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Steele’s multidisciplinary work includes neon, signs, sculpture, and video. She often incorporates empowering or inspiring text into her pieces. She has a line of silver and brass jewelry, but this was her first time working with fine materials like precious metals and stones.
In advance of the launch next week, Whitewall spoke with Steele about her studio practice and why she thinks “your vibe attracts your tribe.”
WHITEWALL: How did the collaboration with MAOR come about?
OLIVIA STEELE: Maor Cohen approached me about a very special project he had slated for Art Basel, and asked if I would be interested in collaborating on a collection in support of the YoungArts Foundation. After a glass of Mezcal and an interesting pitch, I couldn’t say no. I knew immediately it had a lot of potential and would be a great opportunity to take my existing jewelry concept to the next level. I have a line of silver and brass jewelry hand stamped with proactive reminders and empowering messages. I’ve never worked with fine jewelry, so having the chance to work with precious metals and stones and play with a character such as Maor, has all the ingredients to be an interesting collaboration and positive experience.
WW: What was it like translating your work into a fine jewelry piece?
OS: It was fun! I hadn’t initially considered the idea of transforming my road signs or marquee boards into a jewelry format, so it was an interesting challenge indeed. You have to pay attention to how the letters are bent and layered—especially when it’s my handwriting, so it was a very detail oriented process. I always aim to manifest with precision and this project was no different.
WW: Can you tell me about your choice in text for each piece: “Always be desired, never possessed;” “Embrace the mystery;” and Stay present”?
OS: I considered a long list of statements that I pulled from my book of Steeleisms and narrowed it down to these three in particular, because they are universal and elegantly provocative. They are statements that I love and ones which I think this specific market will identify with and appreciate as they are easy truths to digest and understand which serve as very powerful reminders. These messages are signs, art and affirmations combined—they are wearable reminders of sorts—which is the reason I started making jewelry in the first place, as a personal reminder. We all need a little reminder at times…
WW: How would you describe your studio practice?
OS: My studio is like my womb—it’s a sanctuary with a lot of moving parts that you could never imagine. The creative process is erratic with no form or common thread other than intent. I’m inspired by a plethora of fluctuating elements: current issues, current feelings, past reflections and revelations that are translated into words which then take on a form. My studio is one of my favorite places to be. It’s located in the old coin mint nestled in the center of Berlin, The Alte Munze, where coins from the former DDR were made. It’s a world of wonder, where I’ve dedicated one room in my studio to conscious entertainment. We open the doors weekly to host Yoga, Pilates, breath workshops and ceremonies as well as sound healings once a month.
WW: Why do you like using text in your work?
OS: Words are incredibly powerful. The ability to say it all without saying too much is a beautiful thing. I draw much of my inspiration from poets, philosophers and mystics. Their ability to communicate and capture a certain feeling, or truth concisely and preciously is a wonderful gift to share with humanity. Text is language, thus literal, so by definition the meaning is defined, but playing with context and connotation is another level of linguistic alchemy, which give way to a spectrum of interpretation. My art serves a function—to give awareness of the universe, ask the right questions, and elevate the mind.
WW: What do you want people to feel when wearing the jewelry you made with MAOR?
OS: I want people to feel empowered, unique and somehow defined. I believe that your vibe attracts your tribe and wearing these statements is a great conversation piece and invitation for engagement. To wear a pin that says, “Stay Present,” takes a certain character that I would admire and a person I’d love to meet. “Always be desired, never possessed” is a powerful truth and a great reminder. I would hope that the person wearing this statement would feel empowered to embrace its’ meaning and the mysteries it connotes. You can feel it and I want people to feel special, unique and empowered when wearing these statements. It’s a sacred collaboration between Maor and I, a wonderful balance of male and female, and I’m really excited for what is to come.