Last week, we met with Chimera’s own Michelle Sanchez to ask her about her growing jewelry business. The artist, who specializes in metalsmithing, designs collections that include traditional pieces such as bracelets, necklaces and earrings, and more modern ones as well, such as midi rings and septum hoops. Recently, she even produced an ornate head mask, which was on display on a live model at the Trifecta show held at East End Gallery in August.
The artist discussed her upcoming visit to her hometown of Columbus, Georgia, as well as her art form and biggest inspirations. Read more to get the full interview.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED MAKING ART?
My family is creative women. So I’ve been surrounded by it since I was little. I can remember making doll clothes while my mom was making costumes for my sister’s play. In high school, I started making tote bags. At first for me and my friend, then everyone started asking. That was my first experience selling creative work.
When I moved to Houston, I was focusing on photography. I developed my own film, and met a lot of really amazing photographers through that. I think in 2011, I stayed at my sister’s house and I stayed up for hours on end and started making jewelry. It wasn’t intentional. I didn’t mean to make jewelry! If I had a choice I would make clothes. But jewelry was more tangible and easier to do. It started off as intricate beading and found objects from my past.
I took a metal smithing class and learned how to solder. I realized I wanted to do more metal sculpture and wearable art, as opposed to just making something pretty but meaningless.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATIONS?
Overall, I would say I’m more inspired by different aspects of cultures more so than just one or two people. I love the idea of Arabic and Islamic art, because. I grew up as a Jehovahs Witness so I was taught to not worship idols. With Islamic art, they can’t show the face of Mohammed. So their art is very much based on patterns and the lack of idolizing people – like a lack of pop culture, what we see here in America.
In Indian and Indonesian art, they always reference back to their belief system. And it’s very much based on the Tree of Life. A crown was made to connect you to the greater universe.
Because I’m from America and I grew up here, I also have a sense of modern design as well. My pieces are between both worlds, because I’m very touch with nature, but my reality is this busy city.
As far as other designers. There’s a designer called Jules Kim, and another one called Jessica Seaton. They have very natural, solid pieces that I think are beautiful and could last forever. That’s what I want to do with my designs – make it so that it could be from a different era, but also go with you into the future.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THEMES THAT YOU HOPE TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR ART?
Nature, for sure. Even though what I do can be seen as materialistic, I prefer for it to be seen as something sacred and sentimental behind each piece. I don’t really do it for myself, I create with someone in mind. Also, the evolution of thought – I try not to make anything the same more than a couple of times. I’ve made hundreds of pieces, but they’re not the same over and over. I don’t really believe in mass production.
GIVEN YOUR UPCOMING VISIT TO YOUR HOMETOWN, WHY ARE YOU EXCITED TO SHARE YOUR WORK THERE?
Cuz it’s in my heart! The feeling of wanting to do more has stemmed from that town. I think it’s such a great place to grow up, but it leaves you wanting more. Having been gone for 7 years, I can see how they’ve grown – and in that, it’s a reflection of myself too. As I’ve grown, the city has grown, and that’s why I want to go back and reconnect. I wrote a song about that town – that’s where I learned that it was okay to be creative, and to be weird and different. My friends and I, I feel like we were just variations of stray cats. We were free and wild and spoke different languages, and we wanted to know more.
All photos from taken by the artist.