Live: June 17th, 2021
Rachel Elspeth Gross
Jonathan Joseph 0:00
Hello, everyone and welcome to another installment of I can do that part of Little Red Village here at Little Red Fashion. I'm Jonathan Joseph. It's a beautiful day. I am so excited to share some amazing insights from a phenomenal jeweler. If you haven't been watching the feed, you should go back and check. While I wait and get up. There's not a Sondra, and there are Rachel perfect, wonderful. Let me invite you guys up. That's just what I was doing while we got things started.
Hello, everybody. Lets See. Wonderful!
Rachel Elspeth Gross 0:41
Hello. The first time I think everything synced up perfectly.
Jonathan Joseph 0:44
I know, wonderful!
Rachel Elspeth Gross 0:50
How are you doing today?
Jonathan Joseph 0:50
I am wonderful. I am doing super well, despite a little bit of heat, you know, due to the long hair thing, so I am adjusting to the back of the neck. But other than that, I'm doing really well. And I'm really excited because for one thing, I love your jewelry Alessandra. Its super exciting, and I've been getting some questions from some of my friends about it. So it's definitely saucy. And I think that your career speaks for itself in terms of what advice you're often able to offer today, you know, with the generation of designers and really like boiled down some key points because naturally, you're here for Little Red Village. How are you?
Rachel Elspeth Gross 1:33
How are you doing Alexandra?
Alessandra Pohlmann 1:35
Oh, I'm great. Like I said, Where are you guys talking from? I'm in Brooklyn, New York.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 1:41
I'm in Tallahassee, Florida.
Jonathan Joseph 1:43
Fairfield County, Connecticut. All over. We're spread out we're spread out.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 1:49
Yeah. Um, so I guess I should introduce you. This is Alessandra Pohlmann, she's incredibly talented architect and jewelry designer. Like Jonathan said at the beginning, if you've been watching our feed this week, we've been showing off some of your truly incredible pieces Alessandra I really love that oversized large like craft focused artistic stuff. So um, we usually start these out by just kind of asking our guests sort of tell us what is it? What's a day in your life? What is it like to design jewelry? What does that look like for you?
Alessandra Pohlmann 2:23
Oh, well, I'm a multitasker, right. So besides having my jewelry and my sculptures, I also oversee the building and the collection in the museum. So, I do have a full-time job. That's not a full-time occupation as of today, right. So, I My days are pretty different. I don't really have routines right like it changes every day. You never know what's going to happen next. That's the thing about work with creativity you know, some days you feel like doing one thing and then the other days you focus on the other things. There are the days I just want to be in my studio and do my jewelry and work on my small sculpture, my micro sculptures, right. But then there are the days I'm in the museum and life is going crazy and all those things going on its timing ,right.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 3:18
Yeah yeah, I think it's one of the challenges for everyone creative is to find the right balance between you have to get done what you need to get done and want to get done.
Alessandra Pohlmann 3:27
Yeah, Last year about lockdown I think for me it was perfect. Oversee the facilities I still need to be in the museum and Judd Foundation every 48 hours at least during the lockdown, right you need to check the collection ever. It's the collection that is something can happen you know, a leak somewhere in check every day. But the other days I was I'm pretty well by myself in my studio doing my things right so that was talking to other artists. I think most of artists we kind of loners some way like a we do pretty well by ourselves. We have so much going on here. Oh, and internet and you're working and you're checking if your family is ok and everything yeah, I think it's gonna get hard to get used to be out in the real world. Well, I don't know about you guys.
Jonathan Joseph 4:25
I mean, I definitely empathize for sure. Um, both as a creative within the business space, but also as a painter. I've conjoined my fine art studio and my business for years since 2015. I was like, let's put them in one space. So I have a problem on one side, I kind of massage it out on the other and I can go back and forth. I find that dialogue really, really beneficial. So I definitely empathize with that.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 4:48
Yeah, it's gonna be hard to go back to regular life. Hopefully it'll be a switch, maybe some adjustment that won't be exactly as it was because I agree with you Alessandra I really think that people who are creative to entertain themselves. We've got Have a lot of things to work out puzzles to figure out we've got challenges we don't need to have, always anyway, we don't need the outside stimulus we've got, like you said that there's so much.
