2nd Place - Gold/Platinum
Samantha Freeman's work in 18K gold and silver is an invitation for surprise and discovery. Her winning piece (like much of her work) moves and opens in unexpected and delightful ways. Samantha began her jewelry education at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. She currently lives and works in Philadelphia. Samantha has won the Designer of the Year award from the American Jewelry Design Council and an AGTA Spectrum Award. This is her first Saul Bell Design Award.
MARLENE RICHEY: TELL US ABOUT YOUR WINNING PIECE, "THE PEACOCK PIN."
Samantha Freeman: It is made of 18K gold, Namibian tourmaline, diamonds and multi-colored sapphires. The piece was entirely hand-fabricated. It is very complex, so I made a silver model first. Making the mechanics for the wings was extremely complicated.
MR: WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR THE PIECE?
SF: I guess I have to go back to Fabergé and Lalique, who are my two big influences. I am particularly inspired by the work of Fabergé because his pieces transform from one thing to another. That is something I'd like to achieve.
MR: DID YOU SET ASIDE SPECIAL TIME TO WORK ON THE PIECE? HOW LONG?
SF: I took two weeks off from my regular production work to make "The Peacock Pin." After that time, I still hadn't quite finished, so I gave myself an additional week. Altogether it was three solid weeks.
MR: WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THE PIECE?
SF: I learned to focus. Every detail is important in a piece like this. It is imperative to take the time to do it properly. The piece turned out to be exactly what I wanted. I was glad I took the time to really think it through.
MR: DO YOU THINK THIS PIECE WILL INFLUENCE YOUR WORK GOING FORWARD?
SF: Yes, I definitely do. I think the fact that it transforms is particularly powerful. Someone once said my work is often unexpected. I'd like to continue to explore in that direction.
MR: WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE PIECE?
SF: When I have shown it to others, I love their reaction when they see the wings opening up. That is a wonderful feeling for me.
MR: WHERE DID YOU STUDY JEWELRY?
SF: I went to Parsons in New York. Although I studied jewelry, the school put more of an emphasis on art rather than technique. I had terrific teachers and living in New York City was a huge part of my education. In ninth grade, I started making jewelry. There was a great program I got into at that time where I could make pieces. In college I started out in pre-med and then changed to jewelry.
MR: WHAT WAS YOUR WORK EXPERIENCE IN THE JEWELRY WORLD?
SF: I worked for a year for Meryl Waitz, who now designs for large companies. Meryl was originally in the craft market then changed to become more of a product designer. This is where I got some of my training and learned about running my own business. As an artist, you are more focused on the art and not the business. Meryl introduced me to shows and some parts of running a business.
MR: TELL US ABOUT OTHER PASSIONS IN YOUR LIFE.
SF: One of my passions is traveling. The Sydney Opera House in Australia was the first place I ever traveled, and it has been a huge influence. Travel influences me and gives me a wide visual vocabulary. I also do some photography and sculpture, and I participate in competitive gingerbread-house making. I have even won prizes. I made a copy of Gaudi's gingerbread house from Park Guell in Barcelona. It is totally edible.
MR: WHO IS YOUR DESIGN/JEWELRY MENTOR?
SF: Conceptually it would be Fabergé. Tom Herman's work is amazing. The other person who was very encouraging and supportive to me when I started out was Alan Revere. He is such a strong advocate for designers.
MR: WHEN ARE YOU MOST CREATIVE?
SF: Any time my brain wanders off on its own. Like when I am driving. I used to sit with a pad of paper and sketch listening to Bob Dylan.
MR: TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS, SAMANTHA FREEMAN DESIGNS.
SF: I have an 18K and a silver line. I also work in oxidized silver and gold vermeil. One of my very successful lines is Jemlochs. This is a line of earrings I designed about five years ago where the bottom element comes off. They are on French wires and come in sterling or 14K.
MR: WHAT IS YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT/DESIGN PHILOSOPHY?
SF: The most important thing to me is that I like to create beautiful pieces and add beauty to the world. There are universal things which are beautiful. On my website I state, "Classical yet innovative design is combined with old world craftsmanship to make pieces that last for generations. The giving and receiving of jewelry is not essential, but brings beauty and romance to life."
MR: WHAT IS YOUR DIFFERENTIATOR FROM OTHER DESIGNERS?
SF: I think it is the surprise element. The pieces look rigid, but in fact they are fluid. I try hard to do things differently. I try to come up new concepts and design something that has not been done before. Traveling has been a huge part of this.
MR: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TOOL?
SF: My jeweler's saw. I have had it since I first went to Parsons. I painted the handle yellow at that time to make it different from others. I have had the same saw frame since then. It becomes art by the wear and tear of your hand. The different saw blade makes it different each time. I love my saw. I could saw all day long. It is very Zen.
MR: WHAT ONE WORD OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE BEGINNING DESIGNERS?
SF: Be brave.
You can see more of Samantha's work at samanthafreemandesign.com.
Interview by Marlene Richey