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Jewelry designer Pamela Love on mysticism as inspiration and her dream client, Neil Young

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NYC-based jewelry designer Pamela Love didn't start out in the accessory business -- her background is in film, and she got work as a stylist for photo and video shoots. But when she found that other artists' works didn't embody her own unique sense of style, Love went off on her her own, designing jewelry out of her home in Brooklyn.

Since this move into the design world in 2009, Love has created jewelry for HBO's True Blood, collaborated with the likes of Topshop, Zac Posen and Spike Jonez, and overseen an apparel line for J. Crew. In advance of her trunk show this Saturday, June 30, at Goldyn, 2040 West 30th Avenue, the artist spoke with Westword about her work and the inspiration of the Southwest and religious ceremonies.

Westword: You use a lot of pronounced symbolism in your jewelry -- triangles, feathers, crystals. Wwhere does that come from and how does it play into your design?

Pamela Love: I've always been interested in magic and ritual and the study of ancient symbolism. I'm also extremely interested in the Southwest -- imagery from Native American culture and South American culture. I think a lot of that is repeated throughout my work. I find I'm interested in the exploration of religion in jewelry, and how so much of religious imagery is utilized in jewelry, and how it is a part of religious customs and ceremony. Whether it be a wedding or a rosary, I think there is a huge part of religion and spirituality that is connected to jewelry, and vice versa. To me, though jewelry is an accessory, it is something more -- something culturally significant.

You started designing jewelry out of your apartment in Brooklyn in 2006, and showing in 2009. Was there a point at which you remember things feeling like they were getting big?

There were so many moments. I think, the first time I was written up in the New York Times was a big deal for me. It brought us a lot of attention from more customers and stores. Having a page in the Sunday Style section was a really big deal for me.

It's funny; it's never as huge of a deal as it is that first time. I don't know if it seemed like it was a big deal because it was all new to me, so maybe it felt crazier than it was? It was very exciting.

You've collaborated quite a bit since you began -- with fashion designers, filmmakers and international brands. How do you approach these joint working situations?

It depends on the project. It's a combination of my brand's identity and someone else's brand's identity. It's about finding a clever way to make it work and sometimes it's easier than other times. When I'm working with a runway designer, it's about their vision and what how they imagine (my work) supporting their clothing, and using my aesthetic and sensibility to create that work. When it's something like Topshop, it's about me taking my ideas and making them accessible to larger audiences.

With J. Crew, it wasn't jewelry -- it was jackets and jeans and belts. I just wanted to have a project that would appeal to a larger audience but that wasn't jewelry. I didn't want to water down my jewelry by creating lower price-point work, I just wanted to create something else that embodies my brand.

Do you have plans to design clothing in the future?

I don't think that I would design apparel -- I like apparel, and it's fun to collaborate on projects with clothing designers. But I don't think I would ever want to do it, independently. I don't think I have the knowledge or the talent in that area. I think my area is really adornment and jewelry and that is what I know. If I were to do clothing, it's usually in collaboration where I apply my ideas of hardware or adornment to the clothing.

Looking through the Pamela Love blog, there are a lot of references to musicians -- Nü Sensae, Wipers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Does music inspire the work you create?

Music is definitely an inspiration for me. I don't know if it's as much an inspiration on my collection as it is on my overall life and aesthetic. But it's definitely a big part of my life. There is a feeling to my collection that is a little bit rock n' roll; I look a lot to musicians from other times, their style, their aesthetic and how they would layer lots of jewelry with a bohemian feeling.

It's the culture of the brand; we love to post things that are interesting to us and then, in turn, things that are interesting to my customer. I think my brand, even though right now it is just jewelry, is sort of a lifestyle brand in a way? I think a lot of those bands play into that. Nü Sensae are good friends of mine, and they wear my jewelry. Musicians are my biggest supporters, which is really great.

If there could be any musician, alive or dead, who you could see wearing your jewelry, who would it be?

I always say Neil Young -- because he is my favorite person in the entire world. I don't even know if he wears jewelry. (Laughs.) He's been a huge influence on my work and my life; someone who's story, and music and aesthetic has been such a huge part of my world and me as a person since I was a little kid.

One last, personal question: I saw a photograph of you recently, and you had Calvin (from the Calvin and Hobbes comic) tattooed on your arm. What's that about?

That's not real! I can't believe that the photographer didn't take that out -- I went to a party the night before that photo shoot, and a gift was all of these fake tattoos. I said 'please take this out,' and the photographer said they would. Then they didn't.

I have interesting tattoos, and that is not one of them. (Laughs.) I have a tattoo that says 'dad' on my wrist that is really important to me -- my father passed away in my early twenties, and that's really symbolic to me. Then, I have my husband's (illustrator Matthew Nelson) name on my ribcage, which I got way before we even knew we were going to get married. It was a real leap of faith. He actually got my name tattooed on his arm a couple of days after he met me -- and we both were in other relationships. (Laughs.) That's how insane we were about each other. He crossed out another person's name.

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