Jonathan Joseph 5:11
Yeah, and I think for fashion to specifically as a field and any related fields, the hectic pace that we all know that is I, you know, part and parcel of the industry. Everyone's been talking about the pause, then they got in that cycle and marinating and being able to not have to be churning out churning out and churning out and producing and producing and producing it's really important, and it's really a moment for what I think has been some level of values alignment for a lot of people.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 5:40
So, Alessandra, I know, when you'd sent to me what we've been talking about, you had some really strong female figures early in your life, who really gave you a sense of personal style or desire to achieve your own or create your own look. But I guess what I was really curious about is how you made the transition from like, full scale sculpture to what I sort of think of as wearable art. And I love that piece you've sent me about, you know, something you're not usually allowed to touch and get to actually interact with it. I think that's such a cool idea.
Alessandra Pohlmann 6:10
I have, like I said, I've been wearing jewelry since I was like this size (shows herself as a child). Like I always had all those things around. And I've been thinking about making jewelry for years, I always keep I have several different diaries, one for ideas, another for thoughts and not you know, another four drawings. And when I actually read back, I can see I've been talking about jewelry for at least four years, three years that I have drawings of pieces that I have notes like when I'm in the subway, and then I have an idea for a sculpture, I would make a drawing. And then I would point them to the line and say, Oh, this could be a ring. So but was nothing formal was ideas because like I said, we're always multi tasking right? So I could do like I love Anish Kapoor that have those sculptures that are like the size of a building. So my goal is always Oh, I want to be big, right? But then, then 2019 I actually, my daughter did 21 years old. And then I'm done here. I don't need to travel with kids anymore. And for the first time in a long time in the trip by myself on my birthday, I went to Greece. And I was like, you know, can you imagine? Right? You know what I'm talking about.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 7:39
Yeah, I spent a summer in Greece. Once I understand. It's like it knocks Yeah, it just knocks you out.
Alessandra Pohlmann 7:44
Everything is seen the museums and even like in Athens in the market. I was like, I was like a kid in the supermarket with candy, right? I wanted everything I want to buy everything. And I was like, but I actually bought quite a few pieces for me. And when I came back, I started. I started trying to carve. So I was not trained as a jeweler. So I don't think in the jewelry in a way like how people possibly weren't teaching how to do it. So I started thinking about carving small pieces, small sculptures. So like I actually put us so I started from a block like this. And I'm going to carve to something like this. And then, after I have this piece done, I'm gonna cast in something like that. Yeah, we have kids online. That's right. I start playing but what I understand like I before I work with this tail off. So my pieces are the imprint of my fingers. So the pieces that were my size. When I moved to New York I was making full room installations. So I had like a really large scale things happening, what changed, how things changing, it's about transitioning, moving. It's mainly about physical space for me. I had the beautiful industrial pavilion where it could work. So size in my studio in my house was a whole floor, so I had no issue with size. Space is not an issue. We are not in a city, right. It just kept growing and growing and growing. When I moved to New York, I had a student in Greenpoint, and then I suddenly had to do like small pieces. Small pieces we are talking about, I don't know. 4, 5, 6 inches. Oh, and I was struggling. Right. I was like, Oh, I think I cannot have what I want it because, for me, it's about you know, you were if you Working with ceramic, right clay to mark your fingers deepening that clay. Are you working as plasters about for me, it's about getting dirty. Getting dirty with my hand and things and kids, that's what we want to do you know when you smash it and then suddenly you have something
Rachel Elspeth Gross 10:21
Alessandra Pohlmann 10:22
That's mainly the big I keep pulling different lines. But that's the main big mega difference between architecture and sculpture, architecture, you're gonna think about the building, I always think about 3d, right? That's how my brain works. So I would think about the 3d space in the building as an organic thing, and start using the rules inside these organic shapes. So you're thinking about. Art for me, it's about impulse. I'm not thinking I'm just doing. So it's like I have a bit like a I would work with like 150 kilos of clay. And you start, like, working on it. And then the folds that the pressure is giving you would showing the which site where I would go?
Rachel Elspeth Gross 11:15
Yeah, it's intuitive. It sounds like you can kind of associate
Jonathan Joseph 11:17
A conversation with your material.
Alessandra Pohlmann 11:19
Yeah. And then after a while, then you start turning and thinking and turning a little here and there. So my approach to the jewelry, it's kind of it's really similar. For me, how I transitioned to that, like, again, space locked down margin. I live in an apartment. I have no, I was scared. I felt free. I had fear in my life three times. This was the third time that I felt really scared was when we went in lockdown when we had no idea what's going on. I start the moment we this was March 16th In New York. I went online, and I started buying stuff. I bought bands, I bought tools. And then the learning curve was longer than I imagined. Because suddenly I'm working with tools like this (shows sculpting tools). Yeah, very different. It's we'll never be able to do that. And you're like working really small scale. And took me a while to control the material, right. But once I started understanding, you buy another tool.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 12:36
I think Jonathan and I are both very familiar with this dark hole.
