We had the good fortune of connecting with Jacqueline Garrity and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jacqueline, why did you pursue a creative career?
Why did I pursue an artistic career… possibly because I enjoy an ongoing challenge. Or because enduring the slow suffering that is being an artist holds a certain kind of magic.
Living in a creative headspace affects every aspect of your life. Being an artist was not a choice. It was a necessity. From a young age, art fueled my soul, even when I was not aware of it. When we are young, we are all asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That question always made me uncomfortable. Like many others, I didn’t know where I belonged. I felt awkward, strange, and was bullied. I valued silence, mostly because my brain was constantly running. I embodied “strange.” And like most lost strange creatures, I fought my peculiarities for a long time.
Then, like a cloud out of nowhere, I found Jewelry and Sculpture. And for the very first time in my life I thought, “This is what I want to do when I grow up.”
Jewelry and Sculpture allowed me to find comfort within myself, in a way that I had never felt before. Through creating, all the background noise, worries and concerns I had about myself started to fade away. Whenever I was working on jewelry, or could feel the molten metal flowing, everything else just became obsolete. I knew then, as I know now, art has my soul.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am not quite sure what provoked me to take my first jewelry class… but let’s not dive into the details of my abstract brain just yet. I can tell you the first time I ever worked with metal was in my very first class in college. From the moment I watched my professor take flame to copper and bend it backwards, I was mesmerized. Absolutely fascinated and perplexed. I needed to feel that pressure, the movement of something so solid becoming liquid. I wanted to understand how you could manipulate a material with such fight in it. I spent the next four years studying, absorbing, and learning everything I could about working with metal. I kept trying to make sense of it. I am not sure I ever did make sense of it; or to be honest, ever will. Yet, those were the years I made the choice to dedicate my life to working with metal. Creating piece after piece, failing, and learning, and growing.
After college, I spent the next four something years working on the opposite fence of fabrication. I focused on learning everything I could about business and design. I worked those years as many things but officially as a corporate designer at Coach for both runway and retail collections. Not only was I able to work on the design aspect, but I was often in the trenches working behind the scenes on runway shows. During a show I would do everything from painting leather bracelets to adding crystals to custom peter pan collars. I would adjust necklaces as models were walking out on to the runway, altering looks up until the last minute. I was always thinking about how I would take these learning moments and skills and apply them to my own work. I worked alongside some incredible designers and curators. We worked long hours and hustled every moment of the day. There was no room for failure, you were always encouraged to continue working until you got it right. The work was relentless, tiring, and always challenging. And as a result, it shaped the way I work and left me with a drive that still runs through my veins. However, I soon realized that something about designing for others had stopped feeling right. At some point, I recognized that the work that had once fueled me, was now draining me. I knew it was time to leave. So, I left. With no plan. I moved out to the West Coast.
And then the world… got weird. I’m not going to delve into the absurdity of the past year or so. I will say the riskiest choice I made was starting my company. Choosing this path was so much more than just embarking on a mission to create a brand. It was allowing myself to be who I am. To create the work I want to create. To be an artist. Fully. Letting myself embrace everything I love and filling as much as my time with it as I can.
I care deeply. With everything I do. And maybe that is considered a risk. Because if you care as much as I do about the work you create and the way people perceive each moment.. it becomes hard to separate yourself from the work when it comes to being critiqued. As a result, like most artists I’ve built up a thick skin.
My work comes from an emotional place, and often comes from an incredibly dark place. Fueled with pain, that can swallow a person whole. Yet, with each work that is born out of darkness, my intention is to shine a light on the dark beauty that it possesses. I see beauty in everything, even the grotesque.
My favorite part of creating is the process. The finished project, although satisfying, sometimes leaves me feeling empty. Much of this explains why I never work on one project at a time. I usually have at least four projects running at the same time. That way when one ends, I just sidestep and roll right into the next. I would say my process lies somewhere between structured and organic… there is no strict guideline to the work I create. Mostly, because I feel it lessens the productivity and limits the creativity. Two things you really do not want to affect your work. Yet, structure in small doses allows me to guide my work as I go. Keeping the chaos in its least destructive state. Truly, I think a dose of chaos does everyone some good. Chaotic good, that is.
