Sunday, June 19, 2011

An Interview with Riv of Purpleshiny Creations

By Riv of Purpleshiny Creations

BH: Tell us about yourself.

Riv: Hi! My “real name” is Christina Hawkes, but I prefer to go by my nickname: Riv. I'm a purple-haired MIT grad (class of '07) who's a software engineer by day and a metalsmith in my evenings and weekends. Growing up, my family lived in a bunch of places in the western US (my dad works for the US Forest Service). Now I live in Inman Square in Cambridge with my partner, in a huge Victorian house that's been turned into a 6-person co-op.

BH: How long have you been doing your artwork/craft? Assembled workspace!
Riv: I'm one of those people who's been doing some kind of craft my whole life—but I really started exploring jewelry seriously in 2008, and I took a metalsmithing class at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in the summer of 2009. Soon after that, I spent some months renting bench space and getting advice and help from John Lerner in Joy Street Studios. Then in the spring of 2010, I set up my own workspace in my basement!

Some of my metalworking toolsBH: Please describe your creative process (how, when, materials, etc). Riv: I make jewelry in evenings and weekends, but the process starts long before I get to my basement studio. I always have a notebook at hand, and I fill its pages with sketches, bits of stories, musings on ways to put things together, and abstract scribbles. By the time I head downstairs, I'll have a detailed plan for my next project. Then, I use hammers, torches, power tools, oxidizing chemicals, and other fun things! I work with a mix of copper and sterling silver, and I love to incorporate both conventional gemstones and unorthodox objects like watch parts and insect wings.

BH: What do you love most about what you make?
Riv: I love holding something I've just made and imagining that it came from another world. That it was once the medallion given to a swordmaiden after battle, a totem of a leader of an imaginary village, or a relic of a nearly-forgotten saint. Tracing my hands across the rough and smooth edges, tilting it to catch the light. Metalsmithing creates objects that feel so very solid and real to me, and that's what makes me incredibly proud of the things I make.

BH: What's your most interesting fair/show experience?
Riv: When I was just starting to wire-wrap watch parts into jewelry, a friend who lives in a crazy warehouse collective in California was having an underground craft market. So I shipped my jewelry across the country in a Priority Mail box, and with the help of a friend who lived in the neighborhood, I vended via webcam! It was a pretty strange but fun experiment—and it really made me value the immediacy and clarity of talking to people in person when I went on to vend in more local shows. When I vended at International Steampunk City in May, I set up a demo outside and got to talk to all the passersby as I worked on an ancient-looking steampunk pendant!

BH: Read any good books lately?
Riv: I'm in the middle of The Solitudes, by John Crowley, and it's fairly dense but really amazing. It's all about histories within histories and worlds within worlds within worlds.

BH: Where do you see yourself in 5 years with your art?
Riv: I'm currently shifting towards using more of my own worldbuilding and storytelling in the artifacts I make. This feels really good to me, and I'm hoping that in 5 years I'll have made some thorough explorations of original fictional worlds via my art. I'll also have grown my metalsmithing skills, I'm sure! There are so many techniques I can't wait to learn. And while I'm semi-seriously dreaming, in the next 5 years I hope I'll build a small, glowing community of people who love thinking about traveling to imaginary places.

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