Jonathan Joseph 12:40
Oh, yes. I mean even with Little Red, we were shooting in a studio, our content, and then I did pivot from doing it from my living room. So if you look back at some of our early stuff, it's very like it's in this tiny box. And as a painter, same thing, you know, as soon as we went into lockdown, I packed up a little trunk. And I was like, Okay, this is gonna take from the studio, this is what's coming home, you know, and you got to sort of make it portable or adapt to the situation. I think that's another useful thought for kids related to all this, right? It's like sometimes things will not turn out the way that you plan them to. And that's okay. And you got to roll with it.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 13:16
Yeah, it's one of the things I really love about your pieces. They're so organic. I mean, sometimes it kind of looks like it might be a part or a piece for the person. And sometimes it just feels that way, like a big oblong circles are the kind of stretched out shapes. Is there something in particular that you get inspiration from? Or is there something that you can continue to come back to?
Alessandra Pohlmann 13:38
Yeah, this was a unconscious process. It's about forms that attract me deeply. And it's unconscious. And for a long time, why there was too like, I lived abroad many times, but I always get come coming back to my hometown because I still have my house there and everything. And what's not I didn't thought about it was just I always love nature. I love to be outside. I'm the person who's always if you see my shelves here, I have awesome shelves and pieces of plants and I'm collecting small things when I'm walking, I'm gonna stop in the same way that architecture caught my eye. You know, I'm walking outside and I'm like, Oh, look at that building. Look at the corner is the same thing for the natural world. It's so I was always really attracted to the group was claimed, though this was maybe my early way of informing my brain. So maybe it was one of the first artists I fall in love. I was really young was claimed. And then you start you know, kind of searching for that. Right. And it is a stressor. For me it was more like internal response to something my ceramic at some point was about having a chunk of clay on my lap and so on. And it's a I would say he's about sometimes I don't have the words in English, artique you know like that you would you would you doing in? It's about releasing stuff it is here.
Jonathan Joseph 15:16
Its the energetic dance. I mean as a painter, forget it. I’m a big fan of Richter and Still and Cy Twombly is my personal icon and I’m very Twombly-esque. So when you get into that automatic writing motor that automatically, I had a series where what I was doing was meditative mantras for like an hour before I would start painting. And then once I was in the rhythm, so very, very much that.
Alessandra Pohlmann 15:44
You start making tools. I remember when.
Jonathan Joseph 15:47
Oh yeah I have a very interesting one right here, I'll share it was a bison femur. For more marching in math tools with what works for what you want to do.
Alessandra Pohlmann 16:02
Exactly my drawings were like, really thin pencils, right. And then doing art drawing. I had a favorite feeling in my whole wall. And I was making like, those dry. How I say those things that cute, super pastel. Yeah. I own pastels. They were like the size of my hand, like by then at the end of a bowl with tape to control of your line. Because the thing about architecture, you keep everything under control. So the thing about my drawings that I was searching for, it's about losing the control of this line, because you draw a perfect line, right? So I will put them on the end of an extension. That's a good thing to do kids. Ask your mom, I felt that to my daughter for my daughter, I would put a sheet of paper on the wall and give her anything crayons, anything. And then you know, just do it. Do whatever you want. Yeah, and yeah, how organic. So my work was always organic. And I think I mentioned to you. You find some interview I've done right like, after showing my work in Europe, or in London and getting more deeply in touch with all the artists, I had people pointing to me that what I was doing was part of a tradition of being resilient. Right? When you think about the constructivism, and they are in Brazil, between 60s and 70s. And when they are changing everything they do have LRT seeker leisure Clark, and you have like a like a saying meditation is part of the process like Nisha Clark would do that. And then she would be says that she could actually that she could she called animals was vicious and they were folded in Metro so everyone could actually touch them and work with them. Or to seek I had what they call the Pentacles. Like you could walk inside installations. But I didn't realize that it was talking about the tradition until someone else pointed to me, because so far was internal conversation. Right? Was that below to me? And this was a big hope rupture. For a while we start questioning yourself like, Huh, okay, you know, we need to stop and think, what are you doing? What are you talking about? And the other big rupture for me was when I started working at the Judd Foundation. No, no job has been one of the biggest exponents of minimal art in us. Right. I'm working for Jed foundation since the restoration. This is 2013. And so if you put my work enjoy to work one beside another, we are talking about two opposites. And this kind of mess up my head for it isn't to be able to go back to student work, because you were assimilating different process, different context. What's the I don't know? I lost the word I want, when it's like I'm contextualizing the work in a different way. Right.
