Friday, June 1, 2012

First Look Fridays: Jewelry Designer Vanessa Gade

Vanessa Gade Jewelry, jewelry designer, interview, fashion, First Look FridaysI've been obsessed with jewelry since before I could talk. The earliest pictures of me all feature necklaces and bracelets! So it's no wonder that I fell in love with Vanessa Gade Jewelry the moment I laid eyes on the line. Vanessa's pieces are delicate but bold, intriguingly sculptural and eye-catching. It's impossible not to notice a Vanessa Gade piece. Read on to discover what inspires Vanessa, the piece that's near and dear to her heart, and so much more.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I grew up along the coast of Southern California, where my parents met in high school! My mom, the most incredibly stylish woman I have ever known, was a foreign exchange student from Belgium in 1964. So while I grew up in a beautiful laidback "beach town," her European style and knowledge of arts and culture were always a powerful influence on me.

Vanessa Gade Jewelry, jewelry designer, interview, fashion, First Look FridaysHow did you first become interested in jewelry, and what led you to become a jewelry designer?
As I kid I was always making things, and usually covered in paint, mud, glue or flour depending upon my latest creative "project." Luckily my mom always encouraged my artistic endeavors and ironically it was my passion for photography that led me to jewelry. I was studying to become a historian at UCSD and was helping to install the new darkroom on campus, which happened to be right next door to the jewelry studio. While passing by on multiple trips carrying cumbersome photo equipment, I caught glimpses of all the tools, molten metal and shiny stones. I wandered in and was hooked!

I continued to take extracurricular courses in jewelry and spent my junior year abroad in Florence studying art history. That was where jewelry became more than just my hobby. Upon my return, I took a job working at an artisan jewelry store and would pester the shop jeweler to teach me tricks of the trade. I struggled with the decision to start a career in academia as a historian or to pursue this new passion I found in jewelry. Finally in 2006 I took the plunge and came to San Francisco to do my professional training in jewelry.

Vanessa Gade Jewelry, jewelry designer, interview, fashion, First Look FridaysHow did the idea for your jewelry line come about, and how did it become a reality?
Before I launched my collection in 2007, I was in my studio sketching some ideas. I knew that I wanted to use the circle, as it has so much resonance and symbolism. However, the circle as a shape in jewelry had already been so "done." I wanted to come up with a way to utilize the circle in a way that was unique and intriguing but at the same time simple. I often wear bangles but take them off when I work and there was a stack laying next to me on my bench. I happened to look over as I was drawing some chain across them and the proverbial light bulb went off. My Inner Circle #101 was created that afternoon and the rest of the Inner Circle collection resulted from that moment!

Where does your design inspiration come from?
I am heavily influenced by strong geometric shapes that I find everywhere -- suspension bridges, ikebana flower arrangements, veins in a leaf, a funky table in a furniture store. The architecture in San Francisco constantly inspires me and sometimes an idea will come just from seeing the shadow of power lines fall across the sidewalk, or looking up at the cables while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.

Vanessa Gade Jewelry, jewelry designer, interview, fashion, First Look Fridays, Vanessa Gade Inner Circle #101 NecklaceIf you could only wear one piece from the line, what would it be and why?
I think it would have to be Inner Circle #101 because it's where it all started, and to this day, still reflects everything I want to incorporate in my jewelry. It's structural and kinetic, thought-provoking yet simple, strong but also feminine. Also, it goes with everything, so it's easy!

What are your top 3 tips for women when it comes to wearing jewelry?
1) Find your "friends." My mom used to marvel at the fact that I became a jewelry designer since she owned so few pieces herself. But what she did own she wore often and called them her "friends," go-to pieces that always made her feel polished and pulled together, they were eye-catching but never flashy, always classy and stylish. Invest in pieces not because they are trendy but because they make you smile each time you put them on.

2) Wear pieces that mean something to you. Jewelry can be so much than just a fashion accessory. Jewelry has been worn since prehistoric times as protective amulets, to bring good luck and signify family and marriage bonds. It doesn't have to be expensive or made of gold -- for months I wore a piece of ribbon tied around my wrist from a temple I visited on my first trip to Japan! I like to buy a piece of jewelry in special places I travel to, or to celebrate milestones in my life. Every time I wear them or even just see them in my collection I smile at the memory they hold. A piece that means something to you will always be in style.

3) Take good care of your jewelry. A few simple tricks go a long way in keeping your jewelry looking its best! Avoid excess contact with moisture and air, try to store it away in a jewelry box or anti-tarnish jewelry pouches. Remove your jewelry before showering and swimming and never take it in chlorine! Put all your lotions, perfumes and hairsprays on before your jewelry as the residue causes increased oxidation. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about keeping your jewelry clean and sparkly.

What can we expect from Vanessa Gade Jewelry going forward?
I am excited to be partnering with DWELL magazine as an exhibitor at their annual DWELL on Design conference where I will be launching my newest collection, FORME, at the end of June!

Being a jewelry designer must be fun -- but what do you do in your spare time?
I haven't moved very far from that little kid always making things. I still love to get my hands dirty in the kitchen -- cooking is such a rewarding creative exercise, you get to eat what you make! Photography is still a big part of my life and I enjoy wandering the city and other places in the world, capturing it through my lens. I think I am always happiest when my hands are creating something.

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