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Interview: Denise J Reytan

The Berlin artist's "wearable collages" mix vivid colors, silicone, precious gems and more

by Nara Shin in Design on 28 July 2014

Berlin, Jewelry, MoMA Design Store, Design, Interviews, Plastics, Accessories, Necklaces, Creative Process

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While many jewelry designers stick to classics like gold, silver and semi-precious stones, Denise J Reytan builds her "wearable collages" from the most unusual colors and materials. Silicone, textiles and even custom-casted plastic objects are juxtaposed together in necklaces and bracelets, and the results are not outlandish or gaudy, but instead uniquely graceful. More conceptual pieces of art, Reytan's accessories are equally sought after by museums, magazines and boutiques alike. We spoke with the Berlin-based artist to learn about her handmade process, her attraction to vivid colors and working with plastic.

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Can you tell us about your background as an artist and designer?

I like to think all of my pieces tell a story. I approach each necklace almost as an artist might approach a painting, I think about composition, color and textures. And then I try to create a snapshot of my feelings. I like to think of it as "material painting."

When I’m creating a piece in series, rather than a unique piece, then I feel more like a designer than an artist. Working in series means that you really have to plan and manage the process in order to re-produce a piece—you can’t just make one piece and your work is finished. I wanted to make pieces in series because it makes me happy when one person falls in love with a piece and buys it, but it makes me even happier when more than one person can enjoy it!

People don’t always realize that I don’t just design pieces; I also make everything by hand.

My diploma was really interdisciplinary; I studied applied sciences and product design with a focus on jewelry design, as well as more traditional "art" subjects like art history, drawing and photography. I also studied goldsmithing so I think about myself as a craftsperson, too. I think people don’t always realize that I don’t just design pieces; I also make everything by hand. My father is a goldsmith so I’ve been in workshops since a young age, and we make all the silver fastenings for my necklaces together in Dusseldorf.

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How did you fall in love with the medium of plastic?

When I was a little child, I was always enchanted by the bright colors that my plastic toys were made from. All these beautiful bright plastic toys felt precious to me, and that is something I still feel today. And then when I started designing jewelry, I knew I wanted to create colorful pieces, and plastic allows me to do this. It’s harder to get the range of colors if you use metal for example. Plastic offers me an infinite range of colors to choose from and that's really exciting for me.

I almost don’t think of it as plastic any more—plastic has some negative connotations. For me, it’s a material that is available in so many different forms, texture and colors that I need to make my designs come to life. Casting things in plastic allows me to transform pieces—I can combine lots of different pieces and cast them all together in plastic, and unify them through color. This transformation feels almost magical, it completely changes a piece.

In the making process, does working with plastic have its own obstacles?

Of course. It’s fragile, the quality can vary if using a mold. Fragile if e.g. sewing beads through it—it can break and it’s not easy to fix.

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Can you walk us through the process of how you come up with a design for a necklace?

At first I have a specific idea: for example, for my "Precious Plastic" collection I had the idea of bringing together lots of beloved pieces. I always try to find a way to combine things. I made a collage first with all the pieces, then I made a mould to fix all the pieces and to bring them together in harmony. Once I’ve done that, I like to play with the color and make everything in a uniform color. It’s the transformation of all these pieces coming together and becoming unified through color that fascinates me. And then I like to experiment with combining this with other materials, such as gemstones or acrylic glass. I’m always on the lookout for different materials that I’m attracted to, and to find ways to work with them.

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When I first started making jewelry, the creative process felt quite rigid and less intuitive. So I tried a different approach, something closer to the process when I’m painting—I collected lots of interesting pieces on a table. My table became a building site for exploration, a field that my jewelry could grow from. I selected pieces which intuitively felt right together and made a type of three-dimensional material collage, and it is this collage which you see as a finished piece of jewelry.

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What's currently on your mood board right now?

I'm inspired by a lot of things. Since I was a little child I [was] inspired by Native American, Inca and Aztecs, or Papua New Guineans. I love their way of combining colors. How they dress, decorate themselves, with flowers and colorful feathers, the wonderful headpieces! It looks magical! And these influences are always coming back to me. I remember a book when I was a child and a specific picture. But I'm also inspired by old traditional costumes.

Then of course I like looking through Instagram, blogs, design and photography websites; I’m always collecting images. Sometimes it's a color, a feeling or a good thought that inspires me. For example, the "Timepeace" came about because I wanted people to remember what is important in life—to have fun and enjoy life.

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I'm always collecting images of patterns or colors that have been combined in an interesting way. At the moment I’m really inspired by Mara Hoffman, Yvonne Kwok and Peter Pilotto—I like their styles: they have this urban ethno, colorful electric style. Combined patterns, it’s bold and happy. I’m also inspired by the way certain people express themselves, like Mademoiselle Yulia, M.I.A and Fa'velapunk. But I could just as easily have a photo of fruit or something if the colors attract me, or if it’s a beautiful photo.

Reytan's "Precious Plastic Necklace" ($495) and "Timepeace" ($198) will be available exclusively through the MoMA Store beginning 14 August 2014, in-store and online. Reytan also has an online shop available on her website.

Image of blue Precious Plastic Necklace courtesy of MoMA Store, image with model by M Fischinger, all others courtesy of Denise J Reytan

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Word of Mouth: Faroe Islands

Sailing, hiking and the best in dining across the pristine, tiny nation

by David Graver in Travel on 28 July 2014

Faroe Islands, Hiking, Islands, Nordic Nations, Sailing, Word of Mouth, Travel

With a dramatic landscape as intricately charming as it is awe-inspiring, the Faroe Islands (a nation located between Iceland and Norway), provide a destination unlike any other. Situated in the North Atlantic, the archipelago is comprised of 18 separate islands (many of which can be visited) covered in steep, sheer mountains and carpeted with grass and vibrant wildflowers. The allure of the outdoors may be a primary motivation for most visitors, yet this small country has far more to offer—from cafés and bars, to museums and more. A rarity, the Faroes have been left largely untouched by the outside world. But that doesn't mean they're without modern amenities (WiFi is everywhere)—it does mean, however, that delving into the culture makes for a completely one-of-a-kind and extraordinary experience.

