Looking at Paula Crevoshay’s jewelry feels like a privileged journey through an exotic landscape. Her designs evoke mystery, travel, history, sculpture and something intangible, something magical. For Paula, jewelry is a full expression of art: an astonishing combination of science and nature. It is a “beautiful abyss” that she hasn’t yet gotten to the bottom of.
With a Master’s degree in Fine Art and a beginning in painting and sculpture, Paula found precious gems as her medium in 1980. From the beginning, each piece of jewelry Paula Crevoshay has ever created is one-of-a-kind.
It is hard to describe Paula’s work purely in words: you really need to see it to experience it. The designs tend to be quite classical, suggesting a curve of an ancient Greek vessel, or the flourish of a maharajah’s turban ornament. Some jewelry seems to be crafted so that the gems are caught like stained glass in transparent metal cells, literally capturing light.
Paula is getting ready for the opening of a new exhibition of work, a stunning ensemble of new and favorite muses in Garden of Light, at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. It opens on April 13th, 2013 and runs through August 11th, 2013. There is a Garden of Light book with stunning photographs that accompanies the collection, available here.
In this exhibition, of course there are amazing floral designs, as one would expect from the title. But the collection goes beyond more literal floral interpretations. Caryatids become the pillars of foundation of a ring that sits like a temple sculpture. Arachnids make an appearance, with benevolent forms such as “Charlotte” and “Spidey”. Most interesting to me were appearances of various sprites and personalities, like “River Goddess” and “Empress of Light”.
Paula says about the exhibition, “The intention was to blur the lines of science and art and take us into a Garden of Light. Light itself is billions of years old, traveling to us, the water that flows through our bodies becomes the opals that we see in the jewelry. This celebrates our connections. Gemology is my edge; my medium that is the culmination of all of these sciences and disciplines.”
Paula Crevoshay Interview
Speaking to Paula was a delightful opportunity to get a glimpse inside an extraordinary mind and talent. There is something so fluid and intuitive in her designs, and this intuition runs throughout her art and life. I interviewed her for the Contemporary Jewelry Design Group, where Paula is a member and I am an editor.
idazzle.com: For crafting almost exclusively one-of-a-kind jewelry, you are quite prolific! I suspect that your concerns are less about coming up with new designs, and more about having time to get all of your design ideas fleshed out?
Paula Crevoshay: One-of-a-kind was my original purpose and philosophy from the beginning as a fine jewelry artist. I looked at jewelry as a medium the same way I would approach painting or printmaking: I applied the same values to jewelry as any other discipline of art. Any piece I created needed to be a piece of fine art, high art. It’s what I always wanted to do. It is 32 years later and I feel fortunate that this is what I’ve done.
I am extremely prolific. Like a Picasso, or Mozart, it just floods through me, and it’s instantaneous. I was always prolific, whatever discipline I was working in. When you’re living your purpose with integrity, you are given a green light to create.
There is a synchronicity of my dream and my reality.
Right now, I’m designing a new flower, a saffron crocus design that I am fascinated with. I’ve been working feverishly for a day and a half, to try and get the drawing and design where I need it to be before I have to leave town for this exhibit.
I always get what I need when I need it, like the way I find my elves (the artisans who make my jewelry).
Speaking of elves, you call your jewelry craftspeople your “elves”. How challenging is it to find great bench workers who can execute your visions?
I call them my elves because they have magical hands that can take my drawings and ideas and figure out the engineering needs and make magic happen. Like Rumpelstiltskin, they can spin my designs into actual gold.
Everything seems to flow. I have always found the workmanship I’ve needed, and it finds me. When I go to another country to look for more artisans, I will literally walk into the door I need to walk into. I follow my nose; I use my sixth sense.
A number of years ago, I needed to find a factory in Thailand. I had been doing a lot of designing and said “I’m going to find a workshop today”. George, my late husband, said “Ok, have a good day”. The first door I walked into, I found the perfect workshop I still work with today. I have jewelers I use in Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York and Florida, and I found the US studios in similar ways.
Karma, destiny, fate, or living your purpose to be. You can call it a lot of things, but I’m very lucky, and blessed as an artist.
Many of your designs have centered around natural forms, so Garden of Light seems like a natural fit for your aesthetic. Did you create anything specifically for the exhibit?
Yes, Garden of Light is a perspective as well as a retrospective. But I was already on a path to create Garden of Light before being approached.
I had butterflies, dragonflies, pansies, orchids and other designs previously created. Once the exhibit was confirmed, it was showtime. Many of my pieces take months to make, so I had to start pieces with my elves in Hong Kong, Thailand, and the US, sometimes even components, so that they could come together. I stretched myself as an artist to create Poppy, Midnight Seduction, Pansy, Spring Eternal, and a number of others that were produced specifically for the show. Some pieces didn’t make the book, but are in the exhibition.
