Blog » Rosy Revolver
If you are looking for some unique jewelry to give your sweetheart (or yourself!) this Valentine’s Day, then you definitely need to check out Fuquay Varina’s Rosy Revolver. JJ Papke is the talented metalsmith behind this very beautiful line of jewelry. I got the chance to peek into what it takes to create a Rosy Revolver original and what inspires her creations. Here is what she had to say:
When and how did you first become interested in jewelry design?
My earliest memory surrounding jewelry is digging through my grandmother's jewelry box. I remember feeling a sense of wonder because I'd never seen her wear any of it — they were all pieces she'd worn in the 50s and 60s, long before I was ever a thought. The box was not only full of beautiful things, but full of evidence that there was a side to her I'd never known. In the box I could start to see the woman she once was.
Later, probably in early elementary school, my mom used to have to leave me with her friend, Karen, for a few hours every now and then while she ran errands. She had this huge basket of broken jewelry parts, costume jewelry pieces, pins, buttons, and trims — really all sorts of destashery. We used to sit at her kitchen table with hot glue guns and pliers and create. I remember thinking that it sure beat stringing macaroni pasta onto yarn back in school.
Did you go to art school or were you self-taught?
My jewelry education is somewhat of a mash-up. I went to N.C. State University's College of Design. State didn't offer metals classes, so I took a course at Meredith College, located just down the street. My degree is in "Art & Design" and after graduation, determined to learn more about jewelry design and construction, I took some classes at both Penland and the John C. Campbell Folk School. I've also taken classes at the Pullen Art Center in Raleigh and buried my face in lot of books in order to round out what I wasn't formally taught.
How long have you been making jewelry?
I started beading in high school. I think that was my official dip into it, though it really was nothing more than play. At the time, I was pretty certain I wanted to go into the Air Force. I wanted to fly.
Can you describe what your creative process is like?
It's rare I have to seek out an idea — I'm one of those people who sees something deeper in everything, so inspiration is fairly easy to come by. Once an idea takes place, I truly just play until something feels right and strikes a balance between clear translation and open interpretation. I sketch, but rarely, and never stick to my drawings. I tend to write more than anything when it comes to getting my vision on paper.
Is there a story behind each one of your pieces?
There generally is a story, but not always. Sometimes my fingers just get itchy, and I sit down to build something without a thought given to what it might be.
What is your most favorite piece you have currently designed?
My favorite piece is a necklace I made entitled "Ex Umbra in Solem," meaning "Out of shadows into the light." I deal a lot with birds in my work, often for their symbolism of flight. This necklace came from a very real place in me and was built using several techniques that were new for me at the time. While I make a connection with all of my work, this piece felt substantially more "mine" than any other. I ended up keeping the original and making a near duplicate to place in the Etsy store.
On average, how long does it take to create one of your designs?
I'm not the fastest smith around, I can tell you that! Most of the detailed pieces can take me a full workday or two; other items, like earrings, usually take me an hour or so. It really depends on the design, as my ranges from quite simplistic to downright overdone.
Are all of your works one of a kind or limited editions?
Yes, for the most part. I do have a few designs that I'll make to order, but mostly everything is unique. I'd go mad making the same things over and over again without engaging in that ever-important playtime.
What is the price range for a Rosy Revolver design?
$29 for a simple pair of studs on up to several hundred for elaborate necklaces.
What is your favorite subject to create?
I go through phases. I used to hate making earrings. Now I enjoy it. Generally rings are always fun. I suppose it just depends on the day and where my head is in the moment. Some of my ideas work better in a certain form.
What is your most difficult aspect of jewelry design?
Practicality can be a challenge for me sometimes. I tend to like things large, and in some instances, it makes the pieces difficult for some people to wear . . . or afford. Aside from that, there are some skills I've yet to learn that I would really like to add to my repertoire, but that will come in time.
What is your favorite time of day to create?
I'm a night owl.
Are you currently working full time with your company or is it a part time job?
What is a typical day for you like?
Oh wow. I get up and play mom before anything else. I have a four year old and cherish our mornings together, so we tend to spend an hour or so each weekday before I take him to daycare just playing together or cuddling on the couch, watching cartoons.
I drop him off on my way to the studio and stay there, working, until it's time to pick him up in the evening. After that, depending on the day, I'll either get supper going or leave my husband to do that while I hit the gym. We'll all eat together and spend a bit of time as a family, and then after The Monkey goes down for the night, I return to emails and any other loose ends that need tying up. I usually end the day on the bed with the dogs and my husband, sipping wine and watching something like American Restoration or Pawn Stars.
What is your biggest accomplishment to date?
My boy, hands down.
Do you do all of the work yourself (concept, packaging, shipping, marketing, etc.) or do you have assistants helping you with the process?:
Though I started out doing it all on my own — and think it's important to start that way — I do have an assistant now! She's with me two days a week and handles packaging, shipping, paperwork, and general maintenance of the studio. (Cleaning, keeping fresh acid in the pickle pot, etc.) I love her. She keeps me sane and organized.
You absolutely cannot go without:
Sunlight! Though I'm a nightowl, sunlight just makes me happy. I have a huge window in my studio and it's the main reason I chose this space.
Do you prefer coffee or tea?
What projects do you have coming up?
I've been working on a line of pillows for what seems like forever now. I love graphics and textiles and have been wanting to bring those into my work via a latin theme. Some of my jewelry features latin phrases — my thought is to expand that line into home goods that also feature latin and almost jewelry-like pattern. I'm starting off having the fabrics printed for me; however, my husband and I have been researching screen printing set-up costs as we both enjoyed screen printing in college. If we could set up our own printing lab, the sky would be the limit!
Could you tell us some of your clients you’ve created art for?
I've never created for a celebrity — but my clients are all amazing women. I've learned much from them both in terms of becoming a better artist (they remind me to trust myself) and a better woman.
If you could take a peek into any artist’s studio, whose would it be?
Alexander McQueen's or Tom Binns's
Do you have any upcoming shows in the North Carolina area?
The only show I ever really do is The Handmade Market, in Raleigh. I'd like to do more, but show overhead is high — and I'm happy with my current online arrangement.
Where do you find the inspiration for your work?
Most of my ideas are generated by my personal life and my surroundings. Personal struggles and victories, my past, my goals . . . these are common themes in my work. Occasionally a song, an article, or some bit of nature will trigger me as well.
Do you have any advice for makers or designers that are just starting out in the industry and want to be discovered?
I think Ira Glass said it best: “What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.
It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
What is your favorite type of cake or cupcake?
Buttercream with dark chocolate frosting.
Where can people find your work?
Brandi Moody is an artist and designer living in Raleigh. By day she’s a graphic designer and illustrator for her own design studio. Read more about her life, work and inspiration on her blog, Ever So Lovely.