Pamela Love: A Love Letter to NYC

Elisabet Davids
Sharon Frances
Gemma Lacey

Pamela Love’s jewellery is synonymous with magic and muses, and she herself takes inspiration from a myriad of sources, but none more so than the cultural melting pot that is New York. In our story she creates an ode to the mercurial nature of the city and all the mystery and wonder it holds within.

Gemma Lacey: This shoot is all about New York, can you describe your relationship with the city?
Pamela Love: New York is not a simple thing to reckon with. It’s not like New York is hard, and then you get used to it and then you thrive in it. I think you can thrive in it at certain points and then, two years later, have the same energy be really hard for you. Then a year after that, you need that energy again. I don’t think New York is one consistent thing for me, and I think that as I’m growing, and changing my needs for certain things change. So there are certain times where I feel like “I can’t take this- I have to be somewhere else”. I get a feeling that we have to live somewhere where we have a lot of land and I can have a garden and silence at night.  Then there’s other times where I’m like “I can’t do that”,  I need the energy of New York and I need public transit, I need the Lower East Side and I need the art, I need the people. You know what I mean? I think you go through these cycles, but once you’ve lived in New York for any extended period of time, really, New York’s in your blood. You become a New Yorker and it becomes you.
GL: What’s one of the most interesting sensations about New York?
PL: I think it’s that realization that if you are in New York you are not ever alone, ever. The way we live, always so close to other people, it can be frustrating but at the same time it’s also kind of amazing because you’re really never alone. If you can get past the sense of imposition, there’s something wonderful about that. There’s this pulsating energy that runs through the city fueled by the comings and goings of millions of feet, the beating of millions of hearts. It’s an organism and you are a part of it.  You are a cell or maybe a mitochondria in a cell or something, an autonomous being but a part of a whole . There’s something very beautiful about that, and there’s also something that can be maddening about that, depending on the state, you’re in.
GL: How would you describe that feeling?
PL: It’s a sense or a realization that you’re never in control, you can’t be, can’t be in control because something bigger is in control. The city is in charge. 
GL: What drew you to the locations in our shoot, are those places that represent New York for you?
PL: I think for me it was really about showing the beautiful grittiness of New York and these things that have stuck around, like that Chinese restaurant has been there for so long. It’s been there for, like, 30 years. It’s nothing particularly special, but it’s been there forever, and it will be there tomorrow, and it will survive. Also it’s about showing the beautiful decay of New York. For me as I grow up, I find myself drawn to things that are pristine, perfect looking-  like a West Elm catalog or something from Restoration Hardware. Sure it’s nice to have everything be clean and beautiful and picture perfect, -but what drove me to New York in the first place? The mess, the chaos, the imperfection.  So I think for me this shoot was an exploration in remembering how beautiful all of that is.  Especially now, we have come to this place, you know, if you look on Instagram, or graphic design, interior design etc.  It’s like everything kind of looks the same- the aesthetic is homogenized and clean. New York can’t be that, because New York is not one vision, it’s the accumulated vision of every one who lives there now and every one who’s lived and built and modified it for hundreds of years… more even. There’s this kind of visual dialogue that’s been happening that’s very far from what New York is and it’s been going on for a while, and I appreciate a lot of it and I love a lot of it.  But I wanted to embrace what is so special about New York, and also remember that it’s so beautiful. It’s perfect just as it is.
GL: What’s your own story with New York and how did you end up studying film?
PL: I was young and deciding what I wanted to do with my life, I liked too many different things. A lot of people have, like, a very clear idea. “ I want to be an actor. I will be a doctor. I need to be a lawyer.” But i wasn’t lucky enough to have such a clear vision early on.  I liked too many things, so I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I liked writing, and I liked painting, and  I like making jewellery. I liked music, and I liked science, I like all these different things. And I was so confused. So I somehow decided that film was the answer because it combined so much of what I loved like costume design, set design, writing, music. That’s how I ended up in New York- to study film.  But the truth is there are plenty of places to study film.  Really I was following a boy here.  