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The city of Tórshavn stakes claim to the title of smallest national capital. Colorful houses rest side by side along the harbor. A stroll through the old town reveals one of the last remaining European cities constructed from wood, with buildings dating back hundreds of years; and every so often a house has a roof lush with tall grass. Newer sections of town invoke crisp Nordic design. And while you can do it all on foot, public transportation is always an option; easy and reliable. But as magical as each city, town and village happens to be, it's what lies between the settlements, that contains the most unreal mysticism. Old winding roads, a stray shack and 70,000 sheep (almost 20,000 more sheep than island residents). Whether you're planning on visiting their annual music festival, G!, or just want to scope out something remote, the Faroes command exploration.

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The Nordic House

Stunning architecture aside, Norðurlandahúsið or, The Nordic House, is a hub of Faroese (and other Nordic nations') cultures, located on a hill with a lovely view in Tórshavn. From film screenings to orchestral works, speakers and dance performances, the entire venue is dedicated to intelligent entertainment. The Nordic House also sports a gallery space, with local artists on display year round. And just through the front doors, there's a lovely café and dining area that takes full advantage of the wide-sweeping view.

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Barbara

The number one export from the Faroe Islands is, quite naturally, fish—a protein the Faroese also happen to know how to prepare quite well. Situated in a tiny alley in the old town neighborhood of Tórshavn, the newly opened Barbara serves traditional Faroese food, in a rustic, warm setting. The restaurant is luxuriant, but not overpriced—and with the freshest fish cooked in historically important ways, it's guaranteed to be a remarkable culinary experience.

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Sirkus

A hip watering hole for the younger generation, Sirkus is as charming as it can be boisterous. Whether you're seeking Faroese schnapps or their famous, locally made beer Föroya Bjór, it's a must-stop spot in the capital city with a lot of charm and very good energy.

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Öström

A café and then some, Öström is a perfect place to grab coffee and enjoy a harbor view, or browse any of the Faroese apparel and design objects on offer. There are also small bites for those who have built up an appetite. Upstairs features a large gallery space, housing the work of local artists. It's cozy and delightful downstairs, and inspiring upstairs.

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Tutl Record Shop

More than just a record store, Tutl happens to be the biggest label in the Faroe Islands, putting out albums spanning folk to doom metal. The store is a great space to find out what's being released and talk to people in the know, flip through CDs and in this venue in the capital city, it's also a place for in-store performances.

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Norðlýsið

There's no point in visiting the Faroe Islands and not getting on a boat. The Norðlýsið is a wondrous tall ship, owned by a charismatic captain. With the purchase of a ticket, you can sail the islands, fish for cod and mackerel, and maybe even eat what you catch—as it can be cooked in the galley below. A boat ride is filled with stories that accompany the sea waves. It's a powerful experience on the open ocean, with a different view altogether of the Faroes' splendor.

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Mykines

For hikers, there might not be an experience more beautiful than visiting the remote island of Mykines. A ferry ride away from Tórshavn, the journey is an full day-trip in the least. The island is considered to be a bird paradise, with hundreds of migratory seabirds—not to mention puffins. Mykines exemplifies the remote beauty of the Faroes. There's a stone forest, and a 560-meter hike up Knúk­u. Flowing water graces the landscape, and the entire scene is absolutely stunning. Guided tours can be arranged, whether it's through the tiny village or into the wonders of nature.

Mykines image courtesy of the Faroe Islands, Sirkus image courtesy of Sirkus, all other photos by David Graver

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Build Your Own VIDDY Pinhole Camera

A DIY set for building a charming 35mm and medium format machine

by David Graver in Tech on 28 July 2014

Cameras, DIY, Kelly Angood, Kickstarter, Photography, Pinhole

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It's been over a year since the wild success of UK-based artist Kelly Angood's "The Pop-Up Pinhole Project"—a Kickstarter initiative, for which she proposed a camera that buyers assemble for themselves, from card stock. It was innovative, beautiful and highly functional. Angood's returning to Kickstarter today, with a petite play on her initial product. This time, it's called VIDDY, and it employs both medium format and 35mm film and happens to be even more charming than the original.

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For those who don't know, a pinhole camera utilizes a single small aperture (a pinhole) in place of a lens. This particular pinhole has been laser-cut into screen-printed and die-cut cardboard, all done in the UK. The kit also includes a reclaimed medium format spool, a red light-proof window, split pins, and a customizable sticker sheet—not to mention illustrated instructions. Pop out the pieces, put them together and you're shooting in under 30 minutes. The camera takes superb photos, but there's also something to be said about the value in a photographer building their own camera.

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More than just a smaller, cuter version of The Pop-Up Pinhole Project's Videre camera, VIDDY incorporates feedback Angood has received from the DIY pinhole community that she helped to form. This edition incorporates a film viewing window, shutter indicator and a virtually glue-free construction. And, while the image quality is very good, this isn't a camera for professionals and enthusiasts only. It's already been employed to teach children as young as 11 years old photography basics—a true demonstration of how easy it is to build, use and enjoy.

Snag your very own VIDDY on Kickstarter, in one of four colors, with a £30 pledge, with delivery slated for November 2014.

Images courtesy of Kelly Angood

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