This week on CREATURES FEATURES we gain inspiration from nature, compare NY vs. LA and, of course, learn about Leigh Miller's jewelry practice - our longtime friend, and the designer behind her namesake jewelry brand.
CF: Hi Leigh! Can you please tell us where you’re from, and where you live now?
LM: Hi! I am originally from Santa Monica. I moved away from LA 10 years ago and was living in New York and Rio but just moved back to LA last year. I'm currently living in Angelino Heights, a quaint little nook of Echo Park.
CF: We know you as an amazing jewelry designer - What was the path that led you here? Did you study jewelry or design in school?
LM: Oh thank you! I originally went to school for fashion design at OTIS College of Art and Design in LA. I moved to New York City after school and started working for larger corporations such as Calvin Klein and J.Crew. Over time I started to miss the hands-on aspect of the process of making. That's what I love about jewelry - the creative process, forming these little sculptures - it's a very intimate process ... everything that I had been missing in fashion design. I first studied jewelry at a small atelier in Rio, and continued to take classes upon moving back to NYC.
CF: What materials did you first experiment with in your jewelry?
LM: I started experimenting with wax pretty early on. I had taken a class on alternative wax techniques that spawned my interest in trying to utilize wax in non-traditional ways.
CF: Your jewelry is often created from casting forms - how do you create the forms, and what are they made of?
LM: To create the forms with topographic textures, I first melt the wax and extract the shapes I want to use. Then the waxes are cast into sterling silver. I further refine them once they are in metal, as they are easier to form and manipulate into more specific shapes.
CF: Is there an element of surprise when you are making such organic-seeming shapes? Or do you plan the final result beforehand?
LM: It's kind of 50/50. I will sketch out the general ideas beforehand, and try to achieve a particular effect, but ultimately I only have so much control over the process and I have to let the wax do its thing.
CF: Nature seems to be a large element of your jewelry pieces, which often mimic water, sand, and stones. Do you physically immerse yourself in nature to gain inspiration? What is your relationship to nature in your personal life?
LM: I definitely immerse myself in nature for inspiration. My second collection was inspired by stones I found on the beach in Costa Rica. For all the collections, I look to nature whether at the ocean's shore, by a lake, or in the mountains. I honestly feel like I need the tranquility and space that nature provides to really get the ideas flowing. In my personal life I try to get out into nature as much as possible. I love hiking on the weekends, or even during the week here in LA after work. I love camping and am trying to incorporate that into my life more.
CF: What is your artistic practice like? Do you have a studio?
LM: To create the jewelry I work with a lot of castings, a lot of the practice is cleaning them and refining those with a bit of soldering and fabrication at the end. I do have my own studio... I actually just moved in last week, and I am in love with my new space! I'm enjoying working in a community surrounded by other artists, painters, sculptors, printmakers. Lots of creative and inspirational energy.
CF: What is another artistic practice you would like to learn?
LM: I would love to get into painting again! Specifically watercolor. There are so many fun techniques to play with in that medium.
CF: What are you reading right now?
LM: I'm reading Barbarian Days by William Fennigan.
CF: What are your summer plans?
LM: I just got back from an inspirational trip to Sedona, Arizona ... which blew me away with its beauty ... it's such a magical place! Summer is a busy time for me - so I will be working on the new collection for the next couple months before heading to Rhode Island and Cape Cod at the end summer.
CF: What are your favorite and least favorite things about LA?
LM: I love that people here seem to understand the importance of work/ life balance. This was a large part of the reason I wanted to move back. That, and the accessibility to nature ... within 2 hours you can drive from the beach to the mountains! Least favorite - LA is surprisingly not a very bikeable city. I would bike everywhere in NYC, I miss that.
CF: What is your skincare routine?
LM: I use Bioderma Hydrobio Lait Cleanser followed by a Rosewater Toner and Odacite CaR Wild Carrot Serum ... and sunscreen of course - very important in Southern California. I just started using Clinique Mineral Fluid - I love that it is a lightweight mineral formula.
CF: Morning or night?
LM: Night! No matter how much I try to fight it. I have finally thrown in the towel.
CF: Dress or pants?