KATHLEEN NOWAK TUCCI
2nd Place, Alternative Metals/Materials
Kathleen Nowak Tucci creates intriguing and beautiful art jewelry from discarded materials. Her pieces force us all to look at everyday objects with new eyes and appreciation while disregarding preconceived notions of what jewelry should be made of and its value. Her work has appeared in the Smithsonian Craft Show, the Craft2Wear event, and the Museum of Art and Design NYC shows, and it will be in the Racine Museum "Sensory Overload" show beginning in late September. It has also been featured in numerous magazines, including on the cover ofItalian Vogue, in Marie Claire and in Ornament. This is her second Saul Bell Design Award in the Alternative Metals/Materials category. Kathleen lives and works on the Gulf Coast of Alabama.
MARLENE RICHEY: TELL US ABOUT YOUR WINNING PIECE, "SECRET GARDEN NECKLACE."
Kathleen Nowak Tucci: I used recycled rubber bicycle inner tubes and motorcycle inner tubes sourced from Harley-Davidson motorcycles, recycled Nespresso coffee capsules, epoxy clay, copper, stainless steel jump rings and a hand-formed stainless steel clasp, all e-coated. The rubber pieces were hand-cut and die-cut with custom and commercially available dies. These pieces were then connected to a rubber base made with a motorcycle inner tube.
I got the inspiration at the last Santa Fe Jewelry Symposium. I learned so much and had so much fun in Albuquerque that I realized I wanted to return. I could either write a paper to present or make another Saul Bell Design Award-worthy piece. When the presentation about the Enigma of Color was given, I came up with the idea of this necklace.
An important part of the "Secret Garden Necklace" is the back. It's the secret. Color was added using recycled Nespresso coffee capsules as the center of some of the flowers. The "Secret Garden Necklace" was inspired by a dark, mysterious vine- and foliage-filled garden. I wanted both the viewer and the wearer to discover and delight in finding new plant and floral shapes in the same way you would with each visit to a secret garden. Much like a secret, its knowledge is only available to the wearer of the necklace. Secrets can be dark and hard to keep, but a secret can also be exhilarating to own.
It took four months from inspiration to completion. Mulling over how to make a piece is an important step in my creative process. I didn't finish the piece until two weeks before the final deadline. In those two weeks it had to be photographed. Nothing like the last minute!
MR: TELL US ABOUT YOUR COLLECTIONS.
KNT: My jewelry is made with recycled rubber and recycled Nespresso coffee capsules. I also work in metal clay and have recently added some etched aluminum to my work.
MR: WHAT IS YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT OR DESIGN PHILOSOPHY?
KNT: I find it intriguing and challenging to have the dichotomy of using items that are trash and destined for a landfill but instead recycling these materials to construct architectural high-fashion jewelry that has been featured in top fashion magazines.
I have always made my work in components—smaller parts of a whole work. With my rubber jewelry, I like to have many parts pre-cut, ready for whatever combination strikes my fancy.
In my designs, I like C and S curves juxtaposed against geometric shapes such as squares, circles and triangles. I am strongly influenced by Art Deco furniture, architecture and fashion. Working with the raw material of recycled rubber and other materials allows me to make dramatic pieces with very little weight.
MR: HOW DO YOU GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT YOUR WORK?
KNT: I have a really nice website. I use social media and winning an award like the Saul Bell Design Award keeps me in the public eye. I also show my work in New York City during NYC Fashion Market Week. Stylists often use my work in magazine photo shoots.
MR: WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT MAKING JEWELRY?
KNT: I love most everything about making jewelry, but I think designing is the part I like the best. I also like that moment when what you imagined and what you are making gel. It's the moment you say to yourself, "Yes this will work!"
MR: ARE YOU INFLUENCED BY TRENDS?
KNT: I'm aware of trends and consider some of them in my production pieces. For instance I notice the lengths of necklaces. But overall, I design what I feel inspired to design and ignore the trends.
MR: DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC, BOOK ON TAPE OR WATCH TV WHEN YOU WORK?
KNT: I listen to audio books. Lots and lots of audio books! I listen to more nonfiction than fiction but I do enjoy both. Listening to audiobooks is an integral part of my studio routine. I only shut off an audiobook if I have to do some calculations.
MR: WHAT ONE WORD OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE BEGINNING DESIGNERS?
KNT: Perseverance! But if I gave more than one word of advice it would be to make work no one else is making. Make your own statement.
You can see more of Kathleen's work at kathleennowaktucci.com.
Interview by Marlene Richey