Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Instant Heirloom: Porcelain Jewelry by Sofia Masri

Way back when I started this blog, Sofia was on my list of women to cover. I completely love her style and have always wanted to know more about her work. I'm not sure why on earth it took me so long to finally get around to doing a Q&A with her, but I am very pleased to present one today!

Sofia Masri
Location: Chicago
Find Me: sofiamasri.etsy.com; sofiamasri.com

Tell me a little bit about what you make.
I make jewelry out of porcelain clay! Every piece is a labor of love. From making the molds to glazing to assembly, I spend a lot of time making sure each item is just right.

How and when did you learn to work with porcelain?
It was an accident, actually. I studied fashion design and had my heart set on starting a clothing company. While I was saving up some money I began making beaded jewelry. My mom was working with mosaics at the time and persuaded me to take a porcelain tile making class with her. The light bulb went off immediately.

How did you come to focus on jewelry?
I'm very detail oriented so I wanted to make small objects full of texture and color. Having an interest in fashion, I naturally veered toward accessories. Jewelry seemed like such a perfect fit for the medium. Porcelain is refined and takes texture beautifully. It's lightweight and strong, and colors really pop on the white background. I knew right away that I wanted to make jewelry- never thought twice!

Would you call your process traditional or are you doing something innovative in terms of process?
The process itself is traditional. I make the pieces, let them dry, fire them in a kiln, glaze them and fire them again. It's the product of the process that's somewhat unconventional.

Where do you do your work?
I work out of my parents' house in the Chicago suburbs. They've graciously donated my old bedroom to the business. My mom (http://raquelmasri.etsy.com) also works there, she makes gorgeous housewares and has an awesome workspace! I'm hoping to graduate to a big girl studio this spring or summer.

Have you had any mentors along the way?
Not really, though I've always wanted one! Because I'm mostly self taught I haven't had the luck of finding a true mentor. It's tough to meet people when you're working in a room by yourself for the majority of the week. But if anyone reading this would like to send me some advice or direction I'm all ears!

How long does a typical project make or what's a range of time that some of the things currently in your shop take you to make?
Everything usually takes about two weeks from start to finish. In order to have full kiln loads, I need to work assembly line style. I'll begin by making a big batch of pieces out of clay, then I fire them all at once, glaze them all at once, etc. They also need time to dry properly. No rush orders here!

Where do you find your inspiration?
Mostly in the past. Fashion history, decorative arts, architecture, you name it. As long as it existed before 1940, I'm interested. I love antique stores and spend hours and hours looking at everything (and I mean everything, it's almost compulsive). I also find a huge amount of inspiration in film, especially period pieces.

What are some of your current favorite products that you're selling?
I have some new small necklaces making their debut in the Etsy store this week that I can't stop wearing!

Are you working on something right now that has you particularly excited?

Yes! I realized a little while ago how much I miss fabric. Specifically, I miss the smell of cotton under a hot, steamy iron. So after the holidays, I'll be working some fabric into my pieces. Also, starting in January I'll be creating two labor intensive one-of-a-kind pieces each month (a necklace and a pair of earrings) which will incorporate antique and vintage beads from my stash.

What's the best part of your day?
That's a tough one. I work best late at night to early morning. My schedule is completely backwards. At night, everything is quiet and there are no interruptions. I can work a ten hour stretch and it feels like three. Opening the kiln and seeing pretty, shiny glazed pieces is really exciting, too. It's like opening a treasure chest!

Is this your full-time work?
Yes it is, I quit my day job two and a half years ago and haven't looked back!

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