Like a rephrasing?
Yeah, you rephrase it, but you were thinking and then you trying. And this was also this also affects my architecture award working as doing high end interior design in New York City. When you have a space in front of you use you always think what can I remove from here? This is done in our lab is what can you take it out? Right, there's a there's a phrase that says, What would donnager do? My head like what's going on? Now, so that's the way of approaching things here. Yeah. So then Yeah, the the jewelry mainly comes as the end of a big thread, bringing together so many different things. Right? And the pandemic, right, so I'm suddenly I'm producing small things in the space I have. It's about the small apartment in Brooklyn, you don't have space, you don't have like, you cannot expand and we are actually working, we were containing ourselves in a pandemic, right?
Rachel Elspeth Gross 20:33
I think it's really neat the way you're able to do both really large scale like massive pieces, and then the complete opposite. And I bet there's probably a lot of similarity. And I mean, I'm sure there's some differences, but in terms of scale, going really small, has to be at least a little similar to going really, really big.
Alessandra Pohlmann 20:52
Yeah, so like this ring that I showing waxy, definitely start thinking about some early ceramic sculptures I had. So I tried to create the same movement, then before I would use my whole hand in a really tiny, tiny thing. So this was the challenge, like and how can I recreate that in another scale? Right?
Rachel Elspeth Gross 21:15
Yeah. So we always like to ask people, um, if you were going to give adults who have children in their lives who are creative, if you're going to give adults some advice on how they could help cultivate I think that suggestion about the stick. And you know, a crayon or a pastel or something, chalk is great. But is there anything in particular that you would have wanted to have when you were a kid, or any lessons that you learned with your own child on how to cultivate creativity, how to help kids develop themselves artistically.
Alessandra Pohlmann 21:43
I think that's part of us as parents. My grandmother was a civil engineer. I remember being like, I would grab the my mom had those Go Girl books (these books are most likely in Brazilian Portuguese), with German paintings, I would open and copy with pasta. My grandmother saw and said, Ah, you grab a great sense of color and rhythm and everything you should be an architect. So she was the one that engraved that idea in my head. I was like, seven, six? I don't know. So I think you need to encourage them, give them the tools, give them possibilities, you know, like, a big paper on the wall, all kinds of paintings and start playing don't demand the result. And they'll go with the flow and let them take over. And maybe that's something to talk to the kid or not. Maybe they will, like I played piano when I was I started playing piano when I was six years old, because I wanted. So those are things you choose, and the kids will rather play music. I think our our mission as parents is feed them the possibilities. Give them like handfuls of stuff to bring, especially now when we weren't in the room pandemic. I bet lots of kids you had my daughter who's 21, We are a month in the pandemic. She'd look at me and say, Mom, when was the last time we could spend 30 days together in a row? She was like three years old, because I had to work right? We had though that's a really nice time to connect. And to you know, create more but bounding? Bonding, yeah.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 23:34
Yeah, no. I have a daughter and she's four. And we had a similar experience. There was like three and a half months where it was her and me. And it was wonderful, it was exhausting. But it was wonderful. I mean, she stopped wanting to use finger paints half way through when this happened last year. And you know, she sees me with colored pencils or she sees with markers and she wants to do that. Now we have like an easel in our living room and she will draw and she has her own colored pencils cause she stole mine.
Alessandra Pohlmann 24:00
that's so cute. Right? That's is adorable. My problem is my daughter is that I'm a little like to bid like I always wanted to, or she would start painting with like a finger paint. And then why don't you take your clothes off and do something like this.
Jonathan Joseph 24:26
Next stop is a fire extinguisher full of paint.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 24:30
Oh, it sounds amazing.
