Today we’d like to introduce you to Melanie Schlossberg and Blake Smith of Dirigible Designs
Melanie, Blake, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
Blake and I each began metalworking as teenagers, but besides that our stories are somewhat different. I was born and raised in upstate NY in a family of SCUBA divers and Home Economics teachers – cooking, sewing, and making crafty things out of old wetsuits were a big part of my upbringing. One day in 1986, my mother took me out of high school for a day to take the train into NYC and see art at the MET. There was a small exhibit titled The Costumes of Royal India full of chunky emeralds and golden metals. It was there I decided that I would become a jeweler. Fortunately, I attended a high school that had a metals/jewelry studio, so I was able to explore and fall in love with metal before going on to Syracuse University where I studied Metalsmithing.
Blake, on the other hand, learned lapidary and jewelry skills from his father, a self-taught highly-skilled jeweler who ran wildlife refuges in the southwest and Texas. His childhood was a combination of rescuing vulnerable animals in national parks, fossil hunting on large ranches, and skateboarding in abandoned swimming pools. When Dirigible Designs first started out much of our stone stock, like chunks of turquoise, was left over from buckets of rock his father had bought at the Albuquerque flea markets in the 1970s. After earning a somewhat unrelated liberal arts degree, Blake went on to start a bronze foundry business in the Texas Hill Country, casting life sized sculptures for artists and local entities, but always continued silversmithing and making custom jewelry.
Blake and I met in 2014. We are both rock-hunting metalsmiths, so it wasn’t long before our conversations and activities turned to design strategies, material gathering, and object making. The first Dirigible Design ring was made that holiday season. He gifted me a ring he made from a rock he picked up on a long walk on Thanksgiving Day the month before. He had cut, polished, and set a beautiful agate that had was a dirty misshapen rock only a few weeks earlier. Whenever I wore it, the ring attracted loads of attention — from waiters to store clerks, friends to strangers. Dirigible Designs was formed the next year.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
Dirigible Designs is handcrafted sterling silver jewelry that uses hand cut, fortunately-found, or wisely-collected stones and materials. Our jewelry strives to be a twist on classic modernist designs by exploring asymmetry, balance, and traditional jewelry fabrication techniques. We hope that each piece of our work, elaborate or simple, offers our collectors wearable comfortable jewelry that expresses their bold and unique natures. Due to the nature of our materials, all of our jewelry is one-of-a-kind.
Many people are curious about the way we work as a partnership. Our work is truly collaborative. Though we may have a loosely-defined division of labors based on our individual skill sets and histories, our design work and marketing strategies are based on decisions we make together. We have taken our personal styles and blended them together, resulting in a unique body of work that neither one of us would have been able to create on our own. This is the case from our metalwork down to our displays. We get along.
How can artists connect with other artists?
Luckily, there are no shortages of art events and organizations in Houston. There are loads of ways to be involved in the arts and to connect with other artists pretty much every weekend, if not every night! From strolling through art markets and open studios at Sawyer Yards, gallery and show openings in the museum district, attending talks at the CAMH, or participating in maker events at the Center for Contemporary Craft, it seems there is always something going on. In general, I think artists enjoy engaging with others and talking about work and community, but I find the Houston arts scene to be extremely accessible, welcoming, and friendly.
Because Blake and I participate in national juried shows, like the Bayou City Arts Festival, we are able to engage with artists from all over the country. During set up in the mornings and between sales is a great time to see what others are working on and to learn about the business of exhibiting at these shows (booth displays, jury photography, and distance traveling, for example) from true veterans of their craft. We are lucky because there are two of us, so it is easier for us to take breaks and visit with the artists.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
We sell our work in several local jewelry stores and galleries, including High Gloss in Uptown Park, Space in Montrose, and Asher Gallery at the Center for Contemporary Craft. In addition to retail, we participate in local and national art shows. You can find a constantly changing and updated list on our website at www.dirigibledesigns.com. And we, of course, sell on-line via our website and Instagram. Just get in touch with us to discuss what you are looking for. We have done some pretty spectacular custom pieces by working with stones from our client’s collections or by collaborating with them on the design.
- Website: https://www.dirigibledesigns.com/
- Phone: 7137914119
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dirigibledesigns/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DirigibleDesigns/
Photos by Melanie Schlossberg.