Victoria Tillotson, creator of the Chicmetal blog,is also the author of Chic Metal and a jewelry instructor at the School for Visual Arts. Her bold and beautiful piece are made to be noticed and have been published in style publications like Lucky and Allure, as well as worn by television celebrities. Yes, she is pretty busy trying to keep up with everything on her plate: writing, teaching, designing, and selling; however, lucky for us, she carved out a few minutes to answer some questions about her craft and career in this brief interview.
1. Not including playing around as a child, what was the first piece of jewelry that you attempted to make? What was this first experience like?
Like many people, I started with beads. It was the early 1980s and I was a punk rock chick and very into vintage jewelry. I loved aurora borealis beads and anything Egyptian Revival, so my first foray into making anything was to re-string beads from broken necklaces that I bought from flea markets and vintage clothing stores . Since I didn’t know any better and was too arrogant – in that teenage way - to ask for help, I used fishing line to re-string a three-strand aurora borealis necklace. That kinda worked but also created more problems than it solved because the fishing line cut into my neck and even though I was into hardcore and had a taste for the mosh pit, I wasn’t a masochist! From there I started to make earrings from vintage beads strung on blue electricians’ wire, then went on to make necklaces using the bubble containers from gumball machines, housing within them little charms and other knick-knacks. These were lightweight so even though I stubbornly stuck with the fishing line, they were easy to wear.
"Debupunk" Sterling and Hematite Spike Bangle
As an adult, my first piece of jewelry was a sterling silver ring set with a tiger eye stone. This time I asked for advice and actually listened...and the ring is something I still show my students to this day.
2. What originally attracted you to the idea of making jewelry, and what is it about it that keeps you interested in making it today?
As a kid, I liked to make things; I liked jewelry and accessories, so the two interests meshed. When I became more aware of the world and my place within it, I became fascinated with the way in which a person presents him or herself world and the aesthetic choices they made. Even before I learned about semiotics, I “read” the signifiers of dress - and adornment in general – and drew conclusions about the person’s psyche and persona and modeled my own style thereon. Of course we as adults now know that “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” But I wanted to be different and to be different I thought I needed to look different. So I did.
Sterling Stingray Pendant - an early foray into forging
Now I find that I’m interested in the process of making jewelry as well as the result. I enjoy the technical aspects and make pieces which are very precise. I am driven by a persistent desire to make bold, unusual forms that make people stare. I love gigantic colored gemstones and anything ridiculously oversized. Maybe I am still that teenager I described above!
3. You teach jewelry making, write about jewelry, and also sell your jewelry. Which of these three areas take up most of your time? Is there one of the three you wish you had more time to pursue, and if so which is it and what would you like to accomplish given the time?
Filling orders definitely takes the most time and, on some level, is less rewarding than making new things. I probably shouldn’t say that though!! Internet exploits take a lot of time, too. But I can and do write quickly and easily so unless I’m stymied for something to write about, this isn’t too much of a time drain.
I want and NEED more time to create new pieces and new lines. Since I don’t really draw and just jump right into a design, sometimes getting started takes longer than I would like. You make a bezel, whoops it’s the wrong thing, it’s scrapped and you start again. It’s the “experience vs. knowledge” method of creation which harkens back to my earliest forays into jewelry making.
I have no shortage of ideas for jewelry I would like to make. To quote a Beastie Boys song, “I got a million ideas I ain’t even rocked yet.” So it would be great to just start ticking off items from the proverbial jewelry to-do list in my mind. And the list never ends because I have a continual source of inspiration from the 40 or so students I teach each semester.
Studio at School of Visual Arts
4. What plans do you have for your jewelry career in the near future?
I would like to write another book or two and also gain more exposure media personality called upon as a jewelry expert for television, broadband, etc. I love to be in front of the camera inspiring others to make beautiful things.
5. What plans do you have for your jewelry career in the distant future?
Have my own TV show; open my own jewelry school.
6. Is there anything in particular you’d like to add or comment on?
I’m passionate about celebrating jewelry and supporting independent designers. The best part about teaching is empowering others to gain the confidence to express their vision and then do it in ways they never thought possible. I love to share the excitement a person has when they make something and are really psyched about it. I am honored to be part of that process and happy to spread the joy.