Jonathan Joseph 24:32
I'm working on it.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 24:35
No, I think children are so wonderful. And I think one of my favorite things about seeing my own daughter, maybe you've had this experience yourself Alessandra but like, she doesn't have the same ideas of know that I have, like she thinks about what she wants. She's not concerned with restrictions or what she shouldn't be doing or can't be doing. And I mean, I guess we talked a lot on this program about how work and play can really be the same thing and I think when you see little Kids making stuff you can really understand why that's that's true. They, its exploration, it's adventuring. It's cartography, it's Yeah,
Jonathan Joseph 25:09
Its doing, they're just doing, you know, it's purely organic for them. And to go back to your, you know, being able to survive adulthood and still maintain that organic intuition is part of the process of teaching kids to hold that dear and cultivate it so that it doesn't get blown out in the winds of society is important.
Alessandra Pohlmann 25:30
Yeah, keep it in your life. I never gave up on that. I keep doing things without not knowing what's going to happen. And that's what gives me pleasure. Right? Yeah, yeah, it should. I mean, work should be fun. I guess it's one of the things Jonathan, I've talked a lot about is that when something means something to you, when you feel it, like, it's important, and that's a good thing to share, I know you said with your jewelry that you kind of you're inspired by things that you like, or your shapes organic things. I think, you know, the fact that you found something that was beautiful meant something, you translate that right? Your pieces, it's why we all respond to them the way we do. Because we feel that connection, we see that beauty and it's good for those ideas to be stretched, I think. Are there any books that you particularly love? We always like to ask about books, because I know you've sent me that link about the Jed foundation one. Oh, yeah. There that to start, of course,
One of the books that changed my life. Yeah, sure. But I right now, I'm really, I'm reading about it through patriarchy and the white then the three pillars of the white supremacy. Okay, like color, a woman’s of color against violence. So, I'm really my this last year, I think we need to be in tune with everything that's happening. So I've been really engaged. Me being a woman of color a single mother, I think we need to take over and do our part in the process. Right. Right. Yeah, that's where my mind has been lately. So and that's mainly the kinds of readings I've been doing.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 27:05
No, that’s so good.
Jonathan Joseph 27:06
It's important to do to do the work. You know, I think that definitely speaks to what we're doing here at Little Red Fashion we do. Fashion is for everyone. And we mean everyone. And I think anyone who works professionally in the creative field, a lot of the people that we interview here would agree that issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and sustainability, because they're all tied together through fashion, supply chains, dynamics, you know, being able to solve those systemic issues starts with creating systemic solutions to better educate young people and children about these issues, and be able to broker these conversations more easily, but the grownups in their lives and grownups on the other side of that, too, to be comfortable in those moments and have those conversations to go with the theme of today organically. So I love that.
Alessandra Pohlmann 27:57
The next generation, let's build beautiful people.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 28:01
Yeah, yeah, inside and outside.
Alessandra Pohlmann 28:04
It is in our hands, we are the adults,
Rachel Elspeth Gross 28:07
I know, supposedly
Jonathan Joseph 28:08
You know, and we have a responsibility to do so. And I think, you know, part of why we started this program was also because I think a lot of fashion and fashion adjacent professionals are woken up or are in the process of waking, being woken up to solving a lot of these changes. I know the dialogue, especially post COVID has really at least started to really force some feet to the fire and really be the sort of site guy step I would like to launch us into, you know, as a new company, we're just about to be a year old. And so, you know, I think that giving adults resources for those kinds of books is also hugely, hugely useful because I often say like, we're working on reading lists for adults and reading lists for kids, because better informed adults are able to better navigate things and yeah, still the values again of diversity, equity, inclusion, sustainability and create more compassionate creative kids. Same thing goes for the uncles and aunts to. That's why we usually like the term caretaker because you never know who has to watch them when you're busy. We have to call those friends and aunts but thank you so much for joining us today. This was really beautiful. You're so wonderfully eloquent. And But well, so many things.
Alessandra Pohlmann 29:21
This was my pleasure. You guys are doing a beautiful job. I'm always keeping up with like a check in what's going on, and Yeah, let's take care of our next generation.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 29:31
Thank you so much for that. I really love your work and I'm so glad we got to meet you this way. One day, things will be different and we will be able do it in person, but it was so lovely to see. I'm so glad we got to hear your I don't know your perspective. It's wonderful. And I'm so very lucky that you were able to give us some time today. So thank you. Thank you for having me.
Jonathan Joseph 29:50
It was such a pleasure and thank you everyone who has dropped by or watch this or will watch this installment I could do that part of the Little Red Village because it takes a village To raise the next generation of fashion leaders, lovers and creatives, check in next Thursday. We'll be back. I promise.