This is the first of my Conversations with a Creative series. I'm a big fan of handmade, especially jewellery, and I wanted to explore the creative process with the artist and showcase their products on my blog. Today is my friend Nerea Li Santi, who has a jewellery brand called Rulitos. I came to know Nerea through her Mum. Nerea made me a rabbit brooch that I love to wear on my winter coat. We met in person for the first time a couple of weeks ago - see picture at the end of the post! She's also got a little giveaway for a lucky reader. Meet Nerea.
Nerea: "Nerea Li Santi."
What’s your business name?
Who works with you?
"I work on my lonesome, however my awesome folks live very near my workshop so they often bring me cups of tea (very important part of the biz) and dad’s on hand for things that require brute force (like moving my rolling mill or hydraulic press)"
What do you make?
"Predominantly sterling silver jewellery and accessories for guys and girls."
"I have been making jewellery and accessories for at least half of my life, however I took my first little silversmithing course and settled on silver as a favourite medium 5 years ago."
Tell me about your creative process? Where do you get ideas from? Where do you source materials?
"Many of my creations come from trying to teach myself a new skill or to use a new tool. Because I haven’t studied the craft formally (apart from a few CAE courses), I like to challenge myself and work new techniques into my pieces. I was obsessed with rivets for a while, then moved on to hinges, then vitreous enamel, right now it’s all about my new (old) rolling mill. I also have a couple of muses whose style I love, I often find myself creating pieces to fit in with their particular panache.
Like a lot of silversmiths I know of, I mostly source my metal from a fab company in NSW whose silver is all recycled (“refine, don’t mine!”), for other bits and pieces I try to stick to local bricks & mortar shops (or the online presence of said bricks & mortar!) The first time I walked into the Aladdin’s cave of jewellers supplies that is Koodak (up the lifts in the Century Building in Melbs) I felt like a kid in a candy store."
Do you balance a day job with your creative pursuit? Is this hard? If your artmaking is your day job, did you have to consider making a jump from a day job?
"I am very lucky to have a great day job. As soon as I log off my computer at the end of the day my work is done, unlike previous jobs I’ve had where I’ve been switched on, or on call, or stressing about work at night or in my dreams, this job allows me the brain space to use my free time as I please.
When I’m not marathoning Breaking Bad, I find I have enough time for a good work/creativity balance, don’t ask me about my social life though!"
What drives you to create?
"Quite simply, I love what I do, so that drives me to do it! I can’t imagine a world where I wasn’t creating *something* anything. Any of my colleagues could attest to the fact that I cannot keep my hands still for a second; every scrap of paper within my reach is full of scribbles."
Are there any other creative things you do?
In my past life I studied performance art (the Stelarc/Laurie Anderson style, not the Shakespeare/Westside Story style); that was fun! I’ve also been known to make: plushies, clothes, leather goods, doodles of bunny-heads on the back of every envelope and obnoxious noises from my melodica, stylophone, cello, quena traversa, kalimba and duck-ocarina but I unfortunately have little/no skill in any of those things.
What’s the hardest thing about being a creative?
For me, the admin part. I’m not the best at pimping my wares! I’m also not a great writer or photographer or social-media-er. Writing descriptions or artist statements for my pieces and product photography I find daunting and sometimes stressful. I know I’m not the first maker to be surrounded by bits of white fabric, lights and tripods to be saying to themselves “I JUST WANNA MAKE STUFF!”
"Not much beats the thrill of kind feedback. An Instagram of something I’ve made in its new home, or bumping into someone wearing something I’ve made equals serious internal happy-dancing. I also get a thrill from seeing how far and wide my wares go, US, Netherlands, New Zealand, Austria, UK, Spain, Canada, all over OZ a start. A recent customer apologised for delayed feedback, he had no internet on account of being out in the Ukrainian woods HA! If I can’t travel at least a little piece of me can.
Oh and the other best thing, turning a rough little piece of metal into something that someone could treasure, that’s a best. After 5 years of doing this, I still get pleased and surprised at how gorgeous, smooth and shiny silver gets after losing my fingertips to 5 billion grits of emery."
Tell me about the creative community? Are you a part of it? Online/offline/markets/classes?
"At the moment I am a little bit of a recluse, I’ve not this year gotten out and about in the community as much as I’d like. Instagram however has been really fab lately; I’m blown away constantly by the gorgeous community of Aussie makers (and their pets and rugrats) on there and what they get up to every day. I love seeing snaps of their process from inception sketches to the finished product and it’s quite wild for example seeing a picture on Insty of a ceramic cup about to go into the kiln, and then tootling off to a market and buying a cup from that very same batch, it makes the world seem so small! I went to Finders Keepers two weeks ago and felt like running up to half the stall holders and shouting “I LOVE YOUR WORK, I FOLLOW YOU ON INSTAGRAM”, I managed restrained myself (for the most part)."
What advice would you give to up and coming creatives?
"If you’re in Victoria, I cannot recommend Craft Vic highly enough. They have so many helpful workshops and inspiring events.
Connect with creative people wherever you are, you’d be surprised how much you have in common and can learn from each other even if they’re a basket-weaver and you’re a soap-carver.
Try to do a little something creative 6 days a week, even if it’s not your main craft or biz, different interests and mediums can feed each other nicely.
This will probably sound foreign in these go-go-go times we live in but I strongly believe in one day off a week. My Sundays are sacred and untouchable. No work, no cleaning tools, no checking sales (as tempting as it is when I hear the Etsy 'CA-CHING!' on my phone), no answering Rulitos email full stop. My weekly break does wonders for my sanity, spirit and body too and because I made the decision long ago to set that day aside, I don't feel guilty about not doing the things I 'should be doing'. Also, without that day off, my family would forget my name and I would never have clean clothes or dishes."
How can we reach you? What’s your website, store, social media platforms?
What are you giving away to a lucky blog reader?
"I would like to give away a ‘Chirpy’ sterling silver bird pendant:
Chirpy the sweet bird is lovingly hand crafted out of .925 sterling silver.
He is about 3cm long from beak-tip to tail feather and at his tallest point is about 1.5cm tall.
Chirpy features fetching textured feathery wings and comes strung on a fine 45cm sterling silver chain."
If you'd like to win Chirpy, tell Nerea and I what creative pursuit you do in a comment below! Entries close 5.00 pm Friday 25 October 2013. Nerea will choose the winner!