Thursday, September 29, 2011

Azalea’s Of a Unique Sort

Chloe Schwanz is a talented jewelry designer located in the mysterious land of Louisiana, and I’m pleased to say she recently designed a special piece for me to show off proudly. Chloe and her husband are both artistically gifted. Her husband is an architect who won the very first Zombie Safe House Competition (check out the facebook page!). Chloe is quick as a whip with her wit, and fun to work with. Her wearable art can be found at Azalea St Studio on etsy:
            Her work utilizes leathers, natural rocks, found treasures, and has an earthy-yet-modernistic style, and is definitely uniquely Chloe:

NS: Chloe, why don’t you tell us a little about your past, like where you grew up, what your hobbies were as a kid, and what type of jewelry you wore as a teenager?

CS: Well, I grew up in the teeny tiny rural town of Sunset, LA—making mud pies, tending to hoards of animals, composting, gardening, and overall good ole country fun! When I reached high school, I longed for that city-girl feel! We wore uniforms to school, so I took every opportunity to differentiate myself from the masses. I was known to wear sport accessories you didn't normally see on a teenager, things I'd inherited from my mom or grandmother. Really funky stuff! I moved to Lafayette when I began college in 2002

NS: When did you decide to start making Jewelry?

CS: Jewelry making all started when I began studying architecture at the University of Louisiana. I just hated to throw away all the scraps of various materials I used in my design classes. In an effort to be efficient and create less waste, I fashioned pieces of stained and painted wood into earrings, sold them, and have been growing as a jewelry maker ever since!

NS: Who is your biggest inspiration for making wearable art?

CS: Geez, I'm not sure! I suppose I could credit every environmentally-conscious voice out there that seeped in over the years stirred in with all those times I saw something clever and said, "Hey, I can do that!"

NS: Who is your favorite jewelry designer?

CS: Another hard one! I have a few Etsians (Etsy artisans) that I just love seeing new work from!—such as SSD jewelry, Neile, and Kikisan—just to name a few. Also, I will turn the pages of a Sundance Jewelry catalog until they turn to dust! The artisans that are lucky enough to grace said pages certainly deserve it.

NS: If you could own any piece of jewelry in the world, which would it be, and why?

CS: As a huge fan of the ancient, antique and vintage (it is a form of recycling!) I would cherish and make an alter around a Victorian Chatelaine—a woman's wearable tool kit, if you will. These pieces represent everything I'd want to achieve as a craftsperson: ultimate aesthetic appeal and perfect functionality.

NS: If you could design a piece of your art for any superstar to flaunt, who would it be, and why?

CS: Just a few that came to mind: Sienna Miller, Kate Hudson, and Zoey Dechanel. I think each of these lovely ladies have a history of sporting some eclectic pieces. They are very current and 'in the know' when it comes to fashion, but aren't afraid of taking chances. I also think that these women each pay tribute to fashion's past and those are some things I try to convey in my pieces. I'd love to find a place in their jewelry boxes!

NS: So, I hear your moving to New Orleans? Where can the fine citizens of Louisiana find you displaying your crafty wares?
CS: I'm always near at As an artisan, I'm kind of like a gypsy when it comes to a physical locale! 'Like' azalea st studio on Facebook to find out where I'm squatting next!
            Also, I've begun the very fun venture of giving jewelry fans the opportunity of hosting jewelry parties! As a host, you'll get 20% of the total sales in free jewelry a la azalea st studio! Anyone interested can send me a message via my etsy shop for questions and details.

NS: Any last tips for making jewelry or tidbits you’d like to share with my awesome blog followers?

CS: Always go with what feels true to you, whether it's creating original pieces of art or your next outfit. If you force it, it will look forced and you won't feel 100% you!

Chloe, you know how to wrap the rock! I hope all you amazing readers out there support local artists, and take the time to explore Chloe’s sparkling flair. Cheers …!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Annie M. Vicar: Dolls & Skellery and Fantastic Delights!

There is something I have to admit. I’m deathly afraid of most dolls, especially baby dolls—yuck! Destination Truth is one of my favorite television shows, and on a certain episode, Josh Gates (the host of DT) travels to Mexico’s Doll Island to do a bit of ghost hunting. Being a die-hard fan, I didn’t want to miss a single moment, even though I was petrified. My hands were sweating and I turned hot then cold and was shaking. Seriously, I do not like dolls.

