At first glance, the jewelry and wearable art from Geoff Thomas Designs seemed too edgy for my taste. After all, I'm no rock star. Not even a groupie. Definitely not a starlet. And certainly not one of Ms. Tyra's Next Top Crybabies. But at the second and third (and every subsequent) glance, something new and compelling caught my eye and brought me back to take another look and want to know more about the artist behind the artistry.
Geoff Thomas the designer seems perfectly at ease surrounded by models clamoring for bikini tops of molded metal and rockers snatching up beautifully alloyed metals sprouting bolts in post-modern irony. He is adept at boosting egos and enhancing self-images. He makes them look hot. This much is obvious, for these people are his most visible customer.
What is perhaps more interesting is how Geoff Thomas the businessman and marketing innovator is attracting a whole other type of customer. Through the adept use of so-called "new media" such as reality TV, the blogosphere, and the (no doubt) very carefully calculated business expense of a high-end PR firm employed to strategically place him in said media, Geoff Thomas is reaching many more customers than your average jeweler.
Geoff Thomas, however, is not your average jeweler. There is distinctive artistry to what he does. Those who read The Bling Blog regularly will not instantly recognize his style as something they'd be accustomed to seeing here. Not at all. But look a bit closer and I think you will see what I see. Geoff Thomas is the first in the "Young Designers Making The Cut" section for good reason. Plus, he's a damn nice guy.
GT: Well, I was painting, sculpting and going to school for business management at the time I started making jewelry. A couple of friends and I started a gallery in downtown San Diego. There were a lot of artists around and an intense friendly competition of trying to impress eachother with new things. I wanted to make myself a bracelet out of copper and it came out good. I got a lot of compliments on it and started getting requests. I got some silver and a lot of jewelry books and just started doing it. It all kind of took off from there. I'd been in school long enough to know how to teach myself.
GT: I took to it quickly, and got great positive feedback from the beginning, so I felt really good about it. I love working with metal and stone. The thing I really like about jewelry is the intimate connection it has to the wearer. A piece that someone wears frequently becomes part of their personality. With jewelry, its a combination of the piece and the person wearing it that is the final expression, for me.
BB: What other work have you done? If not jewelry, what else could you see yourself doing?
BB: Who or what are your design and style influences?
GT: I'm really just interested in a lot of different things. Everything from ancient Greek and Roman architecture, to Japanese art, to high fashion, to nature, to sci-fi and industrial design. I don't really like to be labeled one thing; I try to take different elements from the world, and process them into my own aesthetic.
BB: The Mokume-Gane collection has a strong Japanese influence and tradition. How did you become familiar with it? Describe the process and the metals and the materials used.
GT: I became familiar with Mokume-gane a while back. I can't quite remember, but I think it was a Lapidary Journal. I was blown away by it and started researching it. I finally found a supplier (Reactive Metals) that sold it already processed in final sheet form. I started using that in some of my pieces. Recently I've been making my own patterns from billets I get from the same supplier. Making Mokume-gane from scratch is whole other art form and science in itself. It's basically diffusion bonding of alternating layers of metal into one solid stack (billet). It requires the metal layers being heated to a certain temperature in a kiln with perfect conditions inside to allow the layers to bond without solder. It can be any combination of metals really, but some are harder to bond together than others. You usually see mokume combinations in various alloys of copper, silver and gold. Then you can gouge, forge and roll this piece to come out with an endless array of patterns.
BB: What kind of welder do you use?
GT: I use a "Little Torch" for all my fabrication, and just recently invested in a fusion welder.
BB: What sets you apart from other designers? You're doing something very different from the average goods sold in retail outlets, the internet or at shows, and that's a very good thing. So often we see the same old thing. Geoff Thomas does something unexpected, but still elegant and very wearable. When I showed the photo of your Saw Chain bracelet to my husband, he was very taken with it, and that hardly ever happens. Along the same line, who is your customer?
GT: Well first of all that's the best compliment I can get. When I can catch the eye of someone who is educated in art and design and hard to impress, it's the best. As far as what sets me apart from other designers, you summed it up with your question. I am trying to do something different, something unexpected and edgy, yet still elegant and wearable. I hate seeing the same thing over and over. What I'm trying to do is bridge the gap between art jewelry and fashion jewelry. I'm building a brand and body of work that doesn't conform to any one thing and is in it's own niche. For this reason my customer is everyone really. At my showroom in Santa Monica, my customers range from the young and edgy to the older and more conservative type.
BB: What are some of your favorite pieces in your current collection?
BB: Is there an piece in your collection that stands out as your all-time favorite piece of jewelry?
GT: For my personal aesthetic, I would say the Razed Cuff bracelet with mokume-gane. For some reason this piece sticks in my head the most, and just feels like me. I have a few pieces I'm working on right now that I think will take its place though.
BB: If you could design for any celebrity, who would it be? Do you have a celebrity muse, and she doesn't know it yet? I could see Gwen Stefani having a real affinity for your pieces.GT: Gwen Stefani would definitely be one of them, and I hear that a lot.
BB: Who else, besides you, is making innovative jewelry?
GT: Actually my girlfriend Marla Trudine does amazing Art Nouveau-inspired jewelry, that is unique and powerfully feminine. There are many amazing "art jewelry" designers out there, but you don't see them in the mainstream very often.
BB: Speaking of Marla... gift-giving jewelry designer to jewelry designer must be interesting... Do you create things for one another or default and just go the civilian route of Laker tickets and chocolates and flowers?
GT: HaHaHa, that's a great question! You're right, we've been together for almost two years and neither of us has made a piece specifically for the other. So I guess we do go the default civilian route. It seems strange, but each of us have such a unique style and are so impressed with the other's, that we may be a little intimidated.
Interestingly, our work is very different but compliments eachother very well. We also tend to wear our own work most of the time for marketing purposes (no one's a better walking billboard for your work than yourself). That being said, I do have a few ideas marinating about the ring I'm going to make for her (wink, wink) sometime soon. It will have to be so perfect though; that will take some time.
BB: Your opinion, if you have one, regarding the upcoming "Blood Diamond" movie and the surrounding controversy?
BB: What is next for Geoff Thomas?
BB: And finally, which is more likely to happen:
a. Angelina Jolie dumps Brad Pitt and bags the "Big One," self-proclaimed eternal bachelor and Pitt best friend George Clooney and they marry
b. Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected President in 2008
(photos courtesy of Geoff Thomas)