Chloe is one of our talented artisans, carrying out some of the most precise tasks on the studio floor. Here, Liz speaks with her about small business perks and her line of handmade jewelry.
You graduated from RISD with a BFA in painting. Did you always have a natural interest in art that led you to this point, or was it something that sort of grew on you?
It was something that was around me all the time, and, I mean, it was really the thing that I was good at. Art was clearly where my strengths were, almost comically so: I can’t do math to save my life, but drafting and visuals always presented themselves easily and beautifully to me. I felt smart in that one department; art was something valuable that I was capable of. Over time, I just kind of defaulted into it- if you’re honest with yourself there are just some things that make more sense to pursue, and for me, that was art.
I initially wanted to study history, because I’m a really literary lady (laughs)… I love style, and I like to keep track of historical aspects of style with lots of references and with books. That’s always helped me to create the framework that I’m sure goes into the things I end up making. I just think that I found a lot of stuff I tended to pay attention to was style and fashion-related, but I always wanted to make something that was more like fine art, that could be worn by anyone for years.
R Form Studio Queens Orb Earrings
You and your mother run a jewelry line together- how did that come about?
As I went through school, I started making things that were more on the sculptural side. Then in 2009 I graduated and had, you know, the classic “art school freak out”- I didn't know what to do with my degree. But I knew I wanted to keep making things, and so after a few moves, being really precious with these big giant projects I had made in college, I started shrinking my work and going smaller with it. I wanted to find some kind of way to keep making things, but have some place to put them, as I wasn't going to pursue that New York gallery world. I’ve just tried to find a different outlet for these things that I’ve always liked to do, and it manifested in this line, that I partner on with my mom.
This line is definitely our “thing” together. It’s really cool working with somebody from a different generation, because I feel like we benefit from having two different perspectives. She’s seen a lot design-wise in her career, and I provide an eye to contemporary, and occasionally subversive, style. We both love really pure, smart design, though, and so I feel like as a team we can cast a wide net and have a good eye for fresh ideas. We come up with a lot of things, so that’s been kind of a good method of quality control and a way for us to carve out our identity.
Often we find that people think R Form Studio is from Europe or New York, and they’re surprised to learn that we’re not, which I guess is a compliment. Our pieces do appear editorial to people, which just means the right ones have to see our work, but it can be a little hard to reach them. What we do is very one-of-a-kind, and we make things that look deceptively simple but that take a lot of time to create. Our jewelry isn’t made with parts- everything is all done by hand and isn’t mass-produced, so a lot of people don’t understand why the cost is high. As an emerging designer, that concept can be really hard to convey. We did actually have the chance to collaborate with Opening Ceremony in the Spring/Summer 2016 season, though, and it was a really great experience to work with them.
At Lotuff, you mostly do detail-oriented tasks like buffing and painting. Do you feel this befits you, given your artistic field and experience?
Yeah, I guess I’m a fairly detail-oriented person, although I used to not be. I was really messy, but over the years I’ve become more meticulous and its kind of perfect, really. That kind of attention to detail feels comfortable to me at this point in my life. There’s always something in the studio that needs to be painted, so it aligns with my weird hours because any time is a good time to do that.
I’ve been at Lotuff for nearly three years. I came here through an amazing friend, who told me she’d found a job in town, and at the time I needed a day job to go along with my nighttime job. And obviously I like to do things with my hands, so it’s worked out well- the past year for me has been just painting. I really do think that’s one thing that’s always needed doing, and my schedule is kind of weird, but everyone here has worked with me and that wonky schedule to find something that fit my skills and their needs.. They've always been very respectful of my outside life, and I think I am definitely in the spoiled category here where I’m used to being respected as an individual. They understand that I have my own art outside of the studio, and offer possibility so that I can succeed in both realms.
R Form Studio Adoration Wide Leather Cuff
From one small business to another, what do you like about working with a more concentrated group of people rather than a huge team?
I mean, I like all aspects of it. With my own company, I like to wear all the hats, which is something you only get to do in a small business. I often have particular ideas that I could never explain properly to someone else, so it’s easier and nicer that I’m able to carry them out myself. And at Lotuff, it’s awesome too. It’s nice to have all my work happen in the same related genre, and I enjoy being able to see all the conversations and meetings happening here since the studio space is so open. It feels relevant to me, the fact that this is also a small business and a team trying to figure out how to get out there.
The people I work with at Lotuff are all peers of mine — some of them I’ve known since I was 18 — and many of them have artistic pursuits that I've really respected outside of the studio. Somehow we’ve all wound up working here, so that’s also something really cool. I think it’s greatly unusual for this to happen, as they’re all such diverse people, but everyone comes and makes these beautiful things even if they don’t always align with their personal style. It’s a small team of people who are hard workers on whatever they do, and they’re independent thinkers who are used to being self-directed, which is a virtue in this type of environment.
You’ve lived in Providence all your life. As time has gone by, what have you really learned to love about this city?
I love the people and the art scene. I really like seeing people evolve and grow and then still stick around, finding a way to live their own lives in Providence. They make this city work for them, because for better or for worse the city’s economy allows you to do two things: have a work life and a personal life.
If I lived in New York I would not have been able to pursue my art and my career. I just wouldn’t have been able to swing it. Here, I still have to cut expenses and not feel affluent, but I’m happy. I can direct my day, do something fulfilling, and even save up for travel now and then, which is really important for my creative work. Getting out of Rhode Island for a while is important for me, just to know that the world still exists at large. I love to see what’s going on in other places — I go to Berlin often, and lived in Asia for four months — and then design based on that. I’m a townie, but for my work to thrive, I need to travel to avoid feeling static. So it’s like magic that here, you can work enough to pay your bills and still find a way to have entire days to dedicate to your personal practice. Your life ends up feeling yours, and I think that’s the strength of Providence: the people here who are motivated and able to make things happen.