Images from Erin Considine Fall 2012. Photography by Darroch Putnam. Styling by Claire Lampert. Model: Serena at Q Model Management. Jewelry, Erin Considine. Clothing, Where I Was From Vintage.
An exclusive look at and insight into New York-based jewelry designer Erin Considine‘s Fall 2012 collection.
Erin Dixon: Your biography defines you as a third-generation craftsperson; can you tell us about your family? What sort of craftsmanship did you grow up with?
Erin Considine: My parents are designers by profession. In my brother and I they instilled a very hands-on, craft-oriented way of life, with a constant emphasis on aesthetics. Like most moms in the ’70 and ’80s, mine sewed, painted, did ceramics—you name it; she made it. Growing up around the objects and garments she created, as a young woman, was very inspiring. My grandfather was a great tinkerer, engineer and carpenter. He held a job at the local coal mine all his life, but in his spare time he built homes around his tiny Southern Illinois town. In the early 1990s, upon his retirement, he designed and built an incredible new home for himself and my grandmother. It’s built into a hill and is powered by solar panels he made from aluminum cans. He was an adventurous maker, and really cool.
Erin D.: What is the first metalwork you created?
Erin C.: In first metals class in college, I was instructed to create an object utilizing three different soldered joints—a standard assignment for beginning metal students—and I made this pseudo-snow globe scene. It was a miniature cityscape of St. Louis, where I spent my childhood. It was made during a very nostalgic point in my life. I was feeling in tune with my roots and interested in collections and souvenirs, particularly touristy objects like snow globes. Turning that inspiration into a tangible object with my own hands was empowering, especially having to use a material that is usually considered “cold.”
Erin D.: Why did you choose to channel your love for metalworking into jewelry?
Erin C.: I liked the immediacy of creating wearable pieces out of metal, like being able to make a ring or necklace in the studio in a matter of hours and give it as a gift. When I moved to New York City, I aimed to clarify my skill set and focused on working in the jewelry industry here. I was lucky enough to work with designers who still made a lot of their pieces in-house and to learn from those experiences.
Erin D.: How has living in places as disparate as North Carolina, Olympia, Washington and New York City influenced your aesthetic?
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Erin C.: When I lived in more isolated and literally dark places (North Carolina and Olympia), my work was literally darker than it is now. But there were unifying threads in these seemingly incongruous places. In each locale, I’ve found escapes in nature, sometimes closer (Olympia), sometimes a bit farther from my home (New York), but all providing that singularity that emanates from the Earth: a sense of inter-connectedness. Also, I’ve been lucky enough to find communities of like-minded makers and friends in each place, and that kind of support and inspiration is really important to my work.
Erin D.: What makes your jewelry “sustainably minded” and why is sustainability important to you?
Erin C.: I specifically chose that wording to indicate that sustainability is part of the journey in my studio. There’s a lot of “green washing” going on in many industries, and I would rather not make grandiose claims that I know how to do everything right. The studio aims to be a healthy environment. On the metal side, we avoid toxic processes like plating, etching and oxidizing; when working with fibers, we exclusively utilize natural dyes and non-toxic mordants—i.e., no harsh chemicals that traumatize the dyes into activation. The fibers are ethically-sourced or deadstock material. The materials change from season to season based on availability. The work is about the challenge of finding these things and reinterpreting them for jewelry and, through that, learning what sustainability really looks like.
Erin D.: What is your favorite fiber to work with?
Erin C.: I love silk and cotton. They’re the most practical for jewelry applications and take natural dye beautifully. I’m experimenting with new fibers via some side projects with friends, and we’re using a lovely handwoven alpaca/silk blend for one of them. Another involves a dead-stock linen that’s very stiff and creates interesting structure.
Erin D.: Why do humans develop such a strong bond with jewelry, even more so than with clothing, etc.?
Erin C.: It’s our instinctual human tendency towards imagination—i.e., the wearers’ ability to channel the allegory of a given piece. Whether it’s literally (the imagery depicted in the design) or the designer’s intention or process, an aspect of the piece gives people something to attach to, a story of their own to tell at any point in time. I think clothing has the potential for that sort of bond, but clothes are consumed at an astonishing rate, especially in the age of H&M. Jewelry is raw adornment, worn directly on one’s skin; it can feel like protective armor or like tangible pieces of our memories.
Erin D.: Do you have a piece of jewelry you wear every day?
Erin C.: The Lunate necklace, which also doubles as a bracelet, pretty much goes with me everywhere. It’s a piece that I continue to make in different colorways season after season. My Lee Hale thorn studs and All for the Mountain boob ring are other go-to pieces.
Erin D.: What’s special about this collection (F/W12)?
Erin C.: With this collection, I continued to investigate new methods of textile manipulation, and the extensive possibilities of integrating them with metal. For most of the Fall 2012 pieces, I hand-wax each thread of cotton or silk yarn after dyeing (using madder, logwood, fustic, tea tannin and iron) and sew, weave, wrap or some combination thereof. The web-like pendant forms were born of two disparate influences—the “stick charts” created by the natives of the Marshall Islands and the drawings of the Modernist painter Terry Winters. With this imagery in mind, the pendants were sculpted from wax. The pendants and chain are the closest I’ve come to a more traditional jewelry form.
Erin D.: What are some current inspirations?
Erin C.: Surface design and block printing with natural dyes. I just took an incredible three-day workshop at The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, with Michel Garcia—I’m excited to put my new skills to use.