It's no secret that we love local artist Nicole Rimedio of Variance Objects, her unique use of rough gemstones and mixed metals keeps us captivated and excited to see what she'll make next! A few weeks ago Nicole opened up her home studio and we had a chat about the beautiful story of Variance Objects.
Can you remember the first piece of jewelry you made?
I don't actually. But I do remember my first process of making things was always jewelry or at least what I wanted to be jewelry! I was always really into rocks and gemstones as a kid and I remember looking at them and thinking, how do I get to wear this? I definitely did every single kind of craft jewelry medium as a kid.
How would describe your path to starting Variance Objects?
I started learning metal work when I was living in New York. I just kind of picked it up on my own, found a metal supply store and incrementally learned. It was only a couple of years ago when I decided it was going to be my real life. It was always on the periphery, like, oh that's a nice thing to have along side of some other career, but then I realized that wasn't the way to do it.
I had just finished graduate school in landscape architecture and I hated it, it was just not the right field for me. I was trying to figure out what to do but in the meantime I was inspired by jewelry again. I started to notice Victorian jewelry at antique stores and loved the sentimentality of it. Especially hair work, weird materials and different ways of wearing jewelry
that seemed totally different than anything any contemporary jewelry was doing. So I went to a few yard sales, set up a little studio and took a few crucible classes. And then one morning i was just playing around and I got this burst of inspiration and I was like " stones! And rough stones! And weird metals!" So that was in 2010 and I decided, well,
that's what I'm going to do and I really started moving in that direction. About 2 years ago my husband Scott joined the business full time and we were able to really grow. Now we have a small team in the studio and we are close to outgrowing our current space.
How would you describe your design philosophy and where do you look for inspiration?
Allowing for chaos and unexpected beauty. So much of the jewelry is planned but there's a lot of room in that plan for what it is actually going to turn out to be. Because of that thinking, if there's a mistake that happens we usually let that mistake be and it usually ends up being something beautiful or becomes a new design element we can start incorporating into the work. Instead of deciding it is something that has to be scrapped we say "well, will it still work?" We always try to let the outliers come in.
So you studied Architecture & Urbanism? Do you think this influences your jewelry designs?
I think it influences my design mind and way of thinking. Architecture school is really good at making you see the whole picture and how the visual has to match the structural. So that part has really stuck with me. I always had a hard time making just the model of the real thing. That's what I love so much about jewelry is the process of making the real thing and we really do it all here in the studio.
It's so fun to watch clients come in and discover your rough cut stones. Can you describe how you source your materials?
Scott and I source stones together. We go to gem shows and make connections with with dealers both locally and around the world. We try to buy ethically sourced stones but it can sometimes be difficult to know the history of a parcel of stones. For that reason we are very invested in building relationships with dealers we trust and people that love what they're doing and love the stones as much as we do. We also like to find stones that have been sitting in collections for years or even decades. There are a lot of rock hounds in the Santa Cruz area with amazing stones just sitting in buckets in their garages.
And you use recycled metals in all of your pieces?
It's actually pretty easy to use recycled metals in jewelry. A jeweler told me once that there's some thinking that all metal in jewelry has been the same gold for almost all of time because it's those pieces that get melted down and remade. This isn't really true, as a large part of newly mined gold goes to jewelry, but there is a long tradition of using recycled metals in jewelry and to me is makes the most sense.
How did you come up with your way of mixing metals?
It goes back to the same philosophy of practicing chaos. In my antique jewelry learning I found there is a natural alloy of gold and silver that used to be used in jewelry a lot but had just kind of fell out of favor and fashion. I realized if there is an alloy already then I could make my own alloy and I could trust that they would bond, cool! So from there i just started experimenting with the two metals together and I did some research to see if there was a reason this wouldn't work. Most of the theory was that it was hard to make it look right but if I don't care about it looking right, then it would be fine! So I just kept experimenting.
People often think and a lot of jewelry schools teach that it's a very high tech and difficult process. If you're thinking about it from the place of how it absolutely has to be the same every single time then yes, it can be very difficult. But if you approach it more like artwork then it can really work. It's the same as saying it's difficult to make a portrait painting with brush strokes because it won't look right or exactly like a person but it certainly can. You just have to be open to it!
Can you describe your anti-polish technique?
It's part of the whole metal process. The way that the metals blend together it's natural that they patina differently and the anti-polish highlights those differences. It darkens the silver but not the gold and the parts that are blended darken some but not as much. We give out little pots of anti polish to people that want to darken their rings. People are used to the idea of polish maintenance for silver that we've all been taught and this is just really the opposite of that. Same idea, different approach!
We are so lucky to share a home city with you! Do you find a lot of inspiration here?
My inspiration for my jewelry really comes from the materials so in a way not really but the lifestyle of Santa Cruz really facilitates living a creative life and doing what you want to do. It's sort of the edge of the world and that really works for me.
What do you like to do in Santa Cruz?
We live close to downtown so I really like walking down there to see what's going on. Santa Cruz is fun because there's always waves of stuff happening. I really love the tea house downtown and the new Mutari Hot chocolate cafe is awesome, we'll probably go down there later today! Santa Cruz in a lot of ways is about community, it's more about having people over for dinner than really going out on the town. So when that's possible it's nice to have little parties at the house and hang out. Santa Cruz feels like a creative community, it's the only place I've ever felt comfortable being an artist because it's a place where you can just do your thing.
Are there any particular stones that you love to wear?
It always changes. As soon as I think I have a favorite stone or piece then someone buys it from me and I have to move on. I like opals and they're amazing to work with because they're so mysterious, it's really hard to see what's going on inside of them until you start working with them. There's also a lot of risk working with them, the beauty of the fire can easily evaporate if you grind through them so there's always a lot of adrenaline working them!
We are so excited about your upcoming Mother's Day trunk show at the shop!
Can you tell us about the special pieces you're going to have on hand?
Us too! We'll have a nice collection of pieces with us and we're also going to bring loose stones so people can hand pick stones to make custom rings. It will be nice for people to see the pieces we have with us so they can identify what settings they like or what thickness of the band they love. Each piece will really be custom built. Every piece we make is pretty much custom already so it works really well with our process. This is the first time we're doing this as part of an event and it should be really fun!
Thank you so much to Nicole for sharing her story with us! We hope you can join us May 9th for a very special Mother's Day Trunk Show with Variance Objects! Nicole will be in the shop to help you choose a stone and build a truly unique custom piece.