The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
I Want My Own Empire
By Sean O'Hara and Jeff Ocampo of Wide Eyes
Eliza Spell is less jewelry maker and more a black magic conjurer. We have recently had the chance to sit down with her in her studio while she worked on her ceremonial adornments. She is working on her empire and we were lucky enough to witness some of the work she puts in. Check out one of the more interesting and innovative characters I have met in years.
Eliza is leaned over her work bench. Her elbows sit amongst bags of beads, chains, crystals, crosses, panels of leather, and a few half drank coffee cups. Her drill press takes up an entire side of the table.
A lamp stays lit on the other end. Her eyes are transfixed on the leather pouch she is working on. The way she looks at her is work is like someone out of time. She sees what it could be and is almost working backwards. Retroactively creating the image she sees. At least that is how it seems to me.
She holds the leather and chain in her one hand with pliers in the other. Her fingers move as if each had its own mind. Each knowing exactly what to do. I have rarely seen hands outside of musicians work like this. She is so concentrated on her work, you ask her questions and she doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. She will occasionally pull herself from the table and rummage through shelves and bins full of materials she likes using.
I watch her while she is knelt in front of a bin of of drawers. I read the labels of the tiny drawers. It is amusing to see labels you would expect like brass, beads, gold, and wire mixed with skulls, spikes, and teeth. She grabs what she is looking for and heads back to the table. She changes the song on her computer and waits a moment, almost gauging the mood it sets. Her purposeful hands start back on the pouch with those fierce eyes back between time. Not wanting to interrupt, I walk the space of her studio.
Her desk holds her laptop, religious candles of every color, scattered pieces she is working on, a binder of ideas and inspirations, and a few personal photos. Above her desk the are brilliantly colored illustrations of Hindu gods.
Next to her desk sits a small shrine. A gold painted box holds things of love. Things she cherishes. Items from various religions, photos, candles, labels she likes. Though I lack any belief in superstition, religion, or deity, I have a reverence for it. It seems almost holier than a reliquary or temple. I feared being too close as if I might disturb something in its nature. It gives me a feeling like I am staring into someone’s open journal, and I decide to move on.
I let my eyes scan the three boards that line the walls. There is one that is a silhouette of Michael Jordan, a Yin Yang, and a marijuana leaf. The Jordan is above her desk and only holds a few things. An inspirational paper, photos of friends, and a large, gold Illuminati necklace. The Yin Yang is a mix of some finished works and ongoing projects. The pot leaf holds finished works left over from her open studio.
As you look above the boards, it is hard not to be drawn to her first projects which still may be some of the most magnificent. Sitting above her shrine and above a mirror are two headdresses. Native American style headdresses for heroes and idols of hers. The first is for Jay-Z and the second is for Stevie Nicks. There was a third for Andrew W.K. but she was able to give it to him. The moment is captured in some faded polaroids she has in her studio. When she first told me about them, my mind went wild. I loved the idea. A tribute to those you love. A tribute to the work that inspires yours. Seeing them in person is impressive in a way that I lack words for. I turn to her finished works.
Her work is mainly in necklaces at this point. It looks like a collection of ceremonial pieces of worship. They are made of equal parts religious artifact, hip hop swag, animal bone, crystal energy, and trans-dimensional travel.
Looking at them brings to mind a post-apocalyptic society. Superstition and tribal religions mixing an elements of early humans with relics of a dead modern age. All of her pieces seem to call to you to be touched or worn. Like there is some essence of consciousness hidden in them. Eliza told me when I first met her about creating the pieces and how positive she felt creating. She feels in some way that energy is transferred into them. Whether it be the beauty of a hand crafted signature or something else that is intangible.
Crystals of all sizes hang at the ends of chains. Their shape varies and I can easily imagine them worked into outfits of girls I know. I like the length of her skull bead rosaries. If I had to pick my favorite piece, it would be a small chain necklace with what I thought were carved wooden beads on the end. Eliza explained that they are snake vertebrae. She nods me on to touch them. I let them run through my fingers. They are jagged but it fascinates me how they fit together.
I look over all of her work again. The chains and the pendants. An inverted cross can usually be found in her work. If I had to pick a signature of Eliza it would be the inverted cross. She shows me a whole necklace of them. She explains that it is purely aesthetic and devoid of any statement. I agree there is a draw to an inverted cross. It evokes an emotion regardless of faith. I ask her about her prices. They are dependent on materials and time.
The picture of Eliza Spell has come into focus from my conversations with her. From her work in sculpture to her time spent in Bali making jewelry and studying the area. We have shared conversations of knives and our mutual love of a good blade.
We talked at length about the lack of a word for the satisfying feeling of touching some objects. The temperate, the texture, the power. Imagine holding dice or dominoes. She told me of her feelings on art and how it is self indulgent. Leading to her hesitation at showing her work at first. She is earnest and honest with her views.
She is someone who must be drawn out in conversation. I think out of all her qualities, I respect this the most. People who are talented and you wish would talk to you for hours but have trouble talking about themselves and their work are the most fascinating to me. It is like they subscribe to some code of humility that is lacking with society at large. I am excited to continue covering Eliza and her next projects. She deserves a novel, but I can only give her these words. She is a cool that is almost forgotten in a modern age. Like every piece she makes, she is truly and utterly one of a kind.
I highly suggest you check out more of her work on her site ElizaSpell.com.