GL: Did film live up to your expectations?
PL: I made a senior thesis film. It wasn’t great, but it won a couple awards and a post-production grant.  I ended up spending all the money on clothes instead of on what I was supposed to spend it on. I was totally burned out at that point. I didn’t want to make movies again, and I also couldn’t watch movies. I didn’t watch a movie for two years which is pretty crazy because I love movies. I lived for movies, but for two years after film school, I was like, “I cannot dedicate two hours of my time to anything that might not be great.” I had to do that so much in film school. I couldn’t do it.  After I graduated, I ended up working a bunch of different random jobs like shitty retail jobs.
GL: How did that change?
PL: I ended up working as a painting assistant to Francesco Clemente.I met him at a concert of all places. And I asked him if he needed an assistant, and he pretty much said, “Yeah, can you start tomorrow? “ And I quit my retail job that I had at the time. While I was working for Francesco, I started making jewellery for myself.
GL: Did you find that working with a creative person inspired your own creativity?
PL: He was very, very supportive of what I was doing creatively, which gave me a real boost of confidence. I was very encouraged to continue creating jewellery. I had a boyfriend at the time who had a friend who owned a store, and she wanted to carry the jewellery. It just sort of happened very organically. I started making jewellery for the store and then another store and then another store. Then I had to hire some employees and then I found a studio. Then eventually I had to move to working for Francesco part-time and then, like, less than part-time, and you know it all kind of just sort of happened in this very organic way.
GL: Had you always loved jewellery or was this a new discovery?
PL: I had always made jewellery growing up. I made jewellery out of everything. Glass jewellery, shell jewellery, modelling clay beads. I would make jewellery out of anything like I could find. Weird plastic toys and toothbrushes and whatever. I’d melt them until I could bend them into bangles and I would wear them as bracelets. Eventually I graduated to working with silver and gold. So I was very fascinated with jewellery, it was just always a creative outlet for me, but was not something that I ever realised could be more than a hobby until my boyfriend’s friend said, “Hey, I want to carry this in my store”. 
GL: Was it fun to realise that you could do this all the time?
PL: It was fun but also scary- I was putting all my eggs in one basket creatively and financially. It took me a long time to realize that jewellery was actually storytelling and science and music and painting. You know, jewellery is all of those things, all the things I wanted for my life, but I didn’t come to that realization right away. 
GL: Do you think we feel pressure to make things we enjoy or are good at profitable?
PL: I totally do, and I think this is especially a thing in New York.  My husband talks about it a lot. There’s this pressure that anything you’re good at or anything you enjoy, has to be monetized. So you know, this idea of hobbies doesn’t really exist. My husband is always very, very encouraging. He told me that I needed hobbies. He was like, your job is making jewellery, your hobby can’t also be obsessing over jewellery.  
GL: How did you get outside of that?
PL: I had always been drawn to ceramics, and I’ve worked with clay to create props, jewellery displays and even original models for some jewellery pieces.  Once we did this photo shoot with earrings on clay ears that i had made, and it sort of became a signature for the brand.  Since then I wanted to explore clay further. During COVID my friend Danny Kaplan let me use his studio so I was able to start experimenting with hand building and and playing with glazes. I was really able to learn something from the ground up with no intention of monetising it or turning it into a career. Just doing it, because I enjoy it and would like to get good at it.  It’s nice to have something that’s mine, that i do only for me, because I love doing it.  I don’t have to try to make money off of it. I think that’s the thing, isn’t it? I’m not sure when, but at some point when you turn a craft into a career you can get the idea of worth and value confused.  You become convinced that things are only worth doing if they are monetarily valuable to other people.  
GL: What have you been doing with what you’ve made?
PL: Every single piece I’ve made so far I’ve given away as a gift. It brings a different kind of joy to be able to make something and give a gift to someone as a sign of appreciation and have that appreciation reciprocated.  I don’t need to hold on to them and I don’t need to turn this into a brand or something. I think the most freeing part is i’m not concerned with anyones approval or admiration of the work. 
