An Interview with Jodi Rae

September 23, 2014

As quoted form her site “Jewelry designer and owner Jodi Rae, is a skilled designer, creator, craftsman, artist and metal smith specializing in custom jewelry for both women and men. Choosing materials like sterling silver, high karat golds, semiprecious and precious gems and one of a kind stones, Jodi Rae uses diverse signature techniques  in her jewelry making, to create wearable pieces that are truly unique”. With a look into the windows of Eliza Page you can see this to be true.  Inside those walls are the delicate and dazzling pieces created by Jodi Rae, but with this interview we want to give you a glimpse inside the innoative mastermind behind some of the beautiful pieces that litter the shelves down at 229 W 2nd St. With only a little look at her background, we wish to show that Jodi Rae is more than a designer, but a creator of fashion and style.

Did you have any formal training in jewelry design and creation? How did you come to realize your talent?
I trained intensively for 8 months with an international faculty of teachers at Fuji Studios in Florence, Italy.  I received several certificates from them, including a 500 hour jewelry certificate, a stone setting certificate, Mokume Gane, and casting and wax modeling.  The program took me through a long list of ancient fabrication techniques, starting with marriage of metals and ending with some incredibly difficult techniques like filigree and granulation.
In regard to realizing my talent… making jewelry was something I did from a very early age.  I remember the satisfaction I got from putting together beautiful patterns of beads and creating something that I could wear.  I loved seeing my jewelry on other people, and at age eight I started selling my creations at jewelry parties and to several local shops in the neighboring town to where I grew up.  I guess it was just always in my blood!  My mom and grandmother used to take me to the gem shows in Chicago, and I started buying beads and treasures to create with.  They really nurtured this passion in me; and the gem show was always such a special day, three generations going out together and having an adventure.  Even back then I would hunt for the most unique things I could find or things I had never seen.  This has always jazzed me up!
One occasion that still stands out in my mind was when I was in college on a trip to Italy with some friends.  The hostel in town was full, and we were camping on a very rocky beach in Cinque Terre (one of my favorite places in the world!).  A group of guys got off the train and started to set up camp on the beach, and I struck up a conversation with  one of them. I soon realized that I had made the necklace he was wearing!  It was in my handmade fimo bead, leather cord and carved olive pit bead phase.  I asked where he had gotten it and he said his brother who lived in Boulder, Colorado (where I was in college) gave it to him as a gift. He told me he wore it everyday and absolutely loved it!   This moment, being across the world in the middle of nowhere and seeing my jewelry on a complete stranger who was loving it, really stuck with me. It made me see the joy and specialness I could provide for people using my talent and passion for making jewelry.

2. What was the first piece you ever created? How have your designs evolved?
The first piece I ever created was at a very young age.  It was a rainy day at Brownie camp, so we were doing arts and crafts.  I was making a necklace with silver seed beads, and I remember the pattern I created, and digging through all the beads to find the few silver ones that were there.  I have evolved through so many phases since then!  From beads to some wacky stuff like gum wrappers and rolled magazine pages, to fimo clay and hemp string.  I started metalsmithing after college and my metal designs started very shiny, with shapes that were inspired by my time studying in Italy.  I used a lot of tourmaline, garnet and amethyst cabochons.   At my first Tucson gem show, I discovered the amazing and vast array of materials, cuts and qualities out there, and I moved into different stones like jaspers, agates, geodes, and fossils, as well as from smooth cabochons to sparkly rose cuts. I then entered a big swirl phase, which morphed into circles. After that, I moved into more matte silver, oxidation, and stamping, which has become my signature style.  My designs are in constant evolution as I move through life, discover new treasures and find myself inspired by different things.

3. Walk us through your creative process for each piece – choosing materials, design development, etc. Where do you draw inspirations from?

My creative process begins long before I start making a piece.  It begins when I am shopping for stones.  This treasure hunt is a huge inspiration for me as I take in the shapes, colors, patterns and textures out there.  The Tucson gem show is the biggest in the world, and it fills up a huge portion of the city with vendors from all corners of the globe selling everything you could ever imagine. I love scouring as many nooks and crannies for treasures as time will allow.  When I sit down to create a piece, I will look through my collection of stones and find one, or a group, that are screaming at me.  I hang out with each stone and just kind of feel what it needs to accentuate its natural beauty without competing or taking away from it.  I love playing with little details like bezel accents, little stamp marks, and chain shapes.  The chains are always an integral part of my pieces.  I don’t think in pendants, I think in the whole necklace: how will it lay, how will it feel, how can I make this a bit more unique or quirky, make it a knockout without distracting from the amazing stone? My process is really organic; I rarely sketch or plan out an entire piece beforehand.  I will draw rough shapes and ideas, but I like to just get in there, start to play and see what kind of magic happens. This is exhilarating to me!

4. Your collections have entirely intricate and handcrafted statement pieces, tell me about why this is important to you as a designer and what challenges come along during the design process?

Statement pieces are some of my favorites to make.  They allow me to push outside of my comfort zone, to play with patience and push my vision.  They allow me to get bigger and bolder.  One of the main challenges in creating a statement piece is in figuring out proportion; this is a time-consuming process with a lot of trial and error.  I have very specific ideas about proportion and balance that are an innate part of my design, and working these ideas out takes experimentation and focus.  Another challenge is to make sure the piece is wearable.  I want to make it bold and striking, but comfortable enough to wear, enjoy and feel amazing in.

5. How has moving to Austin influenced your design style?

Moving to Austin has shifted me into a more bright-and-sparkly mood! I find myself using brighter colors, more sparkles, and lots of labradorite, rainbow moonstone and drusy.  I also find myself leaning toward more natural inspiration, rather than the urban and gritty feel I was immersed in when I lived in Chicago.

6. Are there other things in the jewelry world you’d like to do that you haven’t yet? Past the realm of jewelry

There is so much more I want to learn!  So many techniques to explore like chasing and repousée, and new metals to play with like argentium silver.  I would also love to take Gemology courses to expand my knowledge of the vast amazingness that are gems!  I want to keep honing my skills and pushing my limits in creating timeless pieces that bring joy to people’s lives!

What do you like most about making jewelry?
I really love everything about making jewelry!  From the hunt for unique and amazing stones, to the hands-on feeling of hammering, sawing, and stamping, to the merging of metal with fire and getting dirty, to seeing someone fall in love with one of my pieces and take it home. I love seeing people rock their jewels to show their style, hearing how much they love them, how they get compliments and wear them every day.  I love seeing their smiling faces when they come back to add to their collections. That is a kind of satisfaction that fills my heart with joy… knowing that something I have made with my own two hands can affect someone’s life in such a joyful and expressive way, every day.

8. What are some of your must have pieces when it comes to jewelry? If you had to pick just one piece to wear? (I know, it might be tough)
For me, I am really into wearing labradorite right now. I love the grounding feeling it gives me.  So my three personal must-haves are my big labradorite power ring, my big labradorite necklace and some dangly earrings with a little sparkle. If I really had to choose one piece to wear in a pinch, it would be my dangly chain earrings with discs (the “Dana Earrings,” after my beautiful cousin) because they make me feel glamorous and put together, even if I am in my studio clothes, covered in silver dust and polishing compound!

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