We had the good fortune of connecting with Heidi Abrahamson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Heidi, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
After over 20 years working in Visual Merchandising in fashion, my spine was wrecked. I had to do something else. I had collected and loved jewelry all my life, thanks to my parents who were antique dealers. I couldn’t afford to buy the pieces I truly loved….I had to figure out a way to make them myself.Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Since I was a kid I wanted to be an artist. I was constantly making things and drawing or painting. I learned early on that I was good with my hands, but I thought being an artist meant you had to paint and do well at drawing. I wasn’t very good at translating my ideas on to paper or canvas, but I kept trying. As a kid I played with beads, making flowers or miniature perfume atomizers, wooden ships with sails and bows and arrows to shoot pigeons on the roof of our Victorian house. My father had to repair the fish scale slate roof and came down the ladder with extra pieces. I loved the gray color, texture and asked if I could have a few pieces and he complied. With my brother’s Testor enamel paints I painted those little red mushrooms, Fliegenpilz, the kind that make reindeer fly, they’re a sign of good luck, on these slate pieces. I signed the only with my first name only and a little lady bug as my logo….I don’t think I really knew what a logo was at that time. I gave them as gifts and sold them at antique shows where my parents were exhibitors. One would think I was destined to be an entrepreneur with that kind of business drive. I’m lousy at business, somehow that was lost on me along the way. In high school I started painting on my own on canvas with oil paints. I remember seeing Delft like paintings an artist was showing and I asked him the names of the oil paint that he used “Paynes gray….” is the one I remember, and I painted ships and windmills in my little studio in the old log cabin store that my parents had. In the back, where the slaughter house supposedly was, there was a little room where a bare lightbulb hung from the ceiling and chinking was missing from between the logs to where I could see the creek and a humming bird’s nest hanging from a low tree branch. It was my little corner, my little escape. Fast forward, at Indiana University, I was a miserable failure at painting, ceramics, etc. I hated it there. I ran off to Olympia, Washington with a boyfriend to study graphics at the Evergreen State College, they told me I had come to the “wrong place”. I got my first job as a display person in a small women’s clothing shop, it was a time before it was called “Visual Merchadishing”. That’s what I did for a living for at least the next 20 years. Fast forward to 2005, I was looking at my jewelry that I had collected over the years, pieces by Ed Levin, Neils Erik From, etc and thought to myself “Why can’t I do this?’ I had injured my spine and was really no good to any employer. I took a beginning jewelry class at the now closed Mining and Mineral Museum here in Phoenix for $50 and learned how to solder and cast. I was off! I felt like I finally got to where I was meant to be. I learned that pleasing customers and making what was expected as a “jewelry designer” was terribly unfulfilling and frustrating. I really dislike being called a “jewelry designer”. A jewelry designer is one that designs, draws the idea on paper and then a bench jeweler makes it. That is not what I do. Finally after many years, John Reyes owner of Reyes Contemporary Art Galley said, “She’s more of a sculptor who happens to use jewelry as her medium….”. That’s it, right there. I consider myself extremely fortunate to do what I do and have come this far. I thought having a show in NYC in SOHO was never possible, but it was in NY during New York City Jewelry Week “20. and I remember the exact moment leaving the gallery to get a bagel and lox for lunch, I stopped in my tracks, looked up and around and just took it all in, I got so verklemmt, I text my husband Douglas. He, too, got verklemmt. I hope I take nothing for granted. Lessons I’ve learned, follow your heart, your creative drive and instincts.. I decided not to work with stones, at one point, as I felt it was all about the stone, and I was limited. I started just working with metal. I lost a lot of Instagram followers, LOL, I was even more determined aften that. Find your voice and stick to it, don’t conform or do what you think others would want, it’s never your true self.Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The Heard Museum is always my first thought. I take everyone there that visits. To eat, any one of Chris Bianco’s places, Lux and Postino. I don’t travel much out of my Central Phoenix bubble. Of course, I have to take them to For The People, which is where my studio is, and I believe it to be the best shop in Phoenix. Oh and the Botanical Garden.Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My father is the one who always encouraged me. He listed to me, heard me and never discounted my ideas or desires. He called me, “ My little Kunstler”. My father was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s back in 2005 when I showed him the first pieces I had made. He pointed to them on the table and exclaimed, “You made these?!”, I nodded, his eyes watered. I knew then I was on the right track. He passed away 7 months later.
Website: Www.Heidi Abrahamson.com
Facebook: Heidi Abrahamson Modern Jewelry