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Olivia Shih: Cool Jewels Second Place Winner

Our interview with Oakland-based metalsmith, jewelry designer, photographer and Cool Jewels winner Olivia Shih.

Olivia Shih describes her inspiration. 

Please give our readers a little bit of information about yourself (upbringing, education, where you live etc.).


I shuttle between the US and Taiwan regularly, so I'm constantly adjusting myself to two distinct climates, languages, and societal standards. When I was younger, the back and forth was sometimes frustrating, especially when one personality trait was applauded in one country and admonished in the other. For example, confidence is defined very differently in the two countries.


I see that you have a background in creative writing. Do you think of your jewels as telling stories or as part of a story?


I don't think of my work as clear narratives, but my metal work process relates closely to story writing. The first iteration of a piece of jewelry will be a jumble of rushed ideas. Then, I go back in to edit and streamline. Editing metal is just as painful as editing words because there is always something precious that needs to be removed.


What are you listening to lately? What are you reading?


When I work in the studio, I'm listening to podcasts like This American Life and NPR's Fresh Air. I'm currently on a David Sedaris binge, so I'm simultaneously chomping my way through Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.


Your work seems at times almost architectural, at times straight out of a natural history book or cabinet of curiosities, where do you find inspiration?


Most of the time, I start with a question. For example, with my faceted wood and silver ring, I wanted to know what would happen if I welded wood with silver. How thoroughly can I combine the two? As for my white enameled brooches, I started with the question: Can white have a texture?


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?




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