Wild Island Studio – Nannette Foster

 

 

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Nannette Foster began designing jewelry to reconnect to the creativity that she’d left behind in her childhood.  Whisking herself away from corporate America to Kodiak, Alaska became an unexpected transformational process.  It inspired the long-lasting theme of Wild Island Studio.  Collecting found materials that wash up on the shore, seeing the value and beauty in what has been cast aside, is symbolic of her creative and spiritual rebirth.

Foster’s creative process also speaks to her compassion for victims of human trafficking.  The artist was kind enough to tell me more about her creative journey and how her sales help support Priceless Alaska in the fight against human trafficking.

 

For starters, where are you from and where do you live now?

Originally a Midwestern girl from the Kansas City, Missouri area, I moved to Kentucky and Tennessee. I moved from Nashville to Kodiak Island, Alaska in 2012 after what was supposed to be a summer adventure only. That’s how Alaska gets you.

 

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Why is metalsmithing your art form of choice?

I’ve always loved both art and working with my hands, but never landed on a medium. Discovering of decades old brass and copper washed up on Kodiak beaches was the catalyst. I was so excited and kept thinking, “I can’t believe someone threw this out. There is value here!”

I started out with cold connections while I lived in a tiny cabin, then worked out of a suitcase the year our family lived in a camper. As soon as we got our current home, I took over a room to use as my studio and got addicted to using a torch. There’s something empowering about controlling a flame.

 

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I was reading about how you began designing jewelry.  You were a creative child but left your creative pursuits to make a career in corporate America.  Then, you felt the need to create again, and you started with feather earrings.  Why feathers?

Feathers strike a chord in my spirit. They represent freedom, which is super important to me. I have a small “free” tattooed on my left wrist. My next tattoo will probably be a Feather right above that. Being a fairly driven person, I can get wound tight sometimes. It’s a reminder to me of the freedom that was gifted to me through Jesus. It’s not just a pretty thought, but a state of being. Like John 8:36 says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

 

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Why did you go from Nashville to Alaska?

My full intention was to spend one summer adventure volunteering with a children’s program in Kodiak. I had just gone through a divorce and was looking to branch out. I had the tropics in mind, but God had better plans. I still miss the warmth.

Transformation is a theme in your work.  Can you tell me more about that?

Transformation is my story in a nutshell, and I know I’m not the only one. My first summer in Kodiak I came to the island raw, vulnerable and insecure. Some people say that the veil between Heaven and Earth is thin here. My inner healing certainly accelerated that summer. The sea, mountains, colors of spring, soothed my soul.

I fell in love with life in Kodiak and came to know myself in a whole new way. I cried and danced my way through lively worship services, met the love of my life, unveiled my inner artist, and gave birth to my son here. After coming to Alaska broken, I am whole, confident, and unafraid. There is nothing I love more than to see beauty bloom through the mess.

 

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What is your favorite piece that you have made?

I spend so much time with certain statement pieces, they tend to be my favorites. I like my big dragonfly pendant. Dragonflies represent transformation, and I used almost every technique in my toolbox on that one.

What is your favorite color and why?

Definitely turquoise! It’s that color of clear ocean water from an aerial view. I could stare at it all day. My Cherokee grandmother passed on some of her Navajo turquoise jewelry to me. It’s been my favorite since childhood. That’s why I love working with US mined turquoise.

 

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Your long-term plan is to eventually teach survivors of human trafficking.  What inspired you to set this goal?

This issue has been on my heart for a while. Last year I was able to begin donating both time and a portion of my profits to Priceless Alaska to address this issue in our state and town. Because freedom is so important to me, I have a deep desire to support those taking brave steps toward realizing their own freedom. It’s one thing to provide a way out. But once that first step is complete, ongoing support is extremely important, especially with regards to replacing livelihood. My dream is to be able to employ survivors of sex trafficking and provide them with training in a new skill set.

 

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Human trafficking is a global issue – one that impacts communities without most people realizing it.  Urban settings have the highest rates of trafficking with people being taken off of the streets.  In a remote setting like Alaska, how does this take shape?  In the cities, or elsewhere?

