Wednesday, March 2, 2016

MF SHOP // Artist Feature: Nathan Hall

Every artwork tells a story. In this first ever MF Shop Artist Feature, we have chosen the work of composer, visual artist, jewelry designer, and Carnegie Mellon Alumni Nathan Hall.

A modern day Renaissance man, Nathan's jewelry line blurs the distinction between earthy and edgy. His one of a kind pieces are part of a fascinating story about the artist's experiences in Reykjavík, Iceland. We were delighted to have Nathan join us in conversation about his work.

I understand that you received your Masters in Music from Carnegie Mellon University, and later were a Fulbright Fellow for a year in Iceland. Could you tell me a bit more about your time in Iceland?

I’d been interested in Iceland since high school, and had even started taking Icelandic language lessons in Pittsburgh. Getting the Fulbright was one of the best things to ever happen to me!

I lived in Iceland for a year, making music, touring the country, meeting artists, and generally trying to immerse myself culturally. I got much better at speaking Icelandic, I joined a choir, and I started making new designs for my line of jewelry. Now that I’m back in the States, I go back to Iceland often to see friends, work on new creative projects, and visit places I haven’t yet seen.

As a composer and visual artist, what drew you to the medium of jewelry?

I’ve always been interested in jewelry right along with music, even from childhood. In grade school I’d make these hideous little bead necklaces for my relatives (they continue to joke with me about them to this day). And unlike composing, you see results from your work a lot faster, and then you can wear your art around.

In what ways has your background in music influenced your work as a jewelry designer?

For both fields, I’m constantly challenging myself to make new and better work and to stay fresh, and then get it out into the world. I love when my music creates a subtle atmosphere, and I hope that seeps a little into my jewelry as well.

Which aspects of Iceland were particularly inspiring to you?

There is a more immediate sense of landscape in Iceland- of all the lava that surrounds everything, of the dangers of the ocean waves, or the forces of a glacier grinding down a mountain. It’s more amped-up than most places in the world. Add to that a culture that really values the arts, and thinks it’s a totally valid life to be a composer or jewelry designer, or whatever—it’s all very inspiring.

The juxtaposition of raw natural elements and technically refined metalwork is particularly striking in your lava stone and metal crochet necklaces. Can you tell me a bit about the artistic process that goes into creating one of these pieces?

It took me quite a lot of trial and error to come to these designs, the right kind of pliable sterling silver, the width of the crochet, and how to get beads threaded into the piece. Every crocheted necklace is a single strand of wire, so I have to plan the shape out in advance, like a pattern. I also don’t crochet wire in the way I might make a scarf, because making irregular-sized loops is more interesting and organic to me.

Who do you have in mind when designing your jewelry?

Some of my favorite customers have been women who love art museums and big unique “statement” necklaces. The Barbara Luderowskis of the world! But when we can’t all be so bold, I imagine confident, stylish men and women who want something colorful, textural, with a story to tell.

What is your favorite piece in your collections?

It’s actually neither crocheted nor lava, but still rooted in Iceland. It’s a piece I did for a friend’s wedding (pictures below). I gathered sea glass on the coast of Reykjavík, and I wrapped the glass in sterling wire and wound the pieces with pearls and pale yellow crystals. I love those kinds of special projects. And the bride was happy too

To see Hall's line for yourself, visit the MF Shop online or at the museum! Admission is NOT required to shop.