Self-taught, and incredibly passionate, art-jeweler Geoff Thomas proves that self belief, passion and hard work really do pay off. Tracy Bingham wore one of his ornate, hand-fabricated, sterling silver and gold metal bikini tops during a party at his showroom, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler can be seen wearing several of his necklaces for a Target TV commercial, and Mischa Barton debuted one of his necklaces on The O.C. With a clientele growing at an incredibly fast pace one can’t help but fall in with the originality and intricate details of his designs.
You have many artistic talents, painting, sculpting, computer design, photography and jewellery design. Which of these creative outlets do you feel allows you to express yourself fully?
I feel all these creative outlets allow me to express myself fully, they are however, very different in how they express. For me, with painting and sculpture you can express yourself in a more direct and emotional way than with jewelry, you can tell a more detailed story. With jewelry though, you’re creating more of an intimate message for someone to wear, you can convey more of an overall theme or mood for the wearer to express. With jewelry it is the combination of the piece, and the person wearing it that is the final expression.
Beside my love for working with metal and stone, that intimate connection is my favorite part about making jewelry. Painting and sculpture are usually restricted to a person’s home or office, which makes them more private and internally intimate. Jewelry is something that, worn often can become a part of someone’s identity and is an external expression of their personality.
As an artist and designer I need all these mediums. They all satisfy different needs of expression and balance each other out, while enhancing each other also. For the past year I’ve been focused primarily on jewelry, and lately I’ve been feeling the need to paint. I’ll find some time to squeeze some in here shortly.
What’s the longest duration of time it’s taken to create a piece of jewellery?
Well if we’re talking about just fabrication, probably 40+ hours for a gold and silver paneled bikini top with white and yellow sapphire. If you put design time into that probably another 10 hours, so 50 hours total. Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell exact hours per piece because I like to have 5-10 different projects going at the same time.
Any regrets leaving the artistic world for a period of time to become a stock broker?
It is actually the other way around. I sort of left business school to pursue art. Stock broker was just one of my ideas at the beginning of college. I just wanted to be a businessman of some sort and actually was majoring in business management after my first year. I was inspired by a small business class my first year to start a clothing company with a couple of friends. One of them was already an artist and was doing the art work for our t-shirts. He saw some b/w photography and graphic design I was doing for fun and eventually convinced me to start painting and sculpting.
A while after that, through a series of events, we ended up starting an art gallery in downtown San Diego. I was about 2 semesters away from getting my degree in business management and just stopped going. My hands were full with making art, jewelry and running a gallery. It was about then I decided I preferred the art world to the business world.
Now, years later the two worlds have come back together again, starting my own showroom/gallery in Santa Monica. Luckily I have good amount of experience and schooling in the business world, even though art and commerce don’t go together very well in one persons head.
You opened your own personal showroom last year May, how difficult has it been attracting clients?
It is difficult in the beginning. I’m sort of a perfectionist by nature but also like to see results fast. These two conflict for me often. It takes time to get your name out there. As of right now, I’ve only been open 10 months and the response has been fantastic. My jewelry is getting a lot of requests for TV, movies, music videos and fashion shoots right now, so in the next couple of months these things will be getting seen and my clientele will grow significantly.
What would you say the advantages are of being self taught?
I think the greatest advantage to being self taught is retaining your own style and originality. The best thing I got out of my college career (business) was learning how to teach myself. I’ve created my own techniques and tools for doing things, and that contributes to a unique look in the end.
When you’re self taught things may take a little longer in the beginning, but you don’t absorb anyone else’s rules or personal tastes. With teachers, especially in creative fields, you’re going to get their slant on things. You’re going to be influenced by their personal aesthetic if you want to do well in their class. That’s not always a bad thing, and a lot of academics would disagree with me, but it’s going to direct your style whether you like it or not.
I’d say the most important goal/ mission statement for my work, my showroom and the artists I bring in into my showroom is originality with some technical ability. I need to see and create something different. I can’t stand walking into a gallery, boutique, retail store or anything for that matter and see the same thing over and over.
The mass market jewelry world is the worst for originality. I think it is a shame that â€œart-jewelers are not more sought after; there are some great ones out there. People are quite content with what my girlfriend, refers to as â€œprescription jewelry. You either have high end designs of gold and diamonds where everything looks like an engagement ring or you have your rock’n roll/punk silver work that is all skulls, iron crosses, fleur de lis, etc. Now I like some of this stuff but there is no originality to it. It’s all the same thing packaged slightly different.
The problem is that most jewelry designers are not artists or craftsman. Many jewelry designers, never even put their hands on the material they put their name on. They scribble their ideas down or take someone else’s art work, give it to other people, and have them create the actual piece. A lot of jewelry designers don’t even know how to use a torch or set a stone.
If you could spend an evening with any artist, past or present whom would you choose?
I’d have to say for past artists it would be Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci, because they did so many different things so well. For present artists I would say Albert Paley whose metal work is unbelievable, and Robert Williams whose pioneering in the â€œun-conservative art world is vitally important.
What’s next for Geoff Thomas?
Right now I’m getting ready to launch my jewelry collection and for the next couple of months will continue designing for new lines in the fall. Along with filling custom orders for â€œone of a kinds, I have some new show piece designs I’m eager to get started on. I have some ideas for hand bags, clutches, and full body pieces that will be quite impressive.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Do what you love, love what you do. Find something you have a passion for and do it. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey.
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