This is such an interesting question. Most people think of trafficking as kidnapping and physically holding individuals captive, usually for a commodity in the sex trade. While this is sometimes true, captivity can manifest in much more subtle ways in small towns, villages and rural areas. In Kodiak, one example of a vulnerable population are 18yr olds exiting foster care. Those with no job and nowhere to stay are easily coerced into trading sex for a couch. This is an entry point to forced prostitution. After that, control/manipulation/fear tactics and drug addiction create an invisible fence. They appear free, but the captivity is real.

 

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What do you love most about Alaska?

I thought about this for a while. And what sums it up is connection. Up here, life is slower and simpler. It’s easier to maintain a connection to people and community. With the wild and untamed at your doorstep, connection is deeper to nature and wildlife. Spiritually, I am decidedly more connected since coming to Alaska, and I also find I am more connected to myself and my own story.

 

Join the wildislandstudio.com mailing list and see more of Nannette’s pieces!

 

A. Recherche

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A. Rechere is Ashara Shapiro’s latest venture. Launching October 25-27, the jewelry and accessories are storied items that have gone through a transformation. Antique items that have lost their function in modern daily life are turned into pieces both elegant and edgy.  Shapiro is known as one half of the Bucks County, Pennsylvania creative duo ReClaimed.  The California native learned the art of woodworking from her father, leading her to eventually create functional, eclectic art in the form of furniture.  Six months ago, in the studio stocked with finds from antique malls and abandoned barns, Shapiro saw the potential for these items to become fashion.  “Throughout that process [with ReClaimed] I was collecting bits and pieces that I loved” says Shapiro, old machine tags, brass rulers and scales, among them.  “I just started making things for myself with those bits and pieces and then people were really interested in what I was doing.” A. Recherche began with a leather cuff adorned with the carefully curated piece of an antique brass metal ruler. When people began requesting custom orders, Shapiro knew that she was on to something.

 

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Each piece from A. Recherche is true to its namesake (“rechercheis French for ‘exotic, rare, or obscure.’)  To the designer, leather and metals have a personality of their own.  She calls the rawness and natural quality of leather paired with polished metal a “perfect marriage.”  When asked about her favorite found material, Shapiro can’t settle on one. Exploring each material, and discovering what it will allow itself to be, is an enjoyable interaction.  For example, different metals are more or less malleable and the grain of a piece of wood determines what design will take shape. She enjoys this process, bringing her own vision and meeting it with the design potential of the material.

 

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Empowerment is the theme of A. Recherche.  “Warrior meets modern woman meets function, fashion,” says Shapiro. The stamped words and phrases speak to women’s strength and experiences, “something that they can identify with in their life.”  Certain pieces are created for the purpose of forming community and offer part of the proceeds to charity organizations.  She currently works with A Love for Life, an organization that raises funds for Pancreatic cancer research.  “The best mission is to not only create things that women feel strong wearing,” she says, “but also supporting each other in our past and our future.”  Eventually, Shapiro plans to create designs that speak to other widespread issues.  She envisions women forming connections by wearing her jewelry, recognizing each other’s bracelets stamped with the phrases ‘Me Too’ and ‘Survivor.’

 

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Shapiro, an avid writer, former off-Broadway actress, and teacher, has expressed herself creatively throughout her life.  A common thread throughout each experience, from taking to the stage as a child to her current design work, is empowerment and connection. Of our busy, information driven world Shapiro feels that shared experience is forgotten.  “We are taking in so much information that has very little to do with us on a personal, deep level.”  Personal power and expression are at the core of her creative pursuits. She sees them as a way to create connecting threads that people can draw to their own stories.

 

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The launch will take place inside of “The Barn,” an eclectic space sounds like a perfect setting for the A. Recherche shopping experience. Philadelphia-based clothing line Plume and Thread will be joining the party at each date.

For the future, Shapiro plans to continue making custom orders and release a new collection every few months.  Each launch will be limited edition and unique.  Join the A. Recherche mailing list for a VIP first look at each collection.  Be the first to find your new favorite piece:

Thursday October 25, 6-8pm

Friday October 26, 6-8pm

Saturday October 27, 10-4pm

 

4658 Old York Road

Buckingham, PA

 

A. Recherche

Plume and Thread

 

images: A. Recherche instagram