Recently I have been channeling my energy into work that inspires curiosity. One of my current works in progress encourages the conversation that abstract sculpture can be visualized as a strange meal. Yes, a meal… like a burger and a shake. Bear with me here. Material makes a difference in art. Traditionally metal sculpture has been associated with momentous energy. From my own studies, I was familiar with the concept that the way a sculpture was perceived depended on the material in which it was made. For example, if you saw a flower sculpture made of fabric it would be perceived differently than if it had been made out of bronze. When viewing sculptures made from strong materials such as bronze, iron, or stone, there is an immediate sense that those sculptures carry strength and power. What I am trying to challenge and explore, is whether a soft concept can be applied to a strong material. Is it possible for a bronze abstract sculpture to sit as pretty as a snack? Can one digest bronze the same way they digest yarn?
I have found it to be incredibly important to maintain humor in one’s work. Even when it seems like humor is the exact opposite of the emotion you are attempting to extract from the work you are making. And maybe that’s absurd. But let me put it this way, currently I am at the finalizing stage of a project that carries the story of my trauma. I realize that topic is immensely dark, and there is nothing humorous about it. However, I found humor in the way I went about creating the core structures of the project. Beyond telling my story, one of the objectives of creating this project was to allow myself to heal through the process. That process was weaving tiny chains together to make three full body sculptures. A process that took me about a year and a half to complete. And maybe that is the time I needed to heal. I chose the longest and most painstaking method of all my mediums, to be the one to help me sort through everything I was drowning in. I found humor in my decisions to make such complicated pieces to capture those intense stories. And perhaps to the outside eye and to you reading this, that all sounds insane. But when I sat down every day to weave those pieces, and I sat down to make sense of the pain I was still dealing with, there was a part of me that just had to laugh. Because of course I chose this as my method of healing. No short cuts in sight. I was taking the long route. Even though it is not blatant humor, it’s still kind of funny. And maybe I have just gotten used to poking fun at my own work because I think that is truly the only way you can be an artist. You cannot take everything you do all that seriously. Otherwise, when the time comes for someone to deconstruct and critique your work, you will not be able to stand without finding that humor. I guess my main point is this: I think that humor is valuable. I also think that darkness is valuable. And most of all, being able to combine the both of them is a beautiful challenge.
If there is anything to take away from the work I create, it’s that my work is my heart and soul on a platter. This path is not easy, but every pain and every heartache are cherished.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Unfortunately, I moved to Los Angeles right before a global pandemic. So, my favorite spots are my apartment and Erewhon. On the rare occasion I venture out, I find a home away from home at Point Dume beach in Malibu. Possibly my favorite place to sit, watch the waves crash into the rocks, and ponder life. And to be fair I do enjoy a good burger and shake, and would highly recommend Monty’s.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost, my parents. I would not be here if it was not for their continuous encouragement and support. I’ve thrown them a lot of wild cards throughout my life, and they have never failed to support me. I also owe a lot to my metals professors. Bonnie Kubasta was the woman and professor who looked me dead in the eyes and told me metalsmithing had found me. She lit a fire in my soul nine years ago, and it continues to burn with fervor. Our relationship was far from perfect. A lot of the time she made me want to scream. And, I certainly caused her much frustration as well. I was a hardworking student, but I fought back against the structure and the rules of metalsmithing. I didn’t want to change them. I wanted them to evolve. Bonnie encouraged structure, and rightly so. Structure helped guide us as students of the craft, especially when we were learning the fundamentals. No matter how far I’ve come and how much my work has evolved, there is no doubt in my mind that I would not be here without Bonnie first lighting my fire. I will never forget her, and I will forever be grateful to her. Working with metal lit a fire in my soul nine years ago when I started on this path, and it’s still burning.
Other: Patreon : https://www.patreon.com/jacquelinegarrity
Photographer Feature Photo: Holy Smoke Photography Additional Photo Photographer Credits : Coline Jourdana, Vanduncan Phillips, and Kaya Blaze Kelley