Interview : Kristen Phillips Of FloridXFauna

When I first laid eyes on the jewelry designs from LA based creative soul Kristen Phillips of Floridxfauna I screamed. Jewelry that packs such a powerful punch to the heart doesn’t come around too often. I knew that I needed to have one of her pieces or…I’d die or something. (I was gifted with the Exploded Skull pendant for Yule, so death hasn’t been sniffing around…) Overcome with inquisitiveness about these curious formations, I had to get to know the woman behind the works and am delighted to present this interview with the astoundingly talented creator.

iua3rTao0nPACAs the sole creator and driving force behind floridxfauna, can you please divulge how it came into existence? How long was the process from initial thought, to putting jewelry up for sale?

It took a few years to get the ball rolling with floridxfauna. I started developing ideas in 2011 but I already had a lot going on with running my own mask and prop company and doing freelance work for other people. I also moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles twice first temporarily, then for good, in that time period. I’d work on jewelry and accessory concepts in fits and starts, with stretches of weeks to months where nothing really got done. These delays were really frustrating at the time, but my aesthetic and focus shifted and grew immensely during this phase, so in retrospect I’m grateful to have that incubation period. Finally, after I left a prop shop job I had last August, I decided it was time to solely focus on what would become the first collection, Crystal Ossuary I. Once I had the chance to sit down and only focus on floridxfauna, it took about 3 months to open shop.

ij7xM389zpHnzibhkmlXFQMeTYpI am besotted with your Crystal Ossuary I collection. It contains some of the most unique jewellery pieces I have encountered for a long time. I am incredibly curious to know where the idea for this series came from, and what inspired the beautiful hybridization of crystal and bone.

Well thank you for the kind words! I’ve always loved raw crystals, I guess because to me they stand out as a bit of an anomaly against anything else you find in the natural world. Their appearance sharp lines in a world of chaotic curves always struck me as kind of alien. I knew I wanted to incorporate them into my work somehow. I ordered a few quartz crystals online, and picked up a few more pieces from a flea market back in Philadelphia and just started working with them, mocking up ideas. There were a bunch of sessions where I juxtaposed the crystals with other natural forms, I had them hybridized with and growing out of all kinds of things. Some of those concepts may still bloom into collections a little further down the road.

front800px2As an artist based out of LA, do you feel that the city inspires your dark side? Do you have a supportive network of fellow artist who work with shadowy subjects? Would you say that LA is a good place for a creative soul who works with unconventional themes to reside?

I’ve met a lot of artists through the special effects industry and also by attending gallery shows out here, and I do think the community for artists out here is good. I’m not the most social person, I’ve always been a bit of a loner and I especially drop off the face of the earth when I get deep into one of my projects. However, I can say there’s definitely a strong community of people working with a dark aesthetic, even if I feel like I’m way out on the fringes of it.

I think LA is a great place for a creative, simply because it’s so vast and there are so many people that you can kind of do whatever and no one cares. I didn’t come out here to get discovered, I came out here to get lost. Philadelphia was starting to feel claustrophobic; I was trying to shift the direction of my career and my life and it was difficult to do that there because I had so much history in that city. I definitely feel like I found the freedom and space to breathe out here that I was looking for.

As I have limited knowledge on the creation of sculpted jewellery, I would love to be talked through the creation process. I am especially interested to learn about how your pendants come into existence. I am aware that you use a product called eco resin, and was wondering about the benefits of using this particular material?

Generally the process involves sculpting the piece, for which I use clay and sometimes jeweler’s wax. Then I’ll build a little box around it and pour silicone in to make a mold. When the silicone is cured I clean the clay out of the mold and pour in resin. I use a pressure pot to get rid of any air bubbles in the resin. When the resin has cured, I pull out the cast piece and do all the finishing work sanding, polishing, painting, sealing, and mounting hardware.

I chose eco resin as part of my commitment to seek out more sustainable and environmentally sound materials, and support other small businesses in the process. It’s actually pretty similar to other more commonly used resins in how you work with it and the quality of the finished product. The major difference is that it is bio based and has a much smaller CO2 footprint than traditional resins which are petroleum based.

lYou are heavily inspired by avant-garde fashion, and have been since your teens. Which designers inspire you on a daily basis and who are you currently enamoured with?

I really look forward to seeing what Gareth Pugh, Rick Owens, and Iris van Herpen are doing, not just the clothes but how they present them. Lately I’ve also really been into Haider Ackermann amazing fabrics, really strong silhouettes. I would cite Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, and Jean Paul Gaultier and longtime influences, and also costume designer Eiko Ishioka. She designed costumes for Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Cell.

iiBnoH4Aaoigiib2cDI6I7E7eSGHow would you describe your personal style? Are you content with where you are at with your individual look, or do you feel there is room for plenty more experimentation?

