Friday, 14 June 2013

Interview with the Incredible Jen Parrish of Parrish Relics!

Jen Parrish is the owner and designer of Parrish Relics Jewlery in Boston area of Massachusetts. Her jewellery is very inspirational and has a definite “romance of the past” about it. I feel pleased to know her indirectly from an old friend of mine and it is an honour to interview her.
Do you consider yourself a self-taught artist when creating jewellery or did you learn your craft formally?
I grew up in a very artistic home, my mom was always doing Arts & Crafts projects, and my dad sketched, painted, etched and was a graphic designer for a living. (Teddie Peanut Butter Jars!) Have been sculpting since I was a kid playing with Plasticine. When I got tired of my clay animals getting squashed I moved on to Fimo, an oven-hardened clay and haven’t stopped playing since.
What was your main area of study when studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts?
I studied metalsmithing, stained glass & Art History at SMFA Boston. My favourite time there was the very beginning, where I was in an immersive pre-college summer program that helped plump up your portfolio, as Malden High didn’t have a very varied Art Program and they wanted to show us all the options open to us. It was pretty amazing, taking Print-Making one day, doing site-specific sculpture the next (I was shy so I built mine in a ladies room stall where no one could see me) One of my favourite courses there was called “Glass Plus”. We hammered and chiselled slabs of glass and set them in a concrete mixture. Sandblasting was fun too.
What do you find motivates/inspires you to create your jewellery?
Architecture mainly, particularly Medieval or Gothic Churches.  Venice.  I still haven't been but I am constantly drawn to create shapes that echo the windows that overlook the canals there.  And Nature.  The colours, green and blue, sky and leaves.  Oceans.  Gemstones, semi-precious mostly.  I love Labradorite, it looks like a tiny forest within a stone.  I am motivated to continue because I have stacks of found images I want to recycle, and Stained Glass shards that fill up shelves to the ceiling full, waiting to be made into something.  Love sculpting, creating these tiny frames and hand painting lucky and thankful to have customers who keep me busy and excited to bring new work to my Etsy shop and shows.
Sylvina's Window - Stained Glass & Labradorite Gothic Arch Necklace
Photo used with permission of Parrish Relics

How long have you been making jewellery?
My High School Art teacher knew that I made animals out of clay when I was younger, and suggested I make my own jewellery instead of wearing safety pins, keys, and other various and sundry I was putting through my ears and around my neck. (Hey, it was the 80’s!) I sent her a letter recently to thank her for putting me on my life’s path. She is currently a painter of beautiful landscapes ~
Was there a turning point in your life when you decided to make jewellery or was it a gradual process?

Definitely High School, but I started my fascination for ornamentation early on ~ putting pen springs on my dolls arms, etc. My mom took me to an exhibit at the MFA on Pompeii, and I was fascinated by the jewellery, the relics found in the frozen city. Things weathered, dug up from civilizations long gone. A beauty in the aging process that I saw everywhere in the museum, the patina on metals, rust and verdigris.


What was your experience of your first show like?

My first show was at a Hair Salon around the corner from my High School. The owner, Albie, had a friend who also made jewellery and invited us both to take over for a night. So much fun. That first sale was a thrill, and I was hooked. My first Renaissance Festival was at Vizcaya in Miami, an amazing mansion on the water with formal gardens and human chess matches. I was so in love with the costuming and festive atmosphere. Have been vending at one every year in Ipswich at Hammond Castle, coming up at the end of July! I have the “best seat in the house”, a cloistered room at the top of the stairs leading out to the back yard ~overlooking the ocean on one side, and the performers on the other in the Great Hall. Can’t wait!

Do you have favourite pieces that you find difficult to part with?

Elaborate crowns are always difficult to part with as they take so long to create.  One piece that I made for DIFFA had to be shipped off right after I completed it, but I kept it around long enough to take some photos wearing it J  It is pretty much hard to part with all of my work, as I try to make things that I would want to wear, as opposed what I think other people would like.  That never seems to work for me, it is like they have less "heart" ~ that mysterious piece of ourselves that goes into what we create when we love what we do.  Hope that make sense!  I do have a few particular pieces that I keep for myself, including a necklace with a picture of my cat Athena that I wear when I have something difficult to do.  Like a talisman, she was a wise soul cat friend that I miss very much.


How would you describe your jewellery to someone who had never seen any of your pieces before?

Windows or Shrines to Nature & Art. Amulets, weathered and patinated with age. Historically inspired but modern in technique.

What is a typical day of your life like when you are making your jewellery?

I usually make pieces in batches, first choosing the imagery and stained glass that catches my eye. Then I go downstairs into the “glass shop”, cut and then shape each piece with an electric grinder. Then back up to the studio to form the clay frames around each piece, using various tools to create the patterns and textures, then back down to the oven for firing. Back upstairs to hand-paint at least four different finishes built up to achieve the antiqued layers of “age” that I like to achieve. Then comes the beadwork, but usually these processes are spread over a few days. Additionally I have to photograph & edit each piece for the Etsy shop, then write copy and list them all. Though time consuming, I enjoy each step very much.

What is your long term vision for your business?

Good question! I could be more productive if I outsourced any of these steps but I prefer to do it all myself, possibly because of control freak issues. Or maybe just because I enjoy it and may get bored just doing one part of it only. Now just trying to figure out how to be more prolific, manage my time better. We are hoping to move into a bigger home in a year or two that will make it easier to work faster…be more organized. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Is there other mediums in Art that you do? (Do you paint, draw, etc.?)

I do like to sketch ideas at museums or when I’m out and about and get an inspiration. I love drawing animals, Beatrix Potter was a huge joy for me as a child and still is. Would love to do more illustrations and maybe incorporate them into jewellery someday. Also enjoy Interior Design, ornamenting inside spaces is great fun. Transforming rooms with fabrics and found objects, antiques that I have collected over time thrift-ing and yard sale-ing. Was toying with the idea of doing it for other people as I was asked often enough, but it seems too personal and I don’t think I could be confident enough to tell someone else what their home should look like. I also dabble in making Stained Glass windows, but sadly never have the time and there are a few unfinished projects. David (my partner) and I will be taking pottery classes together in the Fall, excited about that

Do you have other friends that are active in the creative arts and crafts?  If so, what do they do?

So many wonderful people I have met over the years through shows and even online, the creative community is one of the things I treasure most.  Too many to list here but I will start with a few friends that are also on Etsy~
One of my closest friends creates incredible embroidered purses and sumptuous costumes and is also a graphic designer.  We collaborate purses when we can,
( ) and I am lucky to have quite a few of her pieces. Traci, a friend of mine since High School makes jewellery and other crafts (along with the best cupcakes/best goods ever!) Two are illustrative collage artists ~ Zoe & Kurt (also an Architect!) Facebook has helped me reconnect with an old friend who designs really unique clothing out of New Orleans ~    I really could go on for days, but just looking through my favourite shops on Etsy will show lots more:

All photos used with the kind permission of Jen Parrish and Parrish Relics.  An extra special thank you to Jen for this wonderful interview.  Please feel free to visit her website, Parrish Relics, you won't be disappointed!!






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