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Exclusive Interview with Jewelry Artist/Designer Jodi Zulueta

04a5f15a-edb2-4f59-b810-2dc54485860eThe February Artist’s Spotlight is on Jodi Zulueta. You may know this charismatic woman as Eldwenne – her Etsy store is called Eldwenne’s Fantasy. This dynamo also hosts a podcast called So Get This. Jodi makes some of the most original and beautiful jewelry that you’ll ever see. She handcrafts each piece using glass, crystal and various metals in unique combinations to illustrate the personalities of TV and movie characters, the actors who portray them and/or the stories they bring to life.

I’ve met Jodi at a couple of Supernatural conventions over the last year and became a huge fan of her work as well as of her engaging personality. I knew that she would be one of my featured artists from the start of my project. The convention season has kicked off and Jodi is busy getting ready to hit the road; that said, she was gracious enough to spend some time answering my questions.

 

Would you please give me a little background on yourself?  Where you grew up, where you went to school (if you went to college, etc.)?  If you feel comfortable, let me know a little about your family. 

I was born and raised in Jersey City but spent significant time in Bayonne and NYC as well.  I went to school at New Jersey City University and majored in art, primarily graphic design and painting.

My family consists of myself, my husband, Merrill (who I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without his amazing support), and our 4 awesome kids David (aged 28), Jaden (aged 13), Phoenix (aged 11) and our only daughter, Raven (aged 10).  We also have 3 cats: Jinx, Onyx, and Maggie.  Maggie was named after Lauren Cohan’s character from TWD, however, in retrospect looking at how insane this cat really is, it seems Lizzie would have been a better name choice.

I uprooted all of us from Jersey City and planted us down south in Murfreesboro, TN, where I can drive five minutes away down the road and see barns, horses, and cows and it all makes me very happy.

That would make me happy too! I live right near a stable and seeing the horses never fails to make me smile. When did you realize that you were artistically inclined?  How did your talent find you?

From the time I was a little girl, I was taking jewelry apart and putting it back together into something different. In high school, I was taking key chains and converting them into earrings.  I always looked at everything as ‘spare parts’, as my husband likes to say. 

After graduation from college, I had a hard time finding work in my field, so I spent a lot of time working temp assignments as a secretary or receptionist.  A long-term temp assignment for a brokerage house turned into a horrifying career change for the next 20 years.  Could you believe I was once an Assistant Vice President??  Yeah, I can’t believe it either.  Anyway, once I was laid off I looked at that as the opportunity to pursue my jewelry full-time. Unfortunately, my Etsy shop wasn’t pulling in enough to support my family and I needed a backup plan, so I joined Teach for America and taught for a year. This was last year.  I left teaching and am now finally working between my Etsy shop and SPN conventions full-time.

I think that there are a surprising number of people out there who change careers mid-stream… more than once. Did your parents and/or other family members help foster your talent?

My childhood was not a good one by a long shot.  The only good to come out of it was my ability to immerse myself in my imaginary world of drawings and jewelry. I think having a shit childhood fostered a lot of my creativity, actually.

You make beautiful jewelry, and I think that finding beauty in adversity is a profound gift. Have you experimented with other forms of art?  If so, what else have you done?  

I used to paint quite often and exhibited my paintings for a while, but then I started incorporating my jewelry with the paintings and exhibiting my jewelry with my paintings as the background, lol!  Jewelry screamed louder at me.  I get far more satisfaction out of bending wire and the tactile process of forming pieces.

I know that you draw inspiration from characters and the actors who portray them for many of your pieces; do you draw inspiration from other sources as well?  Which ones?

My family is a huge inspiration to me. I’ll have a total Hugh Laurie on House moment where someone will say something and I’ll have an epiphany and walk away muttering to myself.  

(laughs) I love that! Besides Supernatural, what other shows/movies have inspired your work?

