2013/06/13

artists and artisans in florence | sara amrhein

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

This post is part of a weekly series called Artists and Artisans in Florence. For a presentation of the project click HERE.

This week's portrait is a really special one. First of all because the artist I have for you today is the American visual artist and jewelry designer Sara Amrhein. Sara is the person who inspired me to do this series after I read her many fantastic interviews with local artists in Florence.

Since Sara is usually the one doing the interviews over at her blog When in Florence... I thought it would be fun to change the roles for once and be the one asking her all the questions, she herself has asked other artists.

So today I am happy to present not only a photographic portrait of Sara, but also an interview with her about her life as an artist in Florence.

The photos were taken the other week in Sara's new studio in Via di Mezzo a Firenze. If you happen to be in the area, I strongly recommend you stop by to have a look at Sara while she works in there. The studio has been made from scratch by Sara and her husband, and Sara has managed to create a space which is so much her and her art. The colors used for decorating are the same colors you see in her pieces, and her cat Michelangelo is almost always hanging out among art pieces and jewelry. An amazing and very personal place.

You find Sara's interview and links to website etc. after the portrait series.

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Sara Amrhein © Birgitte Brondsted

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I was born in New York and raised in Southern California but I’ve always felt much more like a New Yorker than a California girl. I studied art history at the University of California Santa Barbara and Fine Art at Art Center College of Design. I’ve been living in Florence for the past 12 years and love all things art and design and I am married to a very handsome Southern Italian man.

What type of art/design or other creative process do you use?

My work consists of handmade jewelry, painting and sculpture. Mostly I use polymer clay for my work but also incorporate other materials when necessary.

Why did you choose Florence or did Florence choose you?

I would have to say that Florence chose me. I came here on a study abroad program in 2000 and immediately felt comfortable here and I knew this was where I was meant to be.

What is your favorite thing/place/sight in the city or all of the above?

Piazzale Michelangelo for sure. I love taking walks or going on a jog up the hill and looking down on the city especially in the evening just before the sun goes down. It still amazes me even 12 years later how big the Duomo is!

Was there a defining moment when you knew that you wanted to be an artist? If so when and what was it? 

I don’t think there was really a defining moment, my mother is very creative and I grew up watching her always making something so it sort of came naturally to me. However, when I was in high school I won a school art contest and I would say that that gave me the confidence that I might actually be good at it. But essentially it’s just what feels natural to me, I don’t know what else I would do.

What or who is your greatest inspiration and why? 

That tends to change depending on what I am working on but I would say that I am mostly inspired by people who never give up on what they believe in no matter what kind of adversity stands in their way and those who are willing to take risks and go against the grain. I am inspired by passion rather then the financial reward.

What is the best thing about being an artist? What is the most difficult part?

I would say the best part is that I can really create my own schedule and I don’t have to wake up too early in the morning, I am NOT a morning person at all! I get to work from home, which is great. The downside to that however, is that sometimes without structure of going to work every morning I find myself at 1:00 in the morning still working. Making a living as an artist is also difficult. There is no fixed income and I find that sometimes people expect a lot for very little and as a result we tend to undervalue our own work thinking more about how much we think someone might be willing to pay for it rather then what its actually worth. I also find the promotional side of things to be difficult at times. The Internet is a big place and it can be hard keeping up with all the social media while continuing to create work and be involved in the community. But overall I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

What message do you hope to convey with your art/creative process? 

For me the most important thing is show that art and design is a form of communication just like any spoken language. What an artist puts out into the world is essentially a part of them. When you buy a work of art or a design you are buying a part of that person and bringing them into your life. For me my work is about individualism, every piece that I create is one of a kind. When someone chooses my designs they are choosing to be unique and not necessarily follow a trend. With my paintings I hope to convey a message of femininity and how proud I am to be a woman who is free to express herself in any way she chooses. I am also questioning the ideas of art vs. fashion and fine art vs. design. I often think about where that line is and why there even needs to be one in the first place. But my art definitely influences my jewelry design and vice versa

What is art/design to you? How would you define art? 

To me it’s a way of life. It’s everything that I see and everything that I use. When you think about it, someone designed everything that we use in our daily lives, someone thought about it and how it would work or and how it would look. My definition of art is self expression, it's how we each individually see the world and communicate those thoughts in visual or tangible form.

Do you listen to music when you work? If so who or what? 

Always, I love music and find that it helps me concentrate and relieves any anxiety I may have about how the piece will turn out.

If you could go back in time 10 years knowing everything that you know now what would you change and why? Or what would you tell yourself? 

I would have trusted myself more and been true to my ideas. I would tell myself not to worry so much about what other people think especially when I was in art school. I would also tell myself to save my money!

How have your two cultures affected your work? 

I think it really manifests itself in the work through the bright colors influenced by the California sunshine along with the Italian appreciation of the femininity and all things beautiful. It’s an interesting paradox with Italian culture that creeps into my work; gender roles are well defined in this country yet there is a tremendous respect for women, especially mothers. Sometimes I feel the need to fight these definitions of what being a woman means and what is expected of me by creating big, bold, powerful statement pieces, yet they are always innately feminine in view and concept. And while I sometimes get angry about how women are put on ‘display’ and are expected to fill specific roles, essentially, I love being a woman. Women are honored and respected in this culture and this allows me to create ultra feminine work without having to apologize for it.

Who is your favorite artist/designer/writer/performer? 

That is actually a really hard question since I have many. I would say that my all time favorite artist however, is Michelangelo, so much so that I named my cat after him. I love the way he pushed boundaries, questioned everything and fought for what he believed in. I also love Yayoi Kusama and her recent collaboration with Louis Vuitton. For designers I love the innovation and avant-garde thinking of Alexander McQueen, and Marni jewelry design. And I absolutely LOVE Lady Gaga, I think she is ah-mazing! She does what she wants, is not afraid to be herself and she make no apologies for it.

What is your favorite movie?

Forever and always The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulin.

What is your favorite book?

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant, a historical fiction novel set in Florence in the 15th century that describes the life of a young noble woman and her arranged marriage.

Describe yourself in five words.

Happy, confidant, friendly, determined, flexible

When you’re not being creative what do you do?

I run. I love to run. I feel free when I’m running and it allows me to organize my thoughts and relieve my stress. I also love hanging out with my girlfriends for aperitivo or a swish party or a girls lunch.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be?

There are so many place I would love to visit, right now I am kind of obsessed with Berlin, I’ve never been, even though it's so close, I’ve been looking into it a lot lately. I also really want to visit India and Morocco one day.

Is there anything else that you want people to know about you?

I believe that no matter how difficult things get you should never give up on your dreams. I’ve thought about it once or twice but then I remember why I started in the first place. I also really dislike talking on the phone.

Thank you, Sara! And if you want to see more from and about Sara check out these links:

Sara Amrhein, Web Blog Facebook Etsy

Most of the people featured in this series are part of the Facebook group Creative people in Florence. If you are creative and live in Florence, please come and join us.

More Artists and Artisans in Florence HERE.

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