[RECESS] is when we get to hear the stories of the good people behind the pop-up. It's our favourite time and we share these conversations with you.
Continuing on our interview series with the designers featured at the upcoming #OtherVancouver, we introduce Garrett Johnson of blessedpoppy. If you haven't heard of #OtherVancouver by now, we introduced it here earlier this month.
From the organizers: "With these conversations below, we want to the highlight the designer’s process and story just as much as the product. Mindful consumerism becomes possible when we reconnect buyers with their purchases. With this connection, we hope you create stories of your own through their unique pieces."
Meet Garrett Johnson, a Montreal-based jewelry designer behind blessedpoppy. The combination of his obsession with poppies, taking an electro mechanics course, and receiving a box of jewelry making tools led him to create blessedpoppy’s artful pieces and continually evolve his process as a designer.
Keep reading for the interview...
Tell us about blessedpoppy.
Garrett Johnson: blessedpoppy is the name of my jewelry line. It’s made by me, previously out of my bedroom, and currently in a comparably swanky studio. I’ve always been obsessed with poppies, since I was a teenager, and then as I got older I got REALLY obsessed with poppies, and spent a good 3 years worshiping them in a very real way that took me to places I didn’t even know I could go. I hurt myself, and others in ways that I can’t fix any other way other than through living my life differently now. I view the poppy as this almost religious symbol of power and control. I feel that they represent a lot more darkness to me than traditional symbols implying such, due to the fact that they are so unimposing and innocent seeming, a simple form and shape implying no harm, that makes them way more sinister to me.
What made you choose to start your own brand?
GJ: I didn't choose this really, or it doesn't feel like I did. It’s basically two weird events that got me into jewelry making. If you asked me even 2 years ago if I saw myself doing this I’d saying definitely not. The first event occurred taking a “manual machining techniques” module, as part of an electro mechanics course I was enrolled in in Montreal. This course was essentially, here are a block of steel and a set of files, make this thing and be within 1/1000th of inch accuracy. I thought it was the coolest fucking thing ever. Here I was taking this block of steel and making it into something with just a file. It blew my mind; I didn't even know you could do that sort of thing. Like shape metal like that.
I became really disenchanted with the whole electro mechanics work in a factory 9-5 for the rest of your life thing, and the trade school but was only a “maybe I should just give up and become working class like the rest of my family” kind of move, so I ended up dropping out halfway through and driving across the country to the west coast. On the west coast I was seeing a girl, who ended up giving me a box of jewelry making tools, which were deceased grandmothers and would’ve otherwise been sold at an estate sale occurring that weekend. It had all the kinds of things that I would've never had the start-up to purchase myself, like nice files, and mandrels, and a torch and all those pricey things.
So basically I took that stuff and through the help of YouTube videos I taught myself the basics of silversmithing techniques and have just run with it from there. I never expected to sell anything ever really, and looked at it more in the way of “this is my drawing/painting/fine art” that I never had the drive to pursue before.
What is your creative process like?
GJ: My creative process is not as smooth and concise as I'd like it to be, and is based mainly off of ideas in my head and urgency. The ideas I get are usually drawn from my own experiences and interpretations of what I see around me and what I feel speaks to me. I’ve been diagnosed and medicated all of my “adult” life, so my process swings between chewing the skin off the ends of my fingers while chain smoking out the window of my bedroom all hours of the night while my fiancée tells me to come to bed, and not wanting to do anything but sleep, give up on everything and nap in between. When I'm up I'll spend 12 hour days working on things and scribbling and running around, and a lot of great ideas will come out of it, and then I have to try and sort through the mess when I’m more leveled out.
Biggest challenge & reward as an artist?
GJ: I've obviously got my qualms with learning curves and the pain of growth in my art, but to be honest I’m so comfortable with that shit at this point in my life after all I've been through. My biggest challenge as an artist is dealing with everything that isn’t being the artist part. I'm so used to day punk ethic with everything that I do, that I burn myself out pretty quickly trying to be a businessman, photographer, PR guy, salesperson, accountant. I have a lot of trouble giving up the reins on a lot of stuff, so my brand is seriously lacking in the “professional marketability” field. I’m working on it though.
I’m really driven by the approbation of others, so my biggest reward is having strangers like my stuff. Not just strangers, but beautiful strangers. My mind works in this way that if just everyone in the world thought I was the greatest thing that ever existed then I’d burst into light and happiness and it would stay that way forever.
Future goals for blessedpoppy?
I want to continue doing what I’m doing, as I spend more and more months in the black, trying to shine up my product presentation and learning to let others do the things they do so I don't have to. I’m putting an end to the poppy theme for now, with a special triad, the culmination of that exploration, being on display at Other and am moving onto other ways and themes to explore death and domination and control. I’ll have something new out in that vein come spring.