Welcome to the next installment of our Uncommon Objects staff/vendor interview series. If you've stepped into our shop and were taken aback by our beautiful jewelry displays, Miss Darby Hillman is the main maven to thank.
Darby, can you tell our readers what you do and how long have you been at Uncommon Objects?
I've been at Uncommon Objects a little over 5 years now, and started doing all the jewelry merchandising about 3 years ago. With five big cases and twenty different dealers bringing in beautiful pieces everyday, it has been an incredible education in vintage and antique accessories. It's also a great way for me to play with different color and material combinations, on small scales, with hundreds of unique pieces at my disposal. A few months ago, I started sharing the duties with my coworkers Mandy and Daniel. They have brought new eyes and hands to what can sometimes be a daunting task.
Your jewelry display work is a beautiful, and often commented upon, highlight of the shop. Can you describe your work method and/or inspiration for your displays?
Oh, thank you! My work method is fairly intuitive. I try to keep the cases looking fresh, and will figure out a simple color scheme to try. I then pull all the pieces aside that fit within that scheme...black, red and rhinestones, for example, or pink, blue and crystal. At the shop, we have an incredible resource of props I can use to display on. I've found that books work really well as mini canvases. I simply make little compositions on each book, working with primary, secondary or complimentary color schemes to try and highlight each piece without letting anything get lost. Sometimes gorgeous pieces will get pushed to the back, or certain compositions showcase broaches over necklaces. In order to keep things from getting too stale or dusty, the cases get completely emptied and cleaned as often as possible. Again, it's great to have help now and be able to share some of the things I've learned and get new input. We also try to offer a high standard of quality with our jewelry, as in the rest of the shop. The pieces our vendors bring in can be very unusual, fun to work with, and often absolutely stunning.
You are an amazing visual artist, and have recently had a solo exhibition of your work. Does your visual art influence your display work at Uncommon Objects, or vice versa?
Well, thank you! I would say it's both. My own work is very different than what I'm doing in the cases, but they certainly inform each other. Being trusted and having been given the opportunity to work with the cases has allowed me to explore and take risks with creative play. It has strengthened my visual and compositional muscles. I've definitely made questionable choices, and been able to see what works and what doesn't. It is such a gift when thinking about making my own work.
I'm sure you've seen some fantastic pieces come through the shop. Any particular ones stick out in your mind as especially wonderful to you?
I've definitely seen some amazing stuff come through...everything from Victorian mourning jewelry to giant turquoise squash blossoms. I tend to lean more towards 20s and 30s styles, but there have been some fabulous pieces from the 60s and 70s. Right now we have some great Egyptian revival pieces. While everything we have is 'as found,' we do carry one jewelry designer, Ren. She collects vintage and antique components, such as compasses, tiny pocket knives, watch chains and rosary beads, and puts them together in beautiful combinations. Her stuff is pretty fantastic! For a jewelry merchandiser, I don't really wear a lot of jewelry. My favorite pieces are often too old to wear but exist more as works of art - specifically the Victorian hair jewelry. Made from human hair in the most unbelievably intricate and delicate designs, we have bracelets and broaches dating back 100 years or more that are still in almost perfect condition. Some people find them a little macabre or unsettling, which I understand. I love the implied narrative of these pieces. The fact that they came from a breathing body and were often made as tokens of love and memory, always by hand. Working at Uncommon Objects, I feel so lucky to be around such history and evidence of the human need to create, not just in jewelry form but on a grand scale. There really isn't another place like it!