.
Victoria Cho: Trained as architects, we practiced in the field for several years after school. We connected over our mutual impulse to create things outside of the office.
Astrid Chastka: Yes, we met working at the same architecture firm in 2008.
Erin: As former architects, what drew you to making jewelry?
Victoria: We have learned so many techniques and skills to make things. We wanted to use those for different [and smaller] applications, in this case jewelry because we both love accessorizing.
Erin: How was Metalepsis Projects born and how did you select its name?
Victoria: We had an idea for laser-cut stainless steel Victorian laces and it evolved from there.
Astrid: In literary terms, metalepsis is a figurative word used repeatedly in slightly different ways or to connect slightly different themes. The meaning of the word evolves with each use. For us, this parallels the design process as it expands to include new ideas and materials.
Erin: When did you first discover Sol LeWitt [whose Infinite Series you name as a primary influence]?
Astrid: In college. For me [it was] in a course called Lessons in Making. It was the class that made me want to transfer into the architecture school. It was the first time I’d ever fully appreciated conceptual art.
Victoria: In my art history class in college.
Erin: What drew you to his work?
Necklaces from the 2012 collection
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Victoria: Modularity is one of the critical concepts involved in the development of modern architecture. Sol LeWitt’s work explores this same concept in artistic territory. Much of his work—sculpture—is an intersection between art and architecture. In drafting our initial idea, we were excited by how he had executed the idea of modularity both in 2D and 3D.
Astrid: And by how he got away with doing only the most fun parts of architecture: thinking, hand-drafting and building models at a smaller scale than buildings!
Erin: Why do you choose to work in bronze?
Astrid: At the start, we knew nothing about making jewelry. We knew how to draw shapes in CAD and laser cut them. We were limited to the materials that the laser fabricators are willing to use with their machinery: stainless steel and brass. The steel felt too cold and, in the end, to laser cut each piece was too expensive. We were forced into learning about the casting process. I think we wanted the feel of something less precious than silver or gold. Bronze immediately felt right.
Erin: Why is it important to you that the pieces evolve over time—e.g., their patina changes as it encounters different elements?
Victoria: It’s a celebration of the inherit properties of the material. It speaks to a certain uniqueness of each piece and, therefore, it becomes very personal.
Astrid: We’re very interested in the dichotomy between mass production and customization. The idea that you can cast multiples from the same mold but still have it personalized, through the choice of combination and patina, is something we design towards.
Erin: How and where are your pieces produced?
Victoria: We first laser-cut samples of all the pieces to make the molds. Then, we have each piece cast. Finally, Astrid and I assemble all the pieces according to the orders.
Astrid: The casting and production happens in New York City. Sam, who owns the casting operation, is Colombian and Victoria is Argentinian. He tells jokes about how arrogant Argentinians are every time one of us is in there.
Erin: What is something else we should know about Metalepsis Project?
Astrid: Metalepsis Projects is also heavily influenced by the artist Steve Keene. Steve’s whole life is a large-scale conceptual art and even a performance art piece that explores the boundaries between mass production and individuality. He is the one who sparked our notion of “making architecture what we want it to be.”