Revolver is super excited to carry a new line of jewelry in the shop: Brickhouse Metalworks, the creation of Sonni Brickhouse. Sonni is/was based out of Athens, Georgia, but has recently embarked on a transcontinental adventure that has brought about new inspirations, techniques and collaborations. She took the time to tell us about her work and the voyaging she's been enjoying. Stop by Revolver to check out her goods.
How did you come to be interested in jewelry design/making? Are you formally trained?
I started making jewelry in Valdosta, Georgia. It's very far south in GA. I was formally trained by Al Park at Valdosta State University. I moved to Athens, GA in January 2010 and continued with their program that was an all encompassing jewelry/metalwork program. I learned casting, hollow form fabrication, raising, forging, and mechanisms there. I knew as soon as I took my first saw blade to a sheet of silver that I wanted to be a master jeweler and metalsmith. That's what I'm working towards in my life now.
Bronze cast pea pod from 2010
You are based in Athens, GA. What about Athens gives rise to such creative folk? Does Athens influence your jewelry and metalwork?
Athens is a very liberal bubble in Georgia, it's where all the artists flock to because of the university. It's also a music hub- REM, Widespread Panic, The B-52's and many other musicians are from there. In my world, music and jewelry go hand in hand. A lot of my clients come to Athens for the music and my jewelry finds a place in their life. I'm inspired by positive grooves and good music. Without the subculture that goes with the music, I wouldn't be where I am today.
Silver champagne chalices- The King and Queen
I hear that you make your own chain! Was this a difficult skill to pick up? Why is it important to you to make your own chain when possibly cheaper or easier options exist?
I find that the devil is in the details sometimes, meaning the small things are what can make and break a piece. Especially when my pieces are so small, there's not much to look at, so I notice every little thing that could be better. I strive to keep my work as authentic as possible and I don't cut corners for my own satisfaction. If in doing production work I realize I can't weave 1000 feet of chain for 100 necklaces and keep my prices down, [I won't]. So in those cases I use manufactured chain, but my custom heady pieces I feel an obligation to make everything down to the alloy of silver or gold I use sometimes.
"Cupcake" pasties- made from color vinyl records, silver and CZ stones
What are your current inspirations?
My current inspirations come from a very special community of glass blowers all around the country. My boyfriend is an amazing glass artist and we have been making work together recently. This community is often referred to as degenerate artists by the academic community because they have no formal training. They are pioneers in their medium and style of lamp working. But there is no short of creativity or talent in this community. In fact, glassblowing is what brought me to San Francisco. My boyfriend Eusheen was teaching a borosilicate lamp working class at Revere Glass School in Berkeley. That whole community has taken me in even though I work in a different medium.
First collaboration with Eusheen; he made the marble.
How do you find working in San Francisco different than working in Athens? Has your creative process or inspirations changed with your change in environment?
Right now my environment is changing constantly. Eusheen and I are on a mega road trip and we drove out to San Francisco from Georgia so I find a constant in my work. My inspirations are coming in from everywhere but I still manage to find my constant in the processes themselves. That alone makes me feel at home.
"The Pendulum" necklace- Sonni wove the chain for this one and used gold solder for all the connections.
Do you find that collaborating with your boyfriend has opened new venues for your jewelry?
Since I started working with Eusheen an entirely different world has opened up to me. It's so underground I can get down in the nitty gritty that formal society might not like with my work and I know I can sell it to a very open community. I have been making stash boxes and jewelry you can smoke with and stuff and that has been shunned by the Fine Art community, but now I can make whatever I want and I have two polar opposite crowds I can cater to. It's very rare and I feel totally blessed to have fallen in this position.
Stash compact made of copper and silver, for your secrets.
What are your aspirations for Brickhouse Jewelry?
As far as Brickhouse Metalwork, I want to take it as far as I can. Eventually I want to settle and open a retail store where I can have my workspace there and make custom pieces on the spot. I have been so enthralled with weddings lately. I realized the possibilities are endless and I want to make wedding bands that are customized to the couple along with wedding accessories and bridal party gifts. My commissions have really paid off and all I want is for my work to have a place in someone's life, and what a better way for that to happen? I love that my work is a symbol for eternal love between two people. It makes me gush inside and it gives me the drive to continue.
Collaborative cuff Sonni and Eusheen made.
(All photographs here within provided by Sonni Brickhouse/Brickhouse Metalwork- all images copyright ©2012 Sonni Brickhouse / All Rights Reserved)