Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hometown, Small World, Big Etsy: My Interview with Lucid

The Ironies

It really is not surprising that I would meet a fellow Etsian in a bead shop. This story, however, is a little unique - at least we think it is!

I was at the counter paying for my supplies at a local bead shop, chatting with the owner, when it came up that I sell on Etsy. She yelled to a woman in the back room, "Another Etsy!"

Winnie, of Lucid Studios, emerged from the back and we excitedly talked about our businesses. The conversation then took a twist - turns out she is the older sister of the Saluditorian of my class who was friends with my now-husband when we were in high school!

If that wasn't strange enough, it turns out that we went to college in the same town as each other, with the years 1999-2001 overlapping. To top it off, we bumped into each other again at a local restaurant about a week after we were first introduced!

Meet Winnie of Lucid Studios

I thought it would be interesting to do an interview Winnie since we had gone to the same high school. One thing I learned off the bat - she is an amazing writer, which made putting this together really easy.

Tell me about yourself.
My name is Winnie Chai. I was born in South Carolina but mostly grew up in upstate New York - land of trees, rivers, towns and cities with Native American names, and long, sobering winters as well as gorgeous crisp autumns.

I currently live in a ghetto fabulous apartment in the small, charming downtown of my hometown. Over half of the apartment has been converted to a great studio/workshop space which is painted mint-green and mango-yellow – the “Studios” part of “Lucid Studios.” It's an old building - fourteen-foot pressed tin ceilings, giant picture windows – five different kinds of tile on the floors and ambient entertainment from the bar below at all hours of the day and night. It's cheery, it's cluttered, with a sort of organized chaos; it's cozy and endearing but I hope to be able to relocate to a more convenient work area with better lighting and ventilation some time in the near future.

I have tried on, in the past, being a student of English literature, a dental assistant, a graphic designer, a classical musician, a web producer, a teacher, a traveler and vagabond and various other hats before becoming fascinated with jewelry design and metalwork.

How long have you been making jewelry? What sparked your interest in jewelry design?
I fell absolutely in love with jewelry and adornment when I was backpacking through Asia a few years ago. Before this, I had been a modicum minimalist, wearing little to nothing in the way of ornament – Now I've become one of those women who will be a little old lady with great big chunky bizarrely stupendous necklaces made of god-knows-what strutting around. It really began when I experienced how the Tibetans in Western China wore their wealth in their ears and around their necks; hoarded, traded and passed down sacred stones, metals and beads replete with myth and meaning so beautifully, with such serenity and grace. The bright blue turquoise echoed the Tibetan sky, and creamy coral simply shone against their dark, weathered faces. It struck me, and I've never recovered.

As soon as I returned to the United States I set up my first workshop in a dank basement and I've never looked back.

What inspires/ influences your creations?
I am inspired by the moment and the process of creation. Sometimes there is a lot of drudge work involved with metal work. It's dirty; it's dusty; there is a lot of manual labor and busywork that just takes sweat and time. You might have to file a piece over a thousand strokes to get the shape you desire. But sometimes you just get an idea in your head and it keeps buzzing around and won't go away. It keeps you up at night; it makes you absent-minded at the supermarket. To exorcise it, I make it.

Also, often during the best moments of absorption in a new project or artistic piece there is a state of focused concentration that is so peaceful, attentive and meditative that I can feel only something near to bliss.

I am also inspired by the beauty of everything I see around me, especially natural forms and the incredible work of other artists and jewelers in particular.
How did you come up with the name “Lucid Studios”?
Lucid, to me, means light, clarity, simplicity. These three things are aspects of my aesthetic sensibility. Without light, we cannot distinguish colour, and I love colour in its myriad transformations and hues and emotions. Mental and emotional clarity is something I seek in life, and I believe that the best and most beautiful things are, at heart, very simple, and I strive to create forms and designs that are simple yet clearly inevitable ....

Beauty is spiritual to me.

How do you come up with your titles?

Words don't usually enter the picture until after the work is finished. While I'm making, I'm purely making; afterward I kind of wake up and look at what I've done. Then all sorts of associations come to mind and poetic license comes into play. As I mentioned earlier, I'm an avid reader and graduated from Vassar College with a degree in English literature so words have always befriended me.
Tell me about your favorite piece.
My favourite piece tends to be the piece or series I am currently working on or exploring but if I had to choose I would have to say that I really like the Elemental necklace in my Etsy shop. It is like a sketch of a tree in sterling silver; organic, intuitive, extremely graceful and beautiful when worn. It speaks to me.

What are your favorite materials?

Sterling silver, fine silver, opals, pearls, gemstones, beads both ancient and modern, glass, polymer clay, assorted found and recycled objects ....
How did you learn how to sculpt silver?
When I returned from my travels I immediately set out to learn everything about my passion as quickly as possible. I set up a basement workshop, I ransacked libraries, I lurked online forums, I took classes, I experimented and made mistakes and asked so many questions even Scheherazade would've been impressed. My intense interest drives me every day.
What do you do when you aren't crafting?
I dole out sushi and teriyaki chicken for a living to support my jewelry classes and gem and metal buying habits. I love cooking and eating ethnic food and in another life was probably a decent chef. I read voraciously, developed a penchant for long mountain hikes while living in Colorado, and am an active member of a local chamber music group.
Future of Lucid: What items can we anticipate in the future?
I would like to increase my knowledge of working with metals and also branch out into other related media like glass, enamels and resins. I am currently taking an excellent class in wax carving and casting, and I anticipate making many more designs in sterling silver that are unique and wearable. I'm really into earrings right now, so expect more of those in the near future!

Where else can we find you?
I keep meaning to start a Flickr account or jewelry Blog but I never get around to it and I don't want to be a Bad Blogger*, what's the point...

The one time I was a really Good Blogger was when I was in China and backpacking through Asia. You can find raw and unedited accounts of my travels at the following link. Not for young children or the faint of heart as it contains some profanity - and strong opinions.

* Editor's note: With these writing skills, how could she be a bad blogger???


Anonymous said...

Wow. That picture of Mt. Everest is gorgeous! It would inspire me!! I love how you set up your interview questions!! That's great!!

Blaze said...

What a small world!!! A great story too! :) I can only imagine what excitement took place in that bead shop!! Thanks for sharing!

ThePeachTree said...

Incredible story, beautiful interview and amazing etsian! So happy I've come across your lovely blog :)

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