I currently have series based on Star Wars (the original trilogy and The Force Awakens – the prequels didn’t happen in my mind. HORRIBLE MOVIES that not even Ewan McGregor could save. And he was HOT in Phantom Menace. Sorry, I really digressed here).

I also have series based on The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, and I just started a series based on The X-Files!

Fangirling is always permissible! Do you visualize a completed piece prior to its creation or is it an organic process that grows from perhaps a sketch and continues to evolve as you work with your materials?

I NEVER sketch anything out first.  Ever.  I will have an idea of color schemes and the emotion I’m trying to convey with the piece.  It’s a very organic process in that it grows as I continue to work on it. 

How often (if ever) does a piece end up looking completely different from your initial design concept?

The initial concept is basically a color and emotion, as mentioned above – there are definitely times where I’ll have a piece that turns out completely differently than I imagined it would.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, other times it’s frustrating as hell and I start over again.

You do custom work as well; can you share with us some of the things you’ve been commissioned to create?

I’ve been asked to do some pretty awesome things of late – I designed a piece for Homeowner, a movie written by a member of our SPNFamily Natalie Kruijen and directed by Ryan Curtis, the former visual FX supervisor for SPN, and starring the amazing Briana Buckmaster!  

That’s fantastic! I’ll have to try to spot it.

Additionally, I was asked to do something I normally never do – create a replica of jewelry – but the Hillywood Sisters asked me and how could I say no to that??  I had the honor of re-creating Winifred Sandersen’s necklace and earrings for their Hocus Pocus parody!

There’s another short film in development called Valla where I designed a necklace for one of the characters.  I do enjoy this new territory of film and I do hope I get more opportunities to design for them!

I’ve seen you at Supernatural conventions, are their other conventions that you attend as a vendor?

I took a chance and worked at Albuquerque Comic Con recently and it was a UTTER disaster.  It’s really tricky and some vendors can easily transition from one type of convention to another – I’m not one of them, lol! I DID have a lot of fun on a personal level.  On a business level – curled up into a fetal position…

Yikes! I’m sorry to hear that, but at least, the convention was fun! Does getting in front of your customers at a convention help your creative process?  Have you come away from a convention with new ideas?

Oh HELLS yes – Fans are always so inspiring.  I do a lot of customization so when fans ask me to switch something around it’s like, YES!  That works!  Or they’ll start telling me about a particular episode that meant a lot to them that I haven’t done a piece for and I get inspired to do one for it. 

I also started to do custom pieces inspired by the customers themselves – for example, someone tells me about themselves and I create a piece titled after a facet of their personality and based on what they’ve told me. That was a total customer inspired idea that I love to do and look forward to doing more of.

What would you like to say to someone who hasn’t yet taken a look at your designs either in person or online?

I would say, DUUUUUUDE – if you want a piece of fandom jewelry that’s unique, blends in with everyday wear and can be worn to work, to school, to wherever, can be dressed up, can be dressed down, can be worn playing Twister, Monopoly, and chess, all at the same time, then you need to check my wares out.

I’d also mention if they’d like to be twinsies with Briana Buckmaster, Ruth Connell, Samantha Smith, Lauren Tom, Kim Rhodes, Misha Collins, Travis Aaron Wade and a host of other SPN cast, succumb to peer pressure and get my gear!

I represent Talk Nerdy With Us and we are all nerds through and through!  Will you share with us the nerdiest thing about you?

I can’t narrow it down to just one! I waited online for over 8 hours to watch the Xmen premiere in NYC…I was in full Rogue gear for DragonCon several years back, and lastly, as I write this wearing my Princess Leia shirt, I literally BAWLED when Han Solo was killed in SWTFA. And our son Jaden was named after a Star Trek the Next Generation episode – Thine Own Self.

And that’s why I love you! Thanks so much Jodi, I’ll hopefully run into you again at some point this year.

You can follow Jodi and check out her unique designs at:

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So Get This!

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