Ichia Tiyi’s career choice is an extremely unique one; one that at the time of choosing would have called for an immense amount of vision, courage and hard work. Her career is not in the “traditional” working sector. Added to that, a great amount of creativity is constantly needed in order for her business to thrive.
But none of that fazed her since Ichia proudly declares that she does not see herself doing anything else. “I don’t see myself as being anything else other than an art jeweller. Nothing comes close,” she said.
The professional metalsmith and art jeweller told Today’s Fashion that she has no regrets since she is doing what she loves. She boldly stated: “This is my passion!” The jeweller confessed that art is passion: “You either have it or you don’t.”
She explained: “I am a studio jeweller. Studio jewellers are independent artists who work directly with their materials to produce limited, one-of-a-kind pieces. I am the designer and the fabricator and the work is not mass-produced, which makes it unique.
“My designs are informed by elements around me, by people, by travels, etc. I collect experiences and I create based on those. I am motivated and inspired by women, especially our women.”
She added: “There is a strength and endurance that women possess and some of them are so unaware of it… my mother, grandmothers, aunts… they’re all strong, resilient women who have unknowingly passed the baton to me, which I have every intention of carrying!”
Ichia’s journey started in 1993. Her primary introduction to this art-form was through her own self-exploration of indigenous materials on the island. She admits she enjoyed it immensely, and this started the wonderful journey of jewellery making.
“I apprenticed at the private jewellery studio of Kenneth Forde in Trinidad, studied at Studio Jewellers and the Jewellery Art Institute in Manhattan, New York and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology-College of Art, in Ghana, West Africa, to name a few. Some of my courses included stone setting, metal casting, etching, chain making, etc.”
Ichia owns Tiyi By Design Jewellery Studio, which is located in Town Square Mall, Speightstown, St. Peter. She has been operating at that location for almost ten years.
“The jewellery studio specializes in exclusive, hand-crafted pieces of jewellery. The materials used are sterling silver, brass and copper. The intention is to show the jeweller’s art in true perspective, where design and craftsmanship are valued above the material worth of the metal.
She continued: “My client is someone who has an appreciation for art and design and who enjoys jewellery that is handmade with meticulous attention paid to detail and finish. That person is usually a mature woman who values aesthetic and great craftsmanship over transient trends. I design abstract pieces of jewellery and once it appeals to that particular client, they will purchase it.”
Ichia’s major career accomplishment to date is winning an international Commonwealth Arts and Crafts Award, sponsored by the Commonwealth Foundation in the UK.
Of the award, she said: “This is one of the most prestigious awards an artist can aspire to, and it became a pivotal turning point in my career. It allowed me to travel to Ghana, West Africa, for one year, where I studied Metal Product Design. Sometime after that, I won another award in the Dominican Republic at the Design Caribbean Show for Best Design, Innovation and Creativity.”
The artist has also exhibited at Caribbean Fashion Week in Jamaica, Design Caribbean in the Dominican Republic and at her solo exhibition at the Aweipo Art Gallery at the Crane Hotel, St. Philip.
“I’ve accomplished quite a bit in life and am quite content so far. There’s always room to go further, which I will not discount. My intention is to expand the business, yes, but I’m at a delicate stage in the expansion, which I can’t reveal at this time.”
Ichia told Today’s Fashion that most of her business is done through clients telling other interested persons, magazines (Inns and Outs), social media and websites.
“My peak periods are usually October-May and I design a new collection of jewellery every September. I hardly work on a single piece at a time, so it’s difficult to gauge the amount of time spent on one piece. I create design elements for several pieces and solder them together after. This can take several days/weeks, depending on the pieces.”
If there was one thing the entrepreneur could change, it would be the way art is viewed by many. “I think the creative sector faces quite a few challenges; most people see art as disguised unemployment, and there’s a colossal indifference. But artists will continue to create in spite of this. Funding and meaningful support are also issues, as the creative sector is not seen as economically viable to the powers that be,” she said.
Her advice is simple: “I always tell young people to have ‘stickability’… If you don’t, you’re fighting a losing battle. If you have conviction in your dreams, pursue them by all means, and don’t give up when you encounter problems. That is all part of the process, that is how you grow…”
Ichia draws inspiration from both books and music. “I read a lot, interesting books, books with meaning – Two Thousand Seasons by Ayi Kwei Armah, The Plague by Albert Camus, A Man of The People by Chinua Achebe and I listen to music; Nina Simone, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Queen. That type of music I find inspiration when I’m working.”
Balance is key. She affirms: “Having inner harmony and balance is critical. That allows you to accept yourself for who you are, which is important in a world full of so much surface emotion.” (IMC)
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