For this series of Spotlight Interviews we’ll be introducing our Creative People in Florence/Florence Design Week Team! Creative People in Florence is working with a fantastic group of talented designers and artists to produce an exciting series of events for Florence Design Week, from May 27-31 .
Naomi Muirhead makes jewelry and collages using vintage ephemera, Italian maps, letters, photos, watch parts, game pieces, found objects, furniture and other materials, repurposed for a new life while honoring the past imprint of the object’s history. Originally from the Chicago area, she has also resided in Madrid, Seattle, San Francisco. Since 2000 she has lived and worked in Florence where she teaches university‐level jewelry courses. She has degrees in painting, interior architecture, and jewelry arts, and has exhibited and sold her work in the US and Europe.
Naomi Muirhead, originaria della zona di Chicago, dopo aver vissuto a Madrid, Seattle e San Francisco, e dopo essersi laureata in pittura, architettura di interni e gioielleria nonché aver esposto e venduto i suoi lavori in America e in gran parte dell’Europa, dal 2004 vive e lavora a Firenze. Qua insegna corsi di gioielleria a livello universitario, e parallelamente crea gioielli e collages, utilizzando pezzi vintage occasionali, come mappe italiane, lettere, foto, parti di orologio, pezzi di giocattoli, oggetti trovati, mobili e altri materiali, riproponendoli a nuova vita, e onorandone allo stesso tempo il valore e la storia.
How would you describe your relationship with Florence?
Without any actual plans to relocate from San Francisco to Florence, I adopted the city as my own, slowly over the last 15 years. The city is full of immense beauty and history, but it isn’t a perfect city by any means. As with most expats that choose to settle here, there are daily life struggles, as well as challenges to become and remain successful, especially for contemporary artists and designers. Florence is my home, and I recently redesigned my apartment. I embrace the positive characteristics of the city and learn to accept the rest. By living here, I have been able to hone in on what I like to do and have met some very interesting people that have either traveled or lived here. Any time I leave and return, I can’t wait to see that cupola rising above the cityscape.
Which aspect of your work gives you the most satisfaction?
In addition to my own projects, I am lucky to have a job in a creative and educational environment, using creative skills and having variable tasks. My artwork is also variable as far as medium, but it is mainly centered around jewelry design and fabrication. Trained in fine arts and design, I pull my resources and inspirations from an interdisciplinary vocabulary. Much of my work cross-references each other in the form of material and subject matter. I am most satisfied when this aesthetic connection is recognized, and when I am able to realize an idea and solve a design issue by making something with my hands.
How do you begin a project? Can you tell us about how a project takes shape?
I tend to get ideas that spark from things that I come across and collect, found objects that grab my attention for some reason. I might find a scrap of metal on the ground or a vintage watch, or a segment of a book while scouring through boxes in a junk shop or an antique market. I look for things that inspire me, and then I think, “What can I do with this? How can I transform it into something else that gives it a new life?”. It becomes a design challenge that I have posed to myself. I may research related imagery or text to add layers of meaning to the project, be it a piece of jewelry, a collage, or a design.
Aside from being an artist, you are also a teacher, you manage a gallery, you write a blog… Is it difficult to make your art a priority?
Yes, it absolutely is. Much of what I do at my “job” is the same thing I would do for myself: learning/teaching/sharing ideas, promoting artists, designing graphic communication, and reading/writing about art and art events. Because of my work schedule, I find it very hard to juggle responsibilities and make concentrated time to work on my own creative projects. They unfortunately take second stage at this moment in my life, but the ultimate goal is to make more time to focus on and promote my own work.
How important is collaboration with other artists and creative people? What do you look for in a potential creative collaborator?
I haven’t had much of an opportunity to collaborate with other artists and creative people. If we have the same goal such as selling work, I might want to collaborate with someone who does work in a completely different style than I do. If instead, we do a project in which we are actually working together to create something, I would want to collaborate with someone with aesthetic tastes similar to mine. I very much support the idea of doing group collaborations, for example where a photographer uses skills to document and promote designs, such as furniture in a design space or jewelry used on a model for a fashion designer’s work. In this way, everyone in each field gets promoted and each supports the other.
What can we expect from you for Design Week?
The theme for this year’s Design Week is “Creative Cities.” This fits perfectly with the work that I do using maps and dealing with place/location. I will be showing map and architectural-related jewelry pieces as well as furniture and accessories with vintage map designs, using various techniques.
Are there any other plans or projects coming up that you want to share with the group?
I’m continuing an on-going jewelry project using vintage tintypes, and I am constantly searching for ways to make non-precious found objects into intimate objects worn on the body.