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Breakfast with Thea

I know you’ve all been having hunger pains, what with so many weeks elapsing since our last Breakfast installment — so you’re sure to enjoy meeting Thea Izzi, jewelry designer, blogger, and single mother. Thea is a dear old friend of mine from high school, and she recently moved from San Fransisco back to the Boston area. She sent me her interview responses more than two months ago and I’ve been totally delinquent in posting. (Thea is too modest to note in her interview that she earned her BFA at the Rhode Island School of Design and won a Fulbright to study jewelry making in Italy, so I’ll do that for her.) Enjoy!

tniCC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
TI:
My name is Thea Izzi and I’m a jewelry designer, artist, and metalsmith. I am a single mother of one beautiful 2.5-year-old boy named Edan. We just moved to the Boston area from the SF Bay Area a few weeks ago!

CC: Tell us about your jewelry design and how your work has evolved. Any other creative pursuits?
TI:
It’s always difficult to answer this question because I feel so often that my work and ideas come out of nowhere. My inspiration comes from basic geometric shapes in nature and architecture and repeated patterns. It’s what feels good to me. My process is about playing and discovering new ways of engineering or putting together interesting parts in a simple yet aesthetically pleasing way. What is produced tends to mirror a much deeper connection to rhythm, balance, and feminine energy. Usually it is someone else who is drawn to the force of energy around a certain design and points it out before I notice it as more than just a really nice thing to wear. Even though I would like to explore making work that is deliberate in expressing my deeper connection to and interest in what I would describe as the divine feminine archetype, my work of late has been jewelry that’s purely for fun and fashion and affordability. That has been both from necessity and desire to work with new materials (rubber). The outcome is a body of work that could be described as “urban tribal,” which I guess, does, in its own way reflect a modern feminine (and masculine) archetype idea.

EarthtonesPinCC: Making a living from fulltime creativity obviously adds a huge amount of pressure to your creative life. Do you love what you do, even though it’s your “job”?
TI:
That’s a great question to ask me right at this moment because I have now been studio-less for two weeks and my business is essentially shut down until I find a place to set up again. I am at once relieved to not be under so much pressure but also missing my time at the bench, which I have not had for a few months because of all that it took to move.

So the short answer is YES, I love what I do and having a job based in creativity is essential to my well-being but the stress of running a business has stunted my creative growth and motivation. I am now searching for a better way to make a living as I restructure my life; work and home. It may mean working for someone else for awhile or getting a job at a company as a designer but that will likely be temporary because what I do is who I am…an artist and my purpose in this life is clearly to create and express through artistic mediums.

Singing and dancing feed my need for self-expression as well as making jewelry. They are the other great talents I was born with.

CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
TI:
My blog is a new addition to my web 2.0 networking efforts! I resisted for a long while as journal writing in general has always been an uphill challenge for me—but I have found blog writing surprisingly rewarding and easy. The most difficult part is making time to do it. My motivation is definitely rooted in “business marketing and branding” but my approach has been to be real and honest about who I am and what is happening in my life. This helps ME to be clear about my goals and identity. It also draws in would-be customers because they have a “story” about me, the artist. That is SO important in marketing handmade art.

Thea@bench2CC: You’re in the process of moving right now, but tell us about your studio in SF. What will you be looking for in your new creative space?
TI: As I write this I am in the process of searching for a studio space. While without one I am deeply appreciating the one that I had and realize how much it feeds my identity. No surprisingly because it represents MY space. No part of my living space now or in CA belongs anymore to just me. It is all shared with my sweet 2.5-year-old roommate!

What I am looking for as I search is as much space and light as possible. I like an uncluttered environment as well. I would like to be in a building with other working artists as this is something I was missing in my last situation. I like working alone but that can easily turn in to isolation if there are no opportunities for socializing. I think having other artists around would especially good for me being a “newbie” in town.

CC: Now that you’re shifting your work life, will you still maintain a schedule for your creative work?
TI:
In short, yes. I did not plan it as scheduled creative time but I took advantage of the spring season of classes starting at RISD and signed up for Adobe Illustrator to improve my computer-aided jewelry design skills. Now I HAVE to schedule time for the homework which I am finding to be very satisfying creative work. It also seems that the prospect of making income from creating my own jewelry is still BETTER than that of getting a “job” so as soon as I find the studio…creative work begins again. Will I be able to schedule it? Maybe not but the Universe’s plan for me clearly includes being creative no matter what else I try to plan.