Do you have a thing for spiders? There are quite a number of them represented in various forms.
I had Spidey already, but I created Charlotte, Octavia, and Itsy-Bitsy for the exhibit. I think spiders are mostly benevolent; there are only 5 species in North America that are known to be harmful to humans. Spiders are our non-toxic bug control. In our ecosystem, they are very important. So yes, I love spiders, I appreciate creatures big and small.
I feel like each spider in the collection has its own personality! The entire Garden of Light collection is impressive, but I really felt myself drawn to the spirits and sprites, such as the Empress of Light and the Garden Goddess. When creating these figurative sculptures, how do they come about: do you see the main gem and know immediately what they will become?
I almost always start my design process with the center stone. I literally hold it in my left hand while I draw with my right. Some gems that are the pieces of insects, like a thorax of a butterfly, for example, I have those cut for me, but generally I start with the center.
I see the gem, and it speaks to me. I know their language and hear them speak. That portion of the brain, it’s organic and it has a wiring that just happens. I have to hear and listen, then channel it out of my brain and communicate it to enable it to take shape.
Your work seems to inspire particular loyalty. How does it feel to have such an avid and passionate group of collectors?
I’ve always told people that my destined owners find their destined pieces. The most exciting part and most passionate drive that keeps me working as hard as I work is the light and jump start of the immune system that happens when they find that piece, try it on, and see the light spread out. There is nothing more rewarding. I call my collectors my “angels”. These people, internationally, become both muse and benefactor. As I stated in the Forward in the book: something happens between my work and the person who is supposed to have it, and the relationship that happens at that moment is amazing.
I have people who have hundreds—literally hundreds–of my pieces. They are the culture bearers, people who connect with a certain art and pursue it. A new collector said, I love your work, and love collecting: “This is art, and I am collecting your art.” It is a privilege to make those connections. It’s like love.
Speaking of devoted collectors, quite a number of the jewelry pieces in the exhibition are from private collections. How difficult is it to have your collectors loan their items for the exhibit? Are they happy to share?
Mostly everyone is so thrilled to help and be a part of it. But we do get a myriad of responses. We contacted one woman who has loaned quite a few pieces in the past and had JUST purchased a new piece. She commented, “Well, I’ll have to wear this a LOT in the next couple of months.” It’s not so easy to give things up, as it’s really more like 8 months that they have to part with the jewelry for the exhibition. My team and the Carnegie team have had to work for months to set everything up.
So there are a number of different responses, ranging from “How long do they have to be out THIS time” to a few refusals. I think there have been three “Nos” over the years. Their response was “I can’t have this away from me, I can’t do it.”
I’m not totally surprised. Unlike a canvas on a wall or a piece of sculpture, jewelry becomes a part of the wearer, a Talisman.
You’re right. It becomes an extension of you. I understand that it is no longer available to me because it is part of them.
How many years of work does the exhibit represent?
I would say, maybe going back 25 years. I know there are pieces going back more than 2 decades. Of the 70 pieces, a number are from 2000-2013, some from before.
There is a timelessness to the designs, I had a hard time identifying work that seemed older versus newer. Is there a muse or inspiration that you keep coming back to over and over, something you feel you haven’t fully mined yet?
Let me think about that. I do know that I‘m not done. There are leaps of my imagination that have yet to happen, between my inspiration and my ability to channel it into jewels for an unusual message. There are themes that weave and recur, like the orchids that I did when I was 26 and continue to iterate on now. There is definitely an evolution with my flowers and butterflies.
What’s on the horizon for Paula Crevoshay after this extraordinary exhibition?
There is more to come in the continuum of my love of nature and the divine grace and knowledge of nature.
My next museum show is already in the works. Masterworks beyond even what I’ve worked on up to this date. I’m on piece 3 or so of about 21 pieces. This will be the pinnacle of my career.
For this Carnegie exhibit, I really invite people to go, because it does tell the story of the mineral and animal kingdom and how it all converges. In nature, there is an intense need for specialization, and for any major leap in any field be it science, mineralogy, etcetera, a great synthesis has to happen. That has always been my message. My wish is that it uplifts, and inspires people to consider how interconnected the universe is and how divine it all is.
You can visit the exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History from April 13th through August of 2013. You can purchase the companion book “Garden of Light” here. Paula’s website is at www.paulacrevoshay.com. She will be exhibiting at the Couture Jewelry Show in Las Vegas at booth 100.