Erica Leal is a designer I have not been able to stop thinking about since a photo of her earrings popped up in my Instagram feed thanks to A Thousand Facets. Her work struck me because it's truly unlike anything I've seen before. Erica's designs are strong and geometric but include of a delicate inlay technique. Her color combinations are unexpected, yet so distinctive. As soon as I decide on which piece to purchase, I will be adding her work to my jewelry box. More about Erica below!
I originally went to Camberwell College in London for my foundation year in art believing I would probably specialize in textile design, but that’s not what happened. The foundation year at Camberwell really worked for me, as it helped me recognize my interests and gave me the freedom to approach assignments in whatever way I wanted - my medium ended up being jewellery.
When my course ended I had to return to Canada, where I completed my degree in Metalsmithing and Holloware at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. It was there that I became interested in the performative nature of jewellery. I like that there is a maker, a wearer and a viewer in dress, and between each role there is opportunity for interpretation. I also love that wearable art is inherently relatable - when you see a glove, you can picture it on your hand. I mainly made conceptual work in school that explored these ideas, but I found that I didn't like that the pieces existed only in galleries. I wanted my work to be accessible and active in the world so after graduation I did an internship in New York with Pamela Love to learn more about production and fashion jewellery. That was a great experience and while providing me with valuable insight also gave me confidence in the skills I had been honing at NSCAD.
I eventually moved back to London. Without a studio I began mocking up pieces in RHINO and elaborating on techniques and designs I had experimented with in college. I gain a lot of inspiration from computational art and enjoy blending older metalsmithing techniques with the output of new technologies. That's where my current line arose from and I suppose I've been kind of riding this cyborg wave of creation ever since.
When I'm in designing mode I sketch in a kind of a manic way, as in a ton of little doodles all over the place. I draw mainly outlines to get an idea out of my head before it disappears. I'll then elaborate with a more detailed sketch, and if I like it will then render it three dimensionally in CAD to see how it's proportions look and if there is anything functional that doesn't work. If there is a part that needs to be made by hand I'll make it while the prototype is being printed and then go from there.
My inspirations keep accumulating over time. When I first started making jewellery I was inspired by the 30's choreographer Busby Berkley. Then later on became interested in Russian constructivism, particularly the work of Varvara Stepanova. I'm also inspired by nature and space.
Favorite Designs: I probably wear the Day Dreaming earrings most. I love the shape, the closure is unique and the size is great for casual or dress. I also wear the Pacis, Pax and Cyndy rings all stacked together. It's a solid look and if I tire or it throughout the day there's a ton of different arrangements I can shuffle between.
Daily jewels: An antique turquoise ring that was given to me by my partner and a pink sapphire ring that my mom gave to me when I turned 18.
Favorite Artists / Designers: A few that I keep coming back too are Karl Fritsch, Hiroshi Suzuki, Ruth Asawa, Varvara Stepanova, Oskar Schlemmer, Donna Haraway, Rebecca Horn, Augustin Lesage, Annie Pootoogook.
Other than jewelry: I'm still figuring out a work-life balance, but when I do get the chance I like to hang out with the people I love, outside if possible. I recently moved to Vancouver and being from the prairies I'm finding the beach and mountains to be pretty novel still. I hope to do more camping and traveling this summer, I love a bonfire and a beer.
Currently listening to: It's been exceptionally rainy here in Vancouver but I usually find Soul music keeps me going on my soggy walks home. I think I could walk through a mild hurricane listening to Otis Redding. 'That's How Strong My Love Is' and 'You Don't Miss Your Water" are my go-to songs.