Whether it's long or brief, time spent in the company of Rachel Ravitch is simply put: good fun. And without fail. She is one of those rare types whose cheerful demeanor is as authentic as it is constant. It's quite literally infectious. No big surprise that Rachel’s eponymous collection of jewelry embodies that same sort of exuberance. Each piece evokes a playfulness and whimsy paralleled by Rachel's own personality. And underneath that, a distinct but subtle elegance. There is a boldness about her work that has no interest in being anything that it isn’t. You won’t find precious stones or metals in the Rachel Ravitch collection. Instead: lambskin, horsehair, leather and silk. Her line is characterized by her love of the process through which non-precious materials can become a beautiful and cherished object. And woven through all of this lies a functionality within her designs that is based on movement and flexibility making them all the more alluring. Rachel comes from a background in architectural design having worked for a Seattle based firm prior to launching her line in 2012. But she isn’t necessarily apt to drawing any correlations between her work as an architect and this new chapter as jewelry designer. In fact, her line was started somewhat by accident. This fact is hard to imagine given how seemingly deliberate, unique and so very Rachel each of her pieces are. We recently sat down with Rachel to talk about her process, the duality of an architect-slash-jewelry designer, Seattle life, and all the this-and-that in between. And as predicted, we had a very fun time doing so.
"I started making jewelry in the summer of 2011 but it was really just playing with some of the materials. I gave a piece to a friend and she was wearing it while shopping at Kaledescope Vision and the owners were like "Whoa, we love that. Who made that?". They asked me to do a few pieces for a pop-up shop they were hosting so I started creating a few other ideas that I had. They weren't super complete and I hadn't really developed them but it was a start. Laura Cassidy from Seattle Met bought one of those first pieces and that really kind of stepped up the game. There was a moment where I was like, "Laura Cassidy bought one, now I HAVE to make these" because she had just used it for styling a photoshoot. I really didn't know it could happen that way! That was when I started fully thinking about materials and what I was going to create with them. It took me a while to sit with it, think about it and get all the pieces made correctly. I launched the line the following summer, July 2012."
"I worked for an architecture firm for several years and when they closed I took some of the existing projects with me and started doing freelance architectural design. I still take on projects but I think that my talent definitely lies more in the creative realm of design. Architecture is kind of like translating a language. For instance, you sit down with people and they tell you that they want their home environment to be like this or that and these are the things that aren't functioning. You take that information and you look at the space they have and the value of the home they live in and evaluate how much value you can add to that in a way that makes sense for their home. So it's more of a literal translation in terms of design. It's not terribly creative but its not terribly mathematical either. It's more related to language."
"Right now I'm really inspired by the materials that I'm using. My creative process has been trying to draw those out into their best form and exploring that as much as possible. A lot of it is color and seeing whats available. Initially I bought a couple of hides and worked solely with really basic colors to keep things simple. And now I've started exploring what else I can do with these materials. Like, what happens if I splatter paint on it? And how things like that can change the overall effect."
"I've always lived in the pacific northwest, Seattle specifically for the last 10 years. I've been to plenty of other cities in the U.S. and I just can't picture living anywhere else in this country. I love it here. People come here and stay here because they love having a connection with nature. And there are so many opportunities close by that you can take advantage of in the natural world. That mentality and the practicality that comes with having a connection with the outdoors definitely resonates with me. When I started school at the University of Washington I began riding my bike everywhere and I still do. In a way I've built my life around that. But not to the extreme of the whole bicycling in Gore-Tex thing. I tried it and I just felt like I looked hideous. So I figured out a way to adapt my wardrobe and still be functional and stylish that I don't have to change when I go out somewhere. The jewelry is completely influenced by that adaptation and the choices that I've made that relate to where I live."
"I'm working on a lot of new projects this year. As far as jewelry, I'm planning to launch a men's line in the fall. It's not going to be a lot different from the women's line in terms of design. A little bulkier, a little bigger to pair with a more masculine body. Some of the pieces may not quite translate but I'm not entirely sure just yet. It'll definitely be an interesting thing to test out and see if I can add language around the existing designs rather than change or separate the design for the two lines."
Photos by Andrew J.S.