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January 30, 2011

In the words of Somers Randolph, “before there was alchemy, there was chemistry.” In this Featured Artist Series we bring you a pair of artisans whose cosmic bond was the happenstance of nothing short of phantasmagoric. In other words, the stars and planets were perfectly aligned the day Hillary Fitzpatrick pulled her car into a dusty, desert side-street driveway belonging to sculpture artist Somers Randolph. She tells us this serendipitous story in her interview with us.

Somers Randolph jewelry begins its life in its natural state, soapstone. The art then continues its journey through a series whereby the stone is molded, cast solid and hand-finished in a five-step polishing process. The finished state completes the journey from stone to silver and gold – the alchemy of Somers Randolph.

One such piece that completes this pilgrimage is the heart-shaped pendant. The original story behind this piece is touching, as you will soon learn from Hillary Randolph.

The heart, or as the ancient Greeks called it, kardia, has symbolized many things over the course of its storied history. Throughout recorded history the heart has referenced our spiritual, emotional, moral, and intellectual core. The Somers Randolph heart pendant cast from stone into precious metal takes on different shapes. This acutely, be it consciously or unconsciously, captures the transformative journey and power that the heart has bestowed upon us for centuries. Randolph’s ability to relay this story in a single, metallurgical piece exemplifies the true power of artistic expression.

With us today is Hillary Randolph, the wife and partner of Somers Randolph.

The Laughing Dog Gallery: How did you meet your husband, sculptor Somers Randolph?

Hillary Randolph: I was living in New York working in women’s fashion and I flew out to Santa Fe for Easter Weekend. There are hundreds of art galleries located on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, and during my visit I drove out to see them. After driving around for sometime looking for a parking spot the New Yorker in me became frustrated. I ended up pulling into a driveway one street over. The driveway happened to belong to Somers and I asked him if I could park there. He said yes. We ended up having coffee together that day. By October, the confirmed bachelor, who had never cohabitated with a woman, became my husband.

LDG: We read that it was your idea to start the jewelry collections, what inspired this? What was Somers’ original reaction?

HR: I had just met the man of my dreams and was living in Santa Fe. There were not many opportunities in women’s fashion in Santa Fe, so I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. One day I was going through Somers studio and stumbled upon a trunk full of tiny carvings that Somers had been working on for the past 30 years. Some artists draw in a notebooks or sketch for inspiration, but he would always do these miniature three-dimensional carvings out of soapstone. I loved these little forms because they represented the vocabulary of his larger pieces, and I wanted to wear them. When I approached Somers he said, “Go for it; go ahead and cast them.” And that is how the jewelry collection began.

LDG: What goes into the actual creation and design of the jewelry?

HR: We use a process called Lost Wax Process. We make molds of the miniature soapstone sculptures and then cast the jewelry from the molds. Even 11 years later Somers still carves everything from soapstone, as opposed to other designers who use wax or sketches. I think one of the most important things is that Somers Randolph Jewelry is actually a piece of art. The forms were never designed specifically for the collections. There is so much integrity behind the work that when you put it in your hand you can feel the quality. You feel like you want to touch it and hold it. It has a tactile appeal just like his sculptures.

LDG: Do you partake in the actual jewelry creation process, or do you strictly handle the business side?

HR: After Somers sculpts the forms I take them and cast them into silver. There is something about silver; it just brightens up your face. The colors we use are really fun and happy colors, yet the pieces are very timeless. They are perfect for anyone, whether you live in Florida or New York City.

LDG: What is your favorite piece or collection of Somers Randolph Jewelry?

HR: I’d say right now, what I think is most fun, is the leather collection. I love the versatility of the pieces. You can have one form and express it different ways and play with the color. We have many pieces that you can interchange the color of the cord to match your mood or personality. It is also ageless. My eight-year-old daughter has a bracelet we call Tutti Frutti. It is a little leather bracelet that is hot pink, red and orange; it’s super young and fun. However, the same piece on black leather would be perfect for a corporate woman in NYC.

LDG: We love the heart pendants. Is there a story behind how this design came about?

HR: The hearts come from chips that fall to the floor when Somers is sculpting his larger pieces. The excess stone is still the gorgeous orange, red or rainbow color, and too pretty to simply discard. His mother was a Valentine’s Day baby, so he would take the chips and sculpt them into these tiny hearts. These hearts were just for his mom and she had an amazing collection; he never sold them. After seeing them I asked him if he would do a heart collection for the jewelry, so this collection evolved from hearts for his mom.

Thank you for giving us a little insight to the jewelry making process and the inspiration that led to its creation. Let’s switch gears and talk about the upcoming trunk show at The Laughing Dog Gallery in February featuring Somers Randolph Jewelry that will also benefit the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County.

LDG: What appealed to you about connecting this jewelry show to the Humane Society?

HR: Somers and I decided a long time ago that there were two things that were very important to us: we wanted to make good quality jewelry and we wanted to give back. We are not affiliated with any one charity, which means we are able to localize our contributions to wherever we will be. Susie and Jeff Wilber are huge animal lovers, as am I. I grew up in Palm Beach, and I am aware of the important work the Humane Society does for the area.

LDG: Have you always been an animal lover? What drives you to help out our four-legged friends?

HR: Yes! Even though we grew up in Palm Beach, we had a farm where we raised thoroughbreds. We would go up there every weekend, and my sister and I always had horses, dogs, chickens, goats, and cows; pretty much anything we could get our hands on. We are huge animal lovers. If I wasn’t always traveling and doing trunk shows, I would want to have my own humane society, my own little sanctuary. I foster animals and my pets are all rescues. Somers and I believe very strongly about rescuing animals whenever we can.

LDG: What animals do you share your home with in Santa Fe, New Mexico?

HR: I currently have two rabbits that were rescues from the local Humane Society in Santa Fe, three dogs, and a dozen chickens. I am always expanding my farm and adding animals whenever I am able.

LDG: In what ways has preparing for this particular trunk show been most rewarding?

HR: Knowing that this show means a little bit more by tying in the Humane Society of Vero Beach, it is definitely more rewarding and exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing a more diverse crowd that will be there to support a great cause.

LDG: What do you think is the most valuable advice for an aspiring artist?

HR: To absolutely stay true to yourself and to your designs, regardless of the market, trends, or input from others. Stay true and keep the integrity behind the work and never waver…and be patient.

We want to thank Hillary Randolph for taking the time to speak with us. As she mentioned, a portion of the sales from the upcoming trunk show at The Laughing Dog Gallery will benefit the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County. A portion of the proceeds will directly benefit their Medical Assistance/Spay and Neuter Program, which helps pet owners cover the expenses of caring for their beloved animals. So stop by The Laughing Dog Gallery February 4th through the 6th for an opportunity to meet Hillary, pick up some exquisite Somers Randolph jewelry, and look good while doing good. Own Art, Be Happy!!