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Five for Friday: Jewelry Designer Nicole Zapata

Five for Friday: Jewelry Designer Nicole Zapata

Five questions with jewelry designer and one of the newest additions to our jewel box Nicole Zapata of Big Brave. Nicole's nature inspired sterling silver pieces are the perfect everyday staples. Check out her beautiful work at A+T in store + online!


 1. Where do you tend to find inspiration for your work or passion projects?

Everywhere! Somedays I get overwhelmed with the amount of projects I'd like to do, then I have to rane myself in and focus. I often turn to other artists' work. I feel extremely connected to and inspired by painters, musicians, fashion designers and sculptors. Some of the fashion icons I often return to are Alexander Mcqueen ( his Savage Beauty Collection is a big source of inspiration for me). I'm also obsessed with Michèle Lamy’s whole personal aesthetic. Being a big art nerd, I often revisit the works of Frances Bacon, Frida, Guyasamin and Wangechi Mutu. Some days I lay out all their artists’ books and soak it all in and see where it goes from there. Nature plays a huge role in my work as well. The days I am unable to go out into nature I definitely feel out of whack. I have a habit of collecting rocks,sticks, bone and moss, really anything that I might want to reference later on in the studio. 


2. How would you describe your personal style?

I love feeling like a modern day warrior, like I could run into battle at any moment. All while looking gorgeous of course! My style provides me with a feeling of protection, a beautiful armour. I'm also really inspired by the whole punk rock aesthetic that was happening in New York in the 70’s. The music that was coming out of there was all about raw expression and attitude and on the days I feel most in tune with my style I'd like to think I could be transported to that time and fit rite in. It really was a time of wild beauty. 


3. Who would you say has been your biggest influence- style wise, personally, or professionally?

Style wise I'd have to say Alexander McQueen has had a huge impact on how I view fashion and design. He's quoted as saying “I want to empower women , I want people to be afraid of the women I dress”. I love this idea of giving a woman a chance to be more than an object of beauty, she gets to be a bad ass too. When I first learned about him I was so impressed with the fact that he was a highly skilled and trained tailor before he ever designed his own work. Because jewelry making is such an ancient tradition I find it important to keep learning new skills and to try to always incorporate my love of the craft with my love of art. Personally and professionally I would say my Dad has been a huge influence on me. He was a lost wax caster on Jewelers Row in Chicago. I truly never thought I'd follow in his footsteps but I've found myself more and more in awe with the business he created for himself. I'm influenced by him and the tradesmen of his time. They were all hardworking, a lot of immigrants, who were doing this as a job to support their families and make ends meet. It was seen as a job that you do well, get done and keep going. It was an industry where they all kind of helped each other out to get things done. I feel really grateful that I got to see that world before the internet and larger jewelry factories kind of took over the majority of that industry. I didn't realize until recently how much it has impacted how I work. As much as I love making unique, art inspired jewelry I know how important it is to make my jewelry accessible to more than a few people. I would have never been able to achieve that without learning the casting process and learning how to be a professional.


4. What is some professional advice you received that helped you navigate your current artistic projects + career path?

I have a mashup of advice that's helped me over the years…...
1) Keep going, keep going, keep going, get the day jobs to support the art, keep going. Dont worry about what others think, just keep going. Basically taking on a “It’s going to work because I’m going to will it to” kind of mentality. I guess it’s a pretty stubborn mentality. But the truth is if you don't learn how to become your own biggest fan and cheerleader, you're screwed.
2) Process over product! As a maker it can be too easy to only focus on the end products you'd like to sell. However, the reality is you spend most of your time thinking, sketching, designing, prototyping and creating. It can only hinder you to solely focus on the end product. I've learned that you have to truly love the making part in order to keep sustaining yourself and your business.

3) Also a big one that I'm learning now is to not be afraid of money and that I deserve to make a living off my art. People seem to love the story of the artists and designers who have “made it” and make millions off their work. Yet America seems to make life super difficult for the everyday artist. I have to remind myself that my craft is important and I deserve to support myself and my family on my work. American culture does not inherently support the maker but cultivating that confidence within myself has been a game changer.


5. What is your favorite piece of jewelry?

This beautiful gold chain bracelet that my Dad had made for mi Abuelita a long time ago. She wore it everyday and when she passed it went back to my Dad. He then gifted it to me. As a first gen it can feel really isolating to not get to know and grow up with your family who live thousands of miles away. That bracelet is my connection to mi Abuelita but more importantly it's a connection to the relationship my Dad had with his Mom. I feel really grateful I get to wear that token of love everyday. This is the reason why I enjoy making jewelry because as fun as it is to create the work, I know when someone buys a piece they become part of the process and they immediately begin to add their stories and their love. I guess I’m a total romantic…...

Many thanks Nicole for finding the time to chat with us! 

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