Who: Maria Fomich
What: metalsmith, jewelry artist
Artist’s Chosen Location for Interview: Adorn and Conquer shop and studio (2727 Pyrtania Street The Rink, Suite 6)
Q: What is something the world tells you not to do that you want to do so badly?
A: Escape. Disappear. I was lying on a beach in Costa Rica once and thought: I am going to walk into that jungle, and I’m not going to come back out. I’m going to disappear and no one is going to know where I am. I’m going to live in a tree, learn what roots to eat and love every minute of my life no matter what biological mess I’ll have to deal with.
Because that’s the challenge if you disappear into the wilderness—it’s the wild itself.
If you get a cut and don’t have modern medicine or know what to put on it, it can turn into a serious situation pretty quickly. We met a guy once who lived ‘in the wild’ in Hawaii; he shared some crazy stories about it. It’s crazy to think: the reason why you’d go could be the reason you don’t come out.
That’s the reality. You can do it, you just have to be willing to take those risks.
Really, I’m an island girl at heart. I can try to temporarily disappear sometimes, but I’m close with my family. I have a niece and two nephews who I love to see. In fact, during Christmas when my niece comes down from Baltimore, one of our favorite holiday games is lizard catching. We love lizards! I was one of those little girls who used to let them bite your earlobe like you’re wearing lizard earrings. So whenever she comes down, we go out and catch lizards, but I’ve noticed that the older you get the harder it is to catch them. My niece is so fast because she’s young and low to the ground. I can’t do it as fast as I used to.
Q: What’s something you want to build but haven’t yet.
A: This is so weird. I totally thought you were going to ask me something like that. I actually have this gallery show that I really want to do, but I feel like I need to get at least three pieces together to present to a gallery.
I want the show to be cyclical, where it gives back to the source. Specifically, I want to interview the homeless. I want to learn their stories, their experiences, what they’ve been through, who they are and get as much of a perspective about the person as I can. Then I would take all of that and create a piece of work to represent each person.
Then I’d work it out so a portion of the proceeds could go to a program or specifically to the person for what they need—like if a person needs housing, the money would be used to help them find a living situation. That way whatever comes out of the work benefits them in a positive way. I want that kind of circle to happen.
Q: Tell me a story about a piece of jewelry you’ve made.
A: The camping scene necklace is the one that comes to mind because I actually made that piece for myself originally. The piece depicts a group of people sitting around a campfire.
I made it because camping is something I value. I didn’t really think others would find the same value in the piece as I did. But when I started wearing it, I got this overwhelmingly positive response over it.
That’s something I love—when there’s a reaction to a piece like that. It’s a way to bring people together—people who like the same things or enjoy the same activities. I love to see people buy a piece of jewelry even when they aren’t ‘jewelry people’. It’s more a piece of art that they love and they wear it. With the camping scene, that’s such a portrait of what I find important—and then to have other people love and identify with that is so welcoming and cool.
It’s interesting because I didn’t go into ‘jewelry making’ originally. I was really trained as a ‘fine artist’. In school, I was creating art for the body—like the large ‘Big Lady Brass Knuckles,’ which I keep on display in the shop so people can see how and where I started. I also made this Barbie leg ring where you open your fingers and her legs drop open. (How risque!) The campfire piece was really a merging of the art I was making and jewelry. That’s when I realized, ‘I can do this.’ I can still make objects that are meaningful and that say something about who you are or the things you find value in.
Now, when someone responds to the campfire scene I think ‘Ya’ll are my people’.’
It’s funny, a guy who works for National Geographic saw my work at Jazzfest, and he loved one of my world bracelets, and I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, you’re one of my heroes. You have my dream job’. I started imagining that I could be his assistant on all of his adventures, and I’d be his personal jewelry maker for life.
Anytime I watch a nature documentary, I’m reminded of how much I would have loved to have been a photographer for National Geographic. I always think, ‘I should have gone for it’, but I try to find balance in my current life with my work and nature.
I’m one of those people who, even if I had a thousand years to live, I probably still wouldn’t get to do everything I want to do.
Q: If you had to live in one of your “eco-system” pieces, which one would you choose?
A: It’s really not an eco-system in there—a lot of people think they are—it’s just a collection of dried plants, dead coral, or little nature bits we find and put together.
I feel like every artist has to have some lower end items that compliment their work. Our nature bubble necklaces are kind of like that, and they’ve gotten a lot of attention. They’re our fun and lighthearted pretty pieces that people love.
So if I had to live in one, I’d choose one with bright colors. I’d probably have an iridescent butterfly wing in there as well, so depending on where I stand at a given point in the day, there’d be this beautiful sight of color. And I’d need a soft space, so I could lie down comfortably while I watch the world go by—maybe some flowers or moss. If I’m going to be stuck in a glass bubble, though, maybe the best choice would be a black hole. It’d be a whole new adventure and maybe my only choice for escape. But if that wasn’t an option, then I’d need some things to climb, so I could have different vantage points and perspective.
Really I’m not a climber, though. I’m the biggest klutz! I’ve broken so many bones. Once I even fell off the side of a set of bleachers and landed in a backbend when I was a kid. I remember I was in the backbend, totally scared, and this woman said, ‘Honey, are you okay?’ I said, ‘yeah,’ and then I moved and felt that my arm was broken. I burst into tears.
I’ve sprained my arm chasing a dog, I’ve sprained my ankle; I sprained a bone in my wrist. The bleachers were really bad, though.
I didn’t sit on the edge of a bleacher for a long time. Maybe it’d be in my best interested to stick with the black hole.
Maria Fomich’s work is sold at her store Adorn and Conquer, which is located at The Rink (2727 Pyrtania Street, suite 6), and she is at various local festivals (International Festival, Jazzfest, etc.) throughout the year. You can follow her work on Instagram or Facebook.