Spotlight: Adia Mei Jun Bobo, Jewelry Metalsmith
Adia Bobo’s distinctive hand-forged jewelry echoes the shapes and textures of nature with clean, modern lines. Her work is a triple threat: bringing beautiful wearable art to her customers, a joyful living for her and the satisfaction of feeding the hungry with every piece she sells.
How long have you been metalsmithing? How did you get started?
I’ve been metalsmithing since 2008. I made beaded jewelry for a year or so before that. But I wanted more unique findings to use in my designs. I took a beginning jewelry/metals class at Pratt Fine Arts Center and was hooked.
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When you started to make jewelry, were you making just for fun or did you always envision it becoming a business?
When I very first started it was just for fun… I began selling work within the first couple of months :). The goal very quickly became for it to evolve into a serious business vs a hobby.
Tell us about donating a portion of your sales to charities fighting hunger. What prompted your decision to do that, and how did you decide on hunger as your cause?
It all started with the Concave series… little bowls reminiscent of my past in Baking & Pastry and Bath & Kitchen. (Somehow I was always in an industry related to food!) I really connected with the clean, modern shape and quickly discovered other people did too.
I dove into research on shapes and learned that we’re drawn to circles for many reasons; they’re such an important and universal symbol. Much of the Rain City Forge line is based on circular shapes and variations – representing connection, inclusion and wholeness. We’re in this thing together so we may as well find some common ground, ya know? That’s why we made it part of our mission to give with every piece of jewelry sold.
I chose domestic hunger relief as it’s a big issue that everyone can get behind. I’m so lucky to get to make jewelry for a living, and we all want to help but sometimes aren’t quite sure how or if it’s enough. By combining our efforts (I’ll make the jewelry, you’ll wear it!) we can compound all that good into something great. Through donations to Feeding America we help support 10 meals for each piece that gets purchased. Last year alone we supported 10,000 meals – which is pretty darn sweet.
What inspires you? Are there recurring themes in your work?
My work centers around combining shape and texture. I love the way that depth and character can be incorporated into clean, modern forms by capturing light-catching, tactile textures.
My influences come from the world around me. Whether it’s looking up at cloud formations (or the varied color and depth of an overcast sky) or the patterns you see in the sidewalk concrete, my mind is always comparing and contrasting the ways that everything in nature interacts with man-made elements.
You may find me taking photos of a seemingly ordinary wall or going in for a closeup of tree bark. I’m sure people that have seen me do that kind of thing wonder what I’m doing – I’m just looking… looking… wondering. The ocean is absolutely my most-loved and peaceful place – its just the right combination of input for the senses. Though I’m not what anyone would call outdoorsy, I can walk for hours on the beach. I love listening to the waves, watching the clouds, inspecting driftwood and studying the designs in the sand. It’s a guaranteed inspiration boost every time.
Do you focus on one piece from start to finish or work actively on more than one project at a time?
I have dreams of working on one piece from start to finish (lol). There’s a fair amount of in-between time with the type of jewelry I make, so I’ll pick up another project while waiting on whatever is in the pickle or the tumbler. I’ve usually got at least 5 things in work at a time. It keeps my brain ticking and more focused on the thing in front of me at any given moment.
How do you stay organized when working with multiple design ideas and processes?
I’ve become much better at breaking projects into steps. I have streamlined my processes so that I can work on similar steps on different pieces at the same time.
For instance, I tend to do all of my torch work at once. So if I’m doing a run of studs and pendants, I’ll keep a little collection of pieces that are ready for soldering to the side. Then when I hit a good number of them, I’ll fire up the torch and knock them out; it saves me from going to the soldering station every few minutes.
Or I’ll do all of the texturing at once (even if they’re different texturing processes) and all of the shaping at once, etc. Batching processes like that sometimes feels like I’ve worked all day and not finished anything. So it’s extra satisfying when it all comes together at the end and everything is done at the same time!
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I do have a sketchbook, though I don’t sketch out every design or idea. I find it’s most useful if I’m away from the studio for a period of time (like if I’m traveling) or for catching a quick idea. The funny thing is, most of the time when I revisit an idea it’s totally different in real life. Unless it’s a commissioned piece – in which case, I spend a lot of time sketching out options; I definitely create a piece that matches the image we’ve agreed on :).
I think for me, a sketchbook is a useful tool to gather thoughts. Its main purpose is more centered around getting something out of my head than about having a guide for the actual work.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? What kind?
Totally depends! I do love working in silence quite a bit – especially if I’m playing with shapes and materials or sketching while out and about. I definitely like to hear what’s going on around me when I’m traveling or in a public space. The ambient noise can be really interesting – like people-watching for your ears.
When I’m doing a lot of repetitive or familiar tasks, I often listen to true crime or small business podcasts. When I’m making prototypes or testing out ideas I turn on the tunes. Usually a good mix of old blues from the 30’s-50’s, classic rock from the 50’s-70’s and r&b from the late 90’s-early 00’s. I guess I have pretty eclectic tastes!
If you were no longer able to use the medium that you are now working in, how else would you express your creativity?
I recently discovered block printing and am super into the possibilities. It seems like a really interesting way to express my love of texture in a different format. I’m looking forward to experimenting with carving some blocks and printing onto fabrics. I also love photography and capturing little visual bits of the world inspires me endlessly.
Where can people see your work?
I work with a number of shops and galleries and do a small number of shows each year. My stockist list and my show calendar are online and are updated regularly. Each shop stocks a different grouping of product (some of which is online, and some made specially for that location). So it’s always good to call ahead if you’re looking for a specific piece or style.
If you’re local to the Seattle area, the most complete collection can be found at Click! Design That Fits in West Seattle. I’ve worked in and with the shop in various capacities since 2013; they’re always nicely stocked with perennial favorites along with the latest designs. Additionally, you can keep up with what I’m working on through my Instagram.
Do you teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I currently teach both jewelry and small business workshops through Pratt Fine Arts Center. I also work with other makers and small retailers through private consultations, coaching sessions and custom classes. One of the big projects I’m working on right now is getting my coaching site up and running. Until then, my class schedule can be found here. Anyone looking for info on custom classes or a private consult can reach me via contact form or email.
Interview with Adia Mei Jun Bobo posted January, 2020
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