ARTIST INTERVIEW: Hannah Keefe
Hannah Keefe is a jewelry designer living and working in Los Angeles. She is a trained metal-smith, and her pieces are one of a kind, made by hand in her Glassell Park studio. Her work is primarily made of dead-stock vintage raw brass chain, which she repurposes by soldering the chains side by side it into meticulous configurations. Once the chains are covered by the silver they act like sheet, which gives the pieces their shape and structure.
Do you think community is important to creativity? If so, how?
As Los Angeles becomes more expensive like many I fantasize about moving out of the city to spread out. The community of artists and craftswomen in particular in L A is the major reason I stay. The community is so rich and warm and inventive, These smart people are always pushing the boundaries and moving on to the next thing. It stops me from being complacent, I don’t want to put out the same old ideas in this environment, I am challenged to think nimbly and keep up.
I especially love visiting other peoples studios, seeing what tools they need to do their trade and hearing how they make decisions to balance financial independence and creativity.
Who are some current artists, creators, or people working in other fields whose work you admire?
I was just at the Venice Biennale and saw an exhibition of Phylida Barlow’s work. I found her massive crude sculptures wedged into their spaces to be very inspiring. I want to work with that kind of confidence. Sounds funny as I work about as small as a person can, but I look to artists like her as guides to have a strong point of view.
Also at the biennale I saw a beautiful installation by Leonor Antunes. Her large draperies made of small metal and leather components are using the lexicon of jewelry craft but on a massive scale. It was completely inspiring and I took it as a personal challenge to do more with my work and to not limit my vision.
What do you do, or where do you go to seek fresh ideas or renewed creative energy?
I enjoy spending time in the decorative arts museums. They can seem stuffy and dusty with rooms full of embroidered pillows and teapots, but I find tracing the themes in decoration and personal adornment to be completely fascinating, seeing styles come and go. I hope that homages to these past styles can be seen in my work. I wonder how our little style epoch will be seen by people in the future.
I often look to furniture designers for inspiration, like jewelry designers we are both concerned with solving problems to do with the human body, the main difference being furniture hold us, while we hold jewelry. I am really inspired by the work of Shin Okuda, who was my studio mate for many years, he hand makes gorgeous furniture in east LA, under the name Waka Waka. I aspire to such simplicity of form.
Furniture design books can be just as inspiring to me as jewelry books, same with fabric pattern books- I have lots of them.
Do you have a daily working routine? Can you describe it?
Every day I am eager to be at my desk with headphones in and an audio-book playing, my hands doing something. Getting myself fed and caring for my little dog take up some of the morning time so I often work late. I usually plan to do the hardest tasks early in the day, leaving the busy work for the second half when my brain is drained. Time just flies while I am working. My hands certainly show the effects of long hours of metal work. They are pretty calloused and raw and the nails are mis-shapen. Nothing beats the feeling of a hard day’s work.
What are your most important artistic tools?
My most important tool is my soldering torch and my ventilation hood. The torch is my baby, it does all the magic alchemy for me turning separate pieces of metal into a meaningful whole.
As a side project I use my torch to permanently solder jewelry on people. The bracelets and necklaces are made from thin gold and silver wire that I fit to you and then solder closed. They are delicate enough to be worn always, but can be clipped off whenever you like. My confidence with the torch allows me to do this safely and experience is quite fun.