Meet the Artist SPOTLIGHT: Emily Rosenfeld

Meet the Artist SPOTLIGHT: Emily Rosenfeld

Since Pinch’s founding in 1979, we’ve been staunch supporters of independent artisans. We are constantly inspired by artists all over the country (and those close to home) who pursue their creative visions and help enhance the world with their work. Our shop is an homage to the beautiful and the odd, and we are endlessly grateful to curate a space so filled with charming, handcrafted goods.

To show our gratitude for the people who help us make that possible, we’re launching a SPOTLIGHT series this year. We'll take you behind the scenes of our beloved artists’ studios, interviewing them about their processes and featuring photos of their workspaces—bringing you right into the brilliant center of their creativity!

To kick off the series, we talked to Emily Rosenfeld, local jeweler and dear friend. Pinch has carried her work since 2010, and every May, we host her for a special Mother’s Day weekend trunk show. We treasure her sweet silver (and gold!) creations, and love seeing the delight on customers’ face as they choose from her charms to create the perfect, personalized necklace.

"Every time I do the NY gift show, I walk straight to the furthest row of the Handmade section, straight to Emily's booth, and write my first order of the show with her! Even though I've been to the show 32 times now, each time I feel a little anxious/excited, and going straight to Emily brings me back to home and friendship and calm and love," Jena says, which perfectly captures Emily's essence.

We hope you enjoy getting to know this wonderful artist!

Emily Rosenfeld at her work bench

Pinch: How long have you been in your studio in Florence?
Emily Rosenfeld: I moved into the Arts and Industry Building in 1994, just as I was considering moving back to New Paltz, NY.  It was a tiny studio on the 4th floor, that took me out of working at home for the first time, and completely changed my life.  It was so exciting to be in a community of artists rather than isolated in my house. I made one other stop on the fourth floor before landing in my beautiful corner spot in 2000.  I am grateful every day I walk into my studio.

P: What brought you to jewelry-making?
ER: When I was at NYU, in 1982, I started working for an artist who was making fashion jewelry out of rubber and ball chain.  He wasn’t a jeweler, but he was making jewelry.  That’s how I feel about myself.  I wasn’t trained, but I love the materials and figuring out how to use them.  Later, while at SUNY New Paltz, I worked for a production jeweler and learned about the entire business.  I loved the process and I loved the craft community and wanted to figure out a way to be a part of it.

P: What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?
ER: I come in after dropping my son, Jasper, at school.  I start at the computer, checking for orders, answering emails, doing the business part of the business.  This tells my assistant, Anya, and me how to organize our day.  We are usually working on a combination of wholesale orders, website orders, and special orders from our stores.  I make a cup of tea and the rest of the day is spent at my bench, making what needs to go out that day and moving forward larger orders.  It is a nice balance.  Anya and I, who have been working together for 9 years, are a great team and good friends.  We have lunch by 1 and then start shipping what we can before we have to pick up our kids up from school. If Anya leaves before I do, I usually put on a good storytelling podcast while I’m at my bench. 

P: What’s your favorite part of being a jeweler?
ER: I feel incredibly lucky to have my own craft business.  Every part of it feeds me in a different way.  Because I wasn’t trained, and entered through the door of small businesses rather than through school, my goal was to create a viable creative enterprise.  Jewelry is what kept drawing me.  I love wearing jewelry, finding the thing that really expressed who I was at that moment and so the idea of creating adornments, felt comfortable.   I love making intimate, expressive pieces that have symbolic and aesthetic meaning; that my expression is used by someone to express themselves is always moving and inspiring to me.  The process of working with the metal itself is very satisfying.  It makes sense to me.   I like the repetition of making production jewelry; it is meditative and soothing, although sometimes it is physically hard.  Also the scale is so comfortable and compelling.   

Emily Rosenfeld songbird mezuzahP: How do you come up with ideas for new ideas? Do you have a process, or hope for inspiration to strike?  
ER: I have two short design periods, dictated by my wholesale shows.  These focused but free-form periods are bracketed by busy, routine show and production schedules.  I have to switch gears and get creative quickly, definitely hoping that inspiration will strike.  After all these years, I have finally begun to trust that it will.  I now see that there have been things that have interested me, either visually or intellectually, that have been incubating; that there is indeed a well from which I will be able to, literally, draw.  This became clear to me when Jasper was still little. I was exhausted, giving most of my creativity to mothering.  I felt both blank and panicked when I sat down to start designing.  Staring out the mullions of my big windows into the blue sky, I thought about birds. My mom had given Jasper a birdsong book.  He was fascinated by it, playing the calls constantly.  We played a game, testing each other on which call belonged to which bird.  When I sat down at my bench what came was my Songbird Mezuzah. It is still one of my favorites, and with it, I broke into new territory: the Mezuzah became a whole shape rather than only a frame with a design.  I understood for the first time, I think, how integrated my work was with my life, that each fed the other in a sustaining way.

P: And speaking of inspiration, what inspires you?
ER: So many things!  My garden, nature, native and ethnic art, textile design, woodcut prints, Calder, parenting, and also spiritual exploration and thought.  The idea of making pieces that feel meaningful inspires me; translating thoughts and phrases that buoy me into pieces that can be encouraging to others, language, children’s drawings, illuminated texts, ceramics, and on and on... 

P: Your combination necklaces are unique in that the wearer can choose and combine charms to tell a story—where did this idea come from?
ER: A customer at Paradise City Arts festival was the first person to ask if she could combine my charms.  Until then, I thought of each one as an individual piece.  Happily, I listened to her. Visually I liked the complexity.  But it was the storytelling component that was really exciting.   Symbols and shapes that I’d been creating for years could now become layered, complex, and personal; the necklaces could become real talisman. And they reflected who I am in a more complete way.  I studied creative writing so the storyteller in me was being satisfied.  As an avid thrift shopper and flea market goer, whose house is filled with objects arranged into little narratives, quirky altars, these combinations made sense.   Finally, as a new mother, adding symbols to the personalized bars let me make the deeper statement of love I was experiencing.

Emily Rosenfeld assorted charms

P: There is so much heart and warmth in your pieces—is this something you set out to manifest or is it a more organic happening?
ER: Thank you for seeing my work this way.  I am always grateful and amazed that I am communicating this, that people respond to this so consistently.  Because I am self-taught, I really just make what I am able to make, what comes to me.  So, I think it is more organic than intentional, though now I feel like I am consciously working to convey this spirit in my work.  In the beginning I made abstract and representational shapes.  Within this first year it was clear that it was my representational pieces that people were responding to.  I am forever grateful that I listened to my buyers and trusted they bought my hearts and stars, not because they were unsophisticated, but because they recognized those symbols were a genuine expression for me.  Judaic pieces followed, which gave me a powerful context for making pieces with meaning. Through the Judaica, I came to understand that making work that touched people on deeper levels was both what I wanted to do and seemed to be doing.  Then, after having Jasper, I added the personalized bar jewelry.  The first one in that series was a (grand)mother’s day present for my mom. This series, and the combination necklaces that evolved, have synthesized my original representational shapes, Judaic symbols, and created an even deeper design pathway on which to travel.

Emily Rosenfeld text necklace

Emily Rosenfeld at her desk

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