It’s not easy to pin down exactly what Jamie Hollier does, because her bailiwick is so diverse: She’s a metalsmith and jewelry maker, an entrepreneur as the owner of Balefire Goods in Olde Town Arvada, a slow-fashion advocate, a wife and mother, a boardmember at CherryArts, a gallerist providing wall space to local artists and an active participant in her own metalsmithing community. Yet she juggles her concerns with a certain serenity and admirable purpose. How does she do it? And more important, why? Hollier tells all as she tackles the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Jamie Hollier: Many different things inspire me, in part because I wear so many different hats as a creator, but there seems to be one theme that connects them: unearthing of story. When I’m creating custom jewelry pieces for my clients, I’m inspired by their goals, their connection to the piece and the pursuit of the story they aim to tell with their piece, so I work with them to understand their story fully and realize it in the pieces I make for them.
When I am creating to add my own inventory of jewelry to the store, I am inspired by just sitting down at my bench and letting the materials speak to me about the story they want to tell. My formal training as a metalsmith was much more regimented and focused on a more formal design process. That meant doing sketches, then refining, then creating, etc. It’s only recently that I have really connected to the concept of spontaneous creation, and that has meant embracing the act of listening and improvisation over planning and procedure.
When I am creating for myself, I am creating for a story I want to tell with an outfit, at an event, or so on. I will often have an outfit or style in mind, but it is never complete until I have just the right jewelry for it, completing the story. Iris Apfel once said, “Transformation, punch, individuality: One or all of the above are why you should wear jewelry.” Those are the things I am always wanting to create for myself and share in the stories I tell.
Lastly, I have been lucky to be raised an art lover and have had art appreciation as a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I think there is some part of me that always has some historical reference or context in the back of my mind when creating. When I was getting my undergrad, I was always so confused by the students who didn’t like art history. I see that as the starting point for everything I do in one way or another, and a good backstory and history is always a part of a good story. I believe it is hard to create or really grok art without understanding what has come before and how a new piece fits into that story. Everything is better with backstory and context — it just deepens and enriches all of our experiences.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
If it were a dinner party full of conversation, so many names cross my mind: Nikki Giovanni, Neil Degrasse Tyson, Ursula K LeGuinn, Phillip Pullman, Sarah Vowell… I guess I like to hang out with writers.
Ultimately though, I think I would want to bring together fun, creative people. And I would focus on people who are still living. I am not sure I am up for the “So, what happened since I died?” conversation, especially considering many of my heroes spent their life’s work fighting for equality and hope, and our current political situation feels like bad news. I just couldn't bear to break that news.
That all leads me to:
- Joss Whedon, because I am a fangirl of pretty much everything he does.
- Jordan Peele, because I love how he is reinventing the horror genre and he seems super-fun and hilarious in person.
- Geraldine DeRuiter, mostly known as the blogger the Everywhereist, because she cracks me up, and she recently won a James Beard award for the most original and insightful personal essay I’ve read in ages, about Mario Batali.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
The best thing is the willingness of the arts and creative fields to help one another. I would not be where I am with Balefire without many people stepping up to mentor me on all the pieces of this business that were outside of my wheelhouse. And I love seeing artists helping and supporting one another. One example comes to mind: We had an opening for Valerie Savarie a few months ago, and another artist that we later hosted as a featured artist in the gallery, James Long, came to the opening. James is a videographer for the local news, Fox31. He was not familiar with Valerie’s work but fell in love with it, and so he did a segment about her that aired on Fox31. Connections like that, where we help each other, are what this community is all about.
The hardest part of what I am trying to do with Balefire is that I want to have a gallery that shows all kinds of art but really does place an emphasis on jewelry as art. Ever since I was studying art history as part of my undergrad, I have bristled at the idea of fine art being somehow superior to decorative art, and I still come up against that here and there.
How do you juggle all the hats you wear as an artist, boutique owner and gallerist?
Not well! I think I hack it okay. Not great, but okay.
