Meet the Artist SPOTLIGHT: Little Cat Metals
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’ve launched a SPOTLIGHT series to 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!
In this edition of the series, we talk to Carol Joannidi, the metalsmith extraordinaire behind Little Cat Metals. Carol's striking, organic designs have been wowing customers since 2010, and every year we host her for a trunk show, complete with cupcakes and champagne (this year: March 9 & 10). We love having her fun, outgoing presence (and her gorgeous jewelry) in the shop, and customers do to!
We hope you enjoy getting to know this wonderful artist!
Pinch: What was your path to jewelry-making?
Carol Joannidi: I’ve always been drawn to adornment and love working with my hands. At an early age I would play with my mother's and grandmothers' costume jewelry. Collecting rocks and beach glass had me envisioning elaborate cocktail rings, necklaces, etc. I took a plunge and enrolled at the Museum School of Fine Arts, Boston, declared a major of metalsmithing without ever picking up a blowtorch. I immediately fell in love with the meticulous fabrication process.
P: Where did the name Little Cat Metals come from?
CJ: My first studio was in Boston and I shared it with the two sweetest rescue cats. I would work on piece, stop for a cup of tea or snack and go back to the bench to find what I had been working on missing. It took me quite a while before realizing that one of my cats had been hijacking things off my bench. I had that cat for 18 years and it just seemed natural to name my business after her, as her continued interest in my work never faltered. I also love working with all types of metals.
P: What’s a typical day in your studio like?
CJ: It always starts with a morning meeting and a big cup of coffee with my business partner and husband, Dana. We map out each day, including working on store/gallery orders, online sales, and creative one-of-a-kind work for pop-up shops. He reviews upcoming correspondence, travel & production scheduling, taxes, licensing, etc. All the nitty-gritty stuff I don’t like dealing with. I always joke that I “just make the jewelry,” but as far as running a business, my husband really does all of the necessary jobs to ensure that I spend every day at my bench. I get to do the fun stuff: manipulate metal, and play with stones, the torch, hammers, files and power tools!
P: Most of the work you do is in silver—why did you choose to focus on this metal, and what do you like about it?
CJ: I love the feel and luster of silver. It’s a metal with multiple histories in adornment, currency, folklore and mythology. It’s an accessible precious metal that most can agree is stunning. The silver I work with is 100% recycled material and all sourced from North America.
P: We love the unique array of gemstones we see in your work—do you have a favorite?
CJ: My first love affair was gems. Long before I became a metalsmith, I collected rocks and minerals, so to ask which is my favorite really depends on the day. Today my favorite is kyanite. It’s very difficult to work with, being that it’s incredibly soft. The tender and deep blue hues in kyanite have caught my eye; I suppose I’m just looking forward to summer, when that color immerses us. I haven’t met a stone I didn’t like. Also all my stone work is ethically sourced.
P: How do you juggle all the different aspects of your work—wholesale accounts, retail shows, designing, making—and manage to get any sleep?
CJ: I’m still trying to figure that out that perfect balance between work and play. Currently I work almost every day. I find that I’m the most creative when I’m beyond busy. I don’t sit and force design work, I generally come up with designs during the retail season and test them out before bringing them to wholesale. It’s a very intense lifestyle but I love what I do.
P: How do you switch gears between the artistic side of things and the business side of things?
CJ: I’m very lucky to have my partner, Dana. He has taken the reigns of the business aspect of things. I focus on my part of the job, which is the production. We have a healthy balance of artistic and technical expertise. Although, in truth, at times one of us is either too laissez-faire or too formal.
P: How often do you come up with new ideas? What’s that process like?
CJ: We travel often for retail shows and I am constantly inspired by my surroundings, whether a cityscape or a vast rolling country field, I find something comforting in what surrounds me. New designs are always brewing in my mind; a shape turns into earrings when I play with the metal. There are definitely designs that I sketch before I begin working, In fact, I have a file of drawings that I use for a reference when I’m feeling a bit stumped. I bend wire, cut shapes with a saw, play with the torch, use hammers for texture and sometimes the stone dictates what to make.
P: What inspires you?
CJ: It’s the smallest bits that make me happy and supply inspiration. A shell on the beach, the baluster of an old building, a passing cloud, or even the garden that surrounds my home. Mathematics, science and nature also have played a huge role in my work: geometric line drawings transformed into mini 3D sculptures with just a touch of chaos theory thrown in.