Rubber O- RingsCC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
TI:
Hmm. Not sure, at first thought. I think more about what I could design or create for children. My son particularly likes my new rubber jewelry with magnetic clasps. He has showed me how well the entire collection looks attached to the refrigerator. I guess I think creatively in terms of what is FUN.

CC: From my own experience, being a single parent can sometimes magnify the challenges of being a creative mother. What are your challenges in being a single mother as well as an artist? What are the advantages?
TI:
Challenges: Sigh. The selfish part of that answer is that I have almost no time left for myself right now. That’s why this has taken so long to get to you, M! It’s been stuck at the bottom of the priority list. I pulled it up this morning out of sheer frustration that NOTHING on the to-do list today looked any fun at all.

One HUGE and direct example of my daily challenges right now is that I am, as a single mother with no child support, eligible for financial assistance from the fed/state government for child care, health care, and more but as a self-employed person I must prove my income (or lack thereof) and work schedule in several different formats which is exhausting and time consuming. I then have to reprove it 2-4 times a year depending on the program. Some of the vital documents I need are in a box on a truck due to arrive in weeks. Sigh again.

CIMG5815Advantages: Let me get back to you in a few years on that. Hopefully my son will learn that it is possible to be successful doing something he loves. Hopefully he will see me being HAPPY doing something I love. I think he gets that dancing pretty much makes me ecstatic and that I love to sing and that I make some cool stuff you can wrap around your wrist or put over your head but I don’t know yet how he integrates that information.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
TI:
Architecture, patterns, flowers, electronic music, and mostly by playing and experimenting with existing “parts” on my bench.

CC: The West Coast seems to place a lot of emphasis on the mind-body connection. What are your own feelings about how physicality influences creativity?
TI:
I 100% agree with the mind-body connection theory. I am most alive, free, and pregnant with ideas and the most aware of my intuition when I am regularly dancing and moving my body.

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
TI:
Oy. I really just started the public blog thing. I don’t know too many but so far I enjoy reading Lydia Kirtchthurn’s blog Lydia Oh Lydia.

CC: What is your greatest indulgence?
TI:
Hot springs… natural outdoor CALIFORNIA hot springs. I am going to cry now. Well, hand me a fresh warm croissant and I’ll be OK.

CC: What are you reading right now?
TI:
Ha ha ha! Read? We are currently reading anything by Eric Carle. I would LIKE TO BE reading Michael Pollan, Eckhart Tolle and more….mostly non-fiction subjects on human potential and our evolution to a new paradigm.

IMG_2615CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
TI:
Don’t give up on being a creative person. Listen to your intuition not what other people have to say about what you “should” be doing now that you are a mother. If nothing else there is always time to DANCE and BREATHE! The rest will follow.

CC: Thank you, Thea! Please give us an update when you find a moment!

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. suzannerevy #

    I’ve not stopped in for awhile, but thanks for a great interview. Good luck settling in Boston, and hope you find a good situation for being creative and paying the bills without going nuts!! We all need that, I think!

    Thanks.

    June 19, 2009
  2. I have Thea Izzi earrings and they cause quite a stir whenever I’m wearing them!

    Her purity of form and innovative thinking are beautiful and rare. Go Thea!

    June 19, 2009
  3. Thea just sent in this update:

    The update since writing this is that I am closer than ever to getting a full time job as a senior jewelry designer in the fashion jewelry industry. This is a very creative job that includes lots of drawing and that pays well. It’s been a challenge to get prospective employers to understand that having run my own business for 15 years is an asset to my skill base but I am getting there with the help of a recruiter who finally got the picture. I will in the long run be able to manage an edited version of my own jewelry business on the side.

    I am adjusting slowly to the east coast lifestyle but confident that I’ve made the right choice because survival had far surpassed creativity on my agenda in my former life. Now I am building a new foundation for myself and my son so that all the other creative things I like to do can re-emerge from the dust. Some, like painting, already have. My son shares this passion with me, which is an even greater gift. Does it get better than that?

    June 19, 2009
  4. lovely interview, i like the transitional element of what is going on in your life, thea, just being at the forefront of the whole thing. a few years ago this is where i was, it will settle down. even the longing for hot springs. (i miss NE and the snow and scent of chill autumn). i love that you are following your heart in creativity. slow lesson learned for me, but i’m finally getting it.

    June 20, 2009
  5. very lovely to meet you, thea. your work is gorgeous and your spirit contagious. best of luck settling and with your new prospects!

    June 22, 2009

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