GL: Do you think that’s very prevalent right now?
PL: Yeah, and I think especially in the age of Instagram and the age of oversharing, we’re all so much more concerned with how it looks to other people than how something feels to ourselves. I wanted something that I just did because I loved how it felt. 
GL: Do you think Instagram has changed how we interact creatively?
PL: I think so yes. Today, people invite you somewhere and your brain will go “Oh, that’ll be so good for Instagram”.   I remember when we used to be like, “Oh, my God, that’ll be an amazing experience” you know? I think that so much of that has changed with social media. And I think that there are definitely people who authentically love the things that they love. But there’s also a lot more curation that happens, and I think it results in sort of a loss of exploring and a loss of genuine, genuine interest in things. It’s very important to me that I exist in a place where I genuinely explore the things that I’m passionate about, whether they’re cool to other people or not. And just being able to deeply enjoy them is an important facet of life and integral to my creative process as a designer. 
GL: Do you think pleasure in that way is integral to creativity?
PL: Yeah, totally. When you are truly passionate about something you become a sponge absorbing all these different things and the result is you’re constantly changing and constantly being touched by the world, and your output is affected. When you authentically take in culture and art and information and you’re authentically processing it, it affects what you create in a genuine, beautiful way versus approaching things by thinking “this particular thing is really trendy. Let’s make a collection based on that!” that’s not creativity, that’s recycling at best and lazy plagiarism at its worst. And I’m not saying that I haven’t been guilty of this at times. It’s very hard to navigate the waters of creation in the age of social media. None of us really know how to do it and no one is going to get it right all of the time. Things you see on instagram or other forms of media are constantly seeping into your brain, into your subconscious.  I try to stay loyal to and focused on the influences that resonate with me on a deeply emotional level. Its helps to weed out the rest.    
GL: There’s an emotional resonance to your jewellery too- can we talk about that?
PL: Well precious metals and stones do have that quality to them. They are comforting, protective.  In the beginning, everything I made was too heavy, too chunky, just way too much. And then for a while It got too light, too delicate. So I’m trying to find that balance where it’s the right amount of substance and you can feel it on your body. So it feels emotional and comforting, but at the same time isn’t  so heavy that it’s like overbearing and giving you a back ache because I’ve definitely been guilty of making necklaces that have made people sore the next morning.
GL: What about the symbolism that’s so evident in your work? Is that just something that  you personally have an interest in? Is there another significance?
PL: Well, I’ve been obsessed with Greek mythology since I was a little kid. I had all these books on Greek mythology when I was, nine or 10 and I would stay up all night, reading them until the sun came up. I was fascinated by it. And, then there was astronomy, I’ve always been a little bit of a science nerd and particularly the cosmos when I was younger. I was also taken with the ideas of communication or translation.In general, I’ve always thought of myself as a symbolist. These ideas, these elements, whether it’s hands or eyes or flying beings, repeat themselves throughout cultures and throughout time. And the idea that you could be in Morocco or you could be in the American Southwest around the same period of time on the planet, and two different cultures were working with similar symbols, is amazing. I love that because it really speaks to how connected we are as human beings. We can be so different. But at the core, we’re also the same and can express ourselves through this visual language that all of us can innately understand. There is something to these symbols, these visual ideas, a figure much simpler than language can express so much more than words can.  That’s why it’s all so hard to talk about.  I think i’ve learned to communicate through symbols because they’re the quickest way to go deepest with people.  Turning symbols into material objects gives them another power, they don’t need to be translated, they don’t need to be explained to death, they just need to be made and people can hold them and draw meaning for themselves.  I try to make things that are meaningful to me and will be strengthening and meaningful to others. 
Photography: Elisabet Davids
Styling: Sharon Frances
Hair: Dale Delaporte
Makeup: Tomomi Shibusawa
Interview: Gemma Lacey