Honestly, most days I’m working, and anything I wear into my workspace will get destroyed. My daily uniform is a pair of jeans, a t shirt, and maybe a thermal, all of which are splattered with paint, latex, drops of resin, and crusted with plaster and chunks of expanding foam. Most days I don’t bother wearing makeup, I have no style and I look pretty grubby. It’s so sad! However, when I go out on the weekends, (or even for an afternoon of running errands) I do relish making an effort and putting a good outfit together. I’m into asymmetry, strong silhouettes, contrasting textures, something clean and crisp with something old and shredded for example. I’m never really content with my individual look, it’s constantly evolving.

However I’m super picky about clothing purchases, partly because I’m on a pretty tight budget as an independent artist, and I’m also trying to minimize how much stuff I own, so if I buy something I have to absolutely love it and want to wear it for years. I’m not really an impulse buyer, there’s a lot of deliberation before I pull the trigger. I’ve also been opting more and more for “slow fashion” handmade clothing by independent designers instead of things that are mass produced overseas. My next purchase might be this “mutant” tunic I spotted on Etsy, it has 6 sleeves so you can wear it a bunch of different ways.

front800px2lYou work within the entertainment industry making masks, props and costumes, and are self-taught in sculpting, mold making and casting. How long did it take to acquire the skills required for your occupation? I imagine that there is something new to learn every day.

Yes, I believe learning is a lifelong process, and you’re never really done. I got started in high school with some books about special effects makeup, I sculpted a few small prosthetics and used my little sister as a model for my senior project. During college I continued to teach myself things prop building, basic sewing, mask making, etc., mainly through books, videos, and the internet. No matter how much you read or how many videos you watch, nothing really compares to getting your hands on some materials and just trying to create something.

During my senior year of college I decided to build a life-sized Sulcata Tortoise with a cable controlled animatronic head, a very ambitious project where I made a lot of mistakes and learned so much in the process. After about 10 years of experience I felt I was in a good place to start my mask and prop company, Safari Anomalous. I still feel I have a ton left to learn, and there are so many things I can be better at. Next on my list is digital sculpting, learning programs like ZBrush and Sculptris, so I can strategically incorporate 3d printed components into my future projects. I’m definitely curious about these new technologies, but I can’t ever see myself abandoning traditional sculpting.

angle800new2nI was bowled over by the discovery of yet another one of your creative endeavours S. Anamalous, which provides latex monocle prosthetics. What inspired this line of imaginative accessories?

I would describe S. Anomalous as a bridge between my mask and creature design and what I’m doing now. It is an early iteration of what would later become floridxfauna. When I first started experimenting with accessories I was working with more of a baroque/Rococco influence, which is evident in those designs. I was actually working for a haunted attraction outside of Philadelphia and designing some gory eye prosthetics when I got the idea for a lion monocle, and it just took off from there. I launched the monocle collection in 2012. They’re available for sale on Etsy, and it’s possible that I may do more with S. Anomalous in the future.

pI am extremely excited about your 2015 jewellery project in which you intend to create creatures, and then craft pieces of jewellery inspired by their anatomy. Where did this idea come from, and are you able to unveil anything about the creatures you are going to be introducing to the world?

I think I’ve been trying to reconcile my interest in the worlds of creature design and avant-garde fashion for a long time. Do I just resolve to pick one, or attempt to ping pong back and forth between them indefinitely? I don’t feel like I completely belong in either sphere, so combining both in this way is something that is very much me and just made sense.

As for the creature collection, I have several concepts I’m playing with, and in the next few weeks I think it will be clear to me which will make the best collection. I’m afraid I don’t have much to reveal right now. I can say that I’ve been playing a lot with insect/flower hybrid motifs, translucent materials, and rough, woven textures, and that those elements might make it into the collection.

front800px2bHow would you describe your ideal working environment and what, in your eyes, is a perfect day?

A few years back I had a studio space in a warehouse in North Philadelphia which had about 20 other studios, a gallery, and communal shop space. I’d like to get back into a situation like that, where there are other creative people around and you get to see what they’re doing and share ideas, but when it’s time to work you can put your headphones on and close the door on your own little space.

As for a perfect day, it’s pretty simple: get up very early, make some coffee, exercise, shower, and then sculpt for a good chunk of the day no distractions, no interruptions, just really get into working on one piece and be completely focused. After that, a couple hours of tending to the business prepping orders, promotion, bookkeeping, corresponding with customers; as a business owner I’m currently responsible for all of these tasks as well. Last but not least, to have a little time at the end of the day to catch dinner and maybe a movie with my husband would be perfect.

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