In a weird way, juggling a lot of hats is just in my nature. I have found that I have a hard time staying motivated when I have an attainable to-do list. Having a list with things that includes more than I can get to keeps me motivated, which I should likely talk to my therapist about. That doesn’t seem totally healthy, does it?
I am also lucky to have spent a lot of time studying productivity, agile project management techniques, and other tools and skills from when I worked as a project manager and product owner in technology. That experience has been incredibly beneficial to me as I try to navigate all the different obligations and roles in my life. I am tired a lot, and sometimes forgetful. And I am making it work and finding fulfillment, so I must not be mucking it up too much.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
Oh, geez… I'm not sure I'm a bucket-list person in the usual sense of the term. I think I am more of a “What if…” person. What I mean by that is that I don’t have a list of items I definitely want to do; it’s more like I have an ongoing and changing backlog of things that might be interesting or engaging, but the items in that backlog adjust regularly as opportunities arise and changes come about in my life. Right now, I'm feeling like it might be interesting to have a show of my own work sometime in the near future. Since coming back to metalsmithing, I have focused on a much more of-the-moment approach to creating, and I have really loved that experience. However, I have been focused on creating custom work of late, and now I'm feeling the urge to sit down and create a cohesive body of work that is my own.
What’s your dream project?
I'm not sure I have a dream project, exactly, but I always seem to have a bunch of ideas brewing. Collaborating with others to make projects and ideas come to life is also great. One thing that has been in the back of my mind for a while that I would like to see come to fruition is the idea of creating a show around adornment that includes jewelry and accessory artists, clothing designers and tattoo artists. Basically, exploring art where it is completed by the act of being worn and by its interaction with a person and finding common and differing viewpoints to that work is interesting to me right now.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I still love Denver, even with its growing pains. At the end of the day, Denver still feels like a small community, and I still find it to be full of people who lift each other up and support one another.
However, I do want to live outside of the U.S. at some point in my life, even if only part-time. I guess that is one of my bucket-list items that should have made the list above. Learning to live in a new culture, with a new language and new customs, feels like an amazing way to stretch who you are as a person, and I am excited to push myself and grow in that way.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
No way can I pick a favorite, but I will say that generally I am excited to see decorative arts, and the metalsmithing community specifically, getting more exposure through shows like Blurring the Line at the Arvada Center. I am also really looking forward to hosting the Colorado Metalsmithing Association show at Balefire in July and August to keep that exposure and conversation going.
I adore many of the artists we have hosted in the past such as Vincent Comparetto, Peter Yumi and Valerie Savarie, and I think all of them (and many of the others we have hosted) have been integral to bolstering the arts community as it stands today. In the coming months, Balefire will be hosting Jesse Mathes, Nicole Grosjean and Joanna Mueller in our art shows, and I think their contributions to our arts community are unique and interesting, so I can’t wait to see what they come up with.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
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I really want to just keep homing in on what makes Balefire a truly authentic idea. Society likes to glamorize entrepreneurship, but the reality is that it is an immensely difficult endeavor that takes a ridiculous investment of your time, energy, funds and love. How can entrepreneurs navigate those challenges and create authentic community and tell a great story with their business? That’s the question I’m focused on answering. My agenda for the next year is to continue to push Balefire in this direction and push myself. We will host some amazing artists and have some great parties along the way.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
The Arthyve artist archive project has piqued my interest most recently, and I think the potential impact and benefits that the nonprofit can bring to the local arts community are really amazing. As someone with a library science degree and as a former boardmember for the Digital Public Library of America, I understand firsthand the need for and the value of taking an active role in creating transparency into the art community to build a legacy of value. I am so excited to see where Arthyve will go.
Balefire Goods, 7417 Grandview Avenue in Olde Town Arvada, hosts metal sculptor JC Milner’s show, Cognitive Diversity, through the end of June. The Colorado Metalsmithing Association All Members Show opens with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 19, and runs through August 20. Learn more about Jamie Hollier and Balefire online.