Artist: Phaedra A. Torres
Business name: Lluvia Designs
Location: at a bead show, preferably, but in West Covina, CA when not.
Phaedra, how do you describe your work?
I usually like to say that I specialize in “unwearable” jewelry. Mostly because it’s the easiest way to describe it, and partially because I just like to see people’s reactions to that. When I tell people I make jewelry, I usually add the disclaimer of “but not normal jewelry” because I can see the pictures forming in their heads of the jewelry they think I make. If I don’t steer them away from that image, they usually don’t know what to say when they actually see some of the junky crazy stuff I make. I spare us both the pain.
Lluvia Designs was born because I always liked the name and decided that if I had children, one would be named Lluvia, which means “rain” in Spanish. Well, I decided not to have real & human kids, so the name was adopted by my jewelry.
What is your creative process like?
I sometimes have an idea for a piece of jewelry rattling around in my head, but mostly I just pull out beads and they magically arrange themselves. I’m not that disciplined and very rarely plan and sketch out an idea. I grew up in a loud family and am loud myself, but strangely, when I’m being creative I like silence, so I usually don’t play music. I like working at night while everyone else is sleeping, and I talk to my dog (and myself) about what I’m making.
What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
I really haven’t had any formal training, mostly informal “on the job” training! I’m not a very good student, unable to sit still in jewelry classes for long periods of time, so I’ve mostly learned by myself, and by trial and error.
I remember making jewelry “to sell” and I felt very much under pressure, always wondering if it would sell, would people like it, is it fashionable right now, etc. A little over 4 years ago I took a big risk and quit my comfy, familiar full time job, traded it for a part time job and began making jewelry full time. I knew I had to stand out, so I challenged myself, and I saw my jewelry morph into what it is today. I stopped making jewelry “to sell” and started making jewelry that came naturally from me.
Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
Beads, of course! I use a lot of suede lace, so I’d be hurting without it. If I couldn’t fish through my boxes and boxes of found items, collected over the years or handed over from my mom, I would seriously be hurting…like “I need a margarita” hurting.
What inspires you to create?
I can’t pinpoint what inspires me to create, only that something leads me to my workspace in my garage and holds me captive there for hours on end. I’m very drawn to things I find in the street. I love to look on the side of the road for discarded gems. A simple bottle cap will inspire me and a necklace will be born around it.
I still remember what initially inspired me to make jewelry. When I was about 15 years old, my mom, who makes quilts and other sewn objects, had a booth at a small craft fair – and I was recruited to help her. There was a girl in the booth next to us selling jewelry and my mom bought me two pairs of earrings. After taking them home and inspecting them, I decided I could do it myself. And the rest is history.
What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
The beaded jewelry business can be tough, because there are so many of us out there. I focus on what pleases me. It’s very selfish, I know, but it works.
What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
Challenge yourself. Take a step back, look at your work, does it “wow” you. Are you amazed? Forget about what you think will sell or please the masses, challenge yourself to make something above that, something that takes your breath away, something that you can’t stop looking at, something that you are truly EXCITED about, something that doesn’t let you sleep at night. Use materials that you wouldn’t normally use. Sometimes we buy materials and supplies we’re familiar with and it leads to the same types of designs over and over. It wasn’t until I stepped away from certain items I used over and over again that I was able to really experiment and develop my style.
What takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
I’m lucky that I only work part time right now, it leaves plenty of time to wander the world. I work in my garden, take my dog on hikes and walks, and travel. I took a 3 week trip to the Yucatan with my sisters this past summer. I always read voraciously and I like to grill things.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
I love traditional homemade Mexican food (believe me, it’s not the stuff you’re eating in restaurants!). There’s an Indian place I crave on a regular basis, which requires a drive through L.A. traffic, but so worth it. I’m lucky to be surrounded by so many great Asian restaurants here, so I have my choice of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, etc.
I love my job, my dog, my tortoise, my family, public transportation, and playing with clay.