     Then something magical happened. I came across the Dolls & Skellery work of Annie M. Vicar. These were dolls I could handle, some of the most curious and marvelous creations I have ever allowed my eyes to alight upon—without breaking a sweat. The detail of Annie’s work goes beyond the doll itself, like, Siamese Cat Yokai with its tiny Japanese sandals and miniature sushi platter. Not to mention the mysterious boxes, adorable custom cake toppers, and darkly hip jewelry she designs. Visiting her site is like trick-or-treating for mind-candy.
NS: Your work borders on the gothic (but much, much more than that), so I have to ask what you were like as a child, because I can picture all sorts of cool stuff you might have been into!

AMV: In all honesty, not much has changed. I'm still that oddball little kid. I was (and generally still am) happy to live inside of my own head, daydreaming stories and building my own fantasy land out of anything in arm's reach. It was kind of difficult for me to connect with other kids - I was too weird and too awkward to ever fit in, so I just kind of locked myself in my room with clay, paper, markers, my dad's old Beatles records and comic books. I would play in the back yard for hours alone, pretending to be a witch, and pick all of the "poison berries" off of the neighbors' hedges, dig up dirt and tare leaves off of the trees to make "spells". I was Halloween obsessed and ghost obsessed - thanks to my father, who would scare the holy bejesus out of me by telling family ghost stories.

NS: Were you into monster movies? What type of books did you read, and did the movies/books help to influence your current art? If not, then what did inspire you?

AMV: Oh yeah, I love the classic Monster flicks!! I'd say the Universal Monster films have left a HUGE imprint on everything I do, being as they were my first introduction to the horror genre and something I always relate to Halloween. Other movies? Well, things like Never Ending Story, Dark Crystal, The Exorcist, Beetlejuice, Rosemary's Baby, Return to Oz etc. A healthy (or unhealthy, whichever way one may view it, I s'pose) of fantasy and horror. There are also a few Czech animators, like Jiri Barta and Jan Svankmajer, who have been my biggest influence for doll making, specifically. Really, the dolls came about through failed marionette designs I was working on some years back. Eastern European puppetry is something that's fascinated me since I was a kid. Books?? I've always loved comic books most of all. Started out reading Tales From The Crypt reprints (EC horror in general) and then got into things like Sandman and Preacher when I was in high school. When my attention span matured a bit, I started reading Anthony Burgess & Dostoevsky, to name a few favorites.
NS: How did you get to the point where you decided to start your own business making dolls and skellery?

AMV: It seemed like a no-brainer when the opportunity presented itself. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I'm the worst employee of all-time when it comes to grown-up day jobs. I've never really played well with others in those situations and I've never taken authority seriously. Basically, any time I've felt that something or someone has taken me away from creative projects, they were in my way. I know that all sounds terrible, but the way my brain is wired, I just really start to resent any situation that takes me away from fantasy. I had no other choice than to be my own boss, doing the only thing I'm comfortable with. Hell, I have trouble figuring out a cash register. It's kind of sad. haha. This is the only way I can really function in the world.
NS: Besides your own creations, do you admire any other doll makers?

AMV: Most definitely! There are some incredible artists out there. And more than just doll makers, too. As for dolls, LaTeefah Dolls is my favorite:
( Bizarre, kind of Victorian Erotic creations that just blow me away. She works in ceramics, fabrics and fur. Illustration wise, I love Christine Ernst from Crows Feet Studios(, Rachael Deacon, illustrator and filmmaker (, and Jeremy Baum ( - all under the radar, quite amazing and worth a look.
NS: If you were hired to have your talents used on the big screen, what Producer/Director would you most want to work with?

AMV: Werner Herzog! I know, he has nothing to do with puppets or animation, but HE SHOULD! I'd love to animate a puppet version of the film "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser". 
NS: Say a famous person contacted you to make a piece of art/jewelry for them, who would that famous person be, and what type of piece would you make for them?

AMV: Hmmm. That's a question! Well, if Werner Herzog wanted a Kaspar Hauser puppet....

NS: When you’re not creating fantastic art, what are you usually up to?

AMV: I like to star gaze in the mountains or spend my Sundays at the shore. Just being out in nature and enjoying what I can of the world while I'm here. When I decided to throw conventional living out the window with my day job and moved across the country, I promised myself to love life a little more and actively pursue happiness instead of waiting for it to fall in my lap. It's been good :)

NS: Are there any parting tid-bits of information you would like to impart upon the fabulously awesome readers out there?

AMV: There is a way to do what you love. There's a way to be happy. Find it.

Annie, you are number one on my list of amazing artists, and you are an inspiration for all of the artists out there who are intent on following their dreams and artistic inclinations.

Please visit Annie M. Vicar at the following sites:

"The only thing standing between me and greatness is me."

-Woody Allen