Designer Profile – Tara Lofhelm

Nothing brings me more joy than interviewing personal friends and featuring them here on Lilt Blog.

Especially hard working, passionate and creative women who I admire, and Tara Lofhelm is definitely in that category.

Tara Lofhelm is a jewellery designer and maker based in Melbourne, who has a serious passion for promoting and participating in the handmade contemporary jewellery movement.

She is one of the most hard working women I know. As long as I’ve known her she’s had multiple projects and jobs on the go at any given time.

It is not uncommon that when our group of friends meet up to down some beers at the local pub, Tara always joins us much later on in the night, after hours of working away in her studio designing and making her unique and stunning one off pieces.

The processes and techniques she uses to create her jewellery – twisting, stamping and embellishing – mean that no one piece she creates is the same.  Each one an artistic expression of her inspirations and influences which include travels to exotic locations, tribal body scarification, mysticysm, texture, colour, or simply the physical properties of the materials she works with.

It is her high attention to detail that I admire so much. Her pieces are truly unique, with organic shapes, tactile textures and contrasting precious metals and materials that result in wearable statement pieces with a hell of a lot of heart.

Tonight Tara will be launching as a new featured artist at Pieces of Eight gallery in Melbourne, alongside fellow jewellers Julia Storey & Fiona Simmons as part of the Enchanté exhibition, running from 6th-29th July.  So make sure you head to Pieces of Eight and see her exquisite work first hand.

Read on below for my interview with Tara to find out more about her journey &  inspirations.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how your label came about?

I had always planned to be a writer but got to the end of my degree and was over it. I knew I needed to create, but wanted to do something more tangible and physical than writing. I had always been obsessed with jewellery, so dabbled in a short course at CAE before deciding to commit to the 2 year TAFE course at NMIT (now Melbourne Polytechnic).

Those 2 years were some of the best years of my life, diving head first into this new creative field, and realising that people could make a living from creating. I met so many wonderful people there, who are still dear friends to this day.

Since I finished my course in 2008, I’ve been working from a shared studio in Brunswick, selling my pieces through various Melbourne (and now Australia-wide) shops, participating in exhibitions and working on private commissions.

How would you best describe your label’s design aesthetic?

My jewellery is primarily concerned with being handcrafted, well made, and easy to wear. I explore a lot of contrasts in my work through surface embellishments, as well as textural repetition applied through primitive processes such as stamping and patterning metals.

Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?

Because I’m a very visual, tactile person, I’m not good at sketching things down or doing any pre-designing. I usually start with an idea in my head and I have to physically make it, as then I can flesh out the concept and see how I would change things or evolve the design.

The process of making is really like being on a roll, so once I get going, whatever I’m making will usually inspire other ideas. I will consider existing forms, shapes and patterns and extract and adapt them to create new designs.

My main concern is often ‘would I wear this?’ I think it’s important to keep creating things you’re passionate about, as that then shows through in your work. You need to stay true to yourself (as cheesy as that sounds!)

What’s a typical day at the studio for you?

Ha! There really isn’t a ‘typical day’. Being an emerging creative means I still have a day job, so life is an endless juggle between all the competing elements of my practice, paired with making ends meet.

Any time I have away from my day job is spent in my studio making, but I constantly have various other tasks that need completing. Pursuing a creative career means you have to be a designer, a creator, a quality assurance officer, an accountant, a postman/courier, a marketing and PR specialist, photographer, web developer, social media expert, head of customer relations … as well as trying to be a good partner / mother / sister / friend / colleague.

Sometimes it wears me down and I think “Why couldn’t I have just picked a boring Monday to Friday 9-5 existence?!!?” But I honestly wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m addicted to the multi-tasking, juggling sensibility.

How would you describe your personal style?

I’m interested in being a little bit left of centre, and am fond of tailored accents – sharp trousers with a collared shirt, something a little bit tomboy / masculine or street style, paired with a fierce statement earring. Classic elements paired with different patterns or textural details trump fashion trends, for me.

What are 5 essentials in your wardrobe?

Incredible statement jewels, of course! I cannot leave the house without jewellery.

Sneakers! I’m trying to branch out but I can’t go past a good pair of Nike Air Max, in particular.

Woollen layers, as I’m always cold. Always.

Interesting pants. I’m not a huge girly dress/skirt person, so fabulous pants are very necessary for when I want to lift my outfit game.

A good collared shirt.

What is the best place to shop in Melbourne?

Obviously I’m going to plug some jewellery stores here… 🙂

Pieces of Eight and e.g. etal in the city are fantastic showcases of the Australian jewellery scene, and there are always about 1,000 things I want to purchase – if money was no object. Gallery Funaki has a more international focus and is really inspiring for contemporary jewellery that thinks outside the box. Craft Victoria supports many inspiring makers across various mediums, from jewellery to glass to ceramics & textiles; their shop is perfect for finding unique gifts and they always have interesting exhibitions.

Tell us about some of the people who inspire you and why?

To be honest, I’m mainly inspired by the strong creative women around me. The ones who are putting it all on the line to pursue their passions, who are juggling multiple roles and pushing themselves. Growing up, I never really had any role models around me who made their living solely from a creative pursuit, which I think is why I still sometimes feel uneasy about doing it, like ‘will this be a viable path for my life?’ But then I see all these fierce independent women who are just slaying life and challenging expected norms and I’m spurned on by their success.

What would be your ideal collaboration?

Hmm, this is a tough one, as the process of creating my jewellery is so insular, that I can’t imagine sharing it with anyone else.

I’d love to collaborate with Marni or Givenchy; their runway shows always have the most epic, lustworthy jewels. More locally, I guess an artist like Miso would be another pick, as I think we share certain similar elements and reference points in our work.

What are the top 3 resources which you turn to for inspiration?

I’m a very visual person, so when I need inspiration I always soak up imagery to spark ideas and get things flowing. This used to be traditional books, but now is often the Internet; Instagram, Pinterest etc. The images could be anything from fashion, to jewellery, to anthropological studies, history, portrait photography, travel, to graphic design.

The second would be to give myself a solid ‘gallery inspo’ day – I go into the city and visit the NGV, followed by my favourite little shops and jewellery galleries, which helps me to think outside of my comfort zone and challenge possibilities. It’s always necessary for me to take in all kinds of art to really recharge and reset.

I’m currently drawing a lot from Creative Mornings, and their series of talks and podcasts, which I listen to as I walk to work. It’s really inspiring to hear what creatives from all around the world are achieving, sometimes in the face of extreme adversity, and nice to know that people worldwide have the same goals/fears/concerns/passions/victories/idiosyncrasies that I do. Pursuing a creative life can often feel as if you’re trapped in your own bubble, so it’s nice to learn that other people are going through the same things, and their advice is invaluable.

What’s next for your label?

I’ve got a few exciting new stockists launching in the second half of this year.

Honestly, 2017 has been such an intense period of growth for my business that I just hope I can stay on this trajectory, and keep saying yes to opportunities that come my way. And hopefully, one day, pursue my business full time and make a living from my ultimate passion!