Today we’d like to introduce you to Alicia O’Dell.
Alicia, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I learned to make jewelry as a young teen. Growing up in a sleepy agricultural town in Central Washington there weren’t a lot of opportunities for me to imagine a life lived outside of the box until the Sun Dog Bead Company opened up in downtown. The shop was owned by a vibrant woman who made gorgeous jewelry and traveled then I learned to make jewelry as a young teen. Growing up in a sleepy agricultural town in Central Washington there weren’t a lot of opportunities for me to imagine a life lived outside of the box until the Sun Dog Bead Company opened up in downtown. The shop was owned by a vibrant woman who made gorgeous jewelry and traveled the world buying jewelry supplies and handmade goods. I felt so much magic and freedom when I was in her shop which later absorbed into how I feel making jewelry. It was the first time I was able to see myself reflected in someone and imagine a bigger world to live in. It was this reflection that allowed me to see the possibility of starting my own business and at 19 I was selling my jewelry at local farmers markets.
Jewelry is my way of connecting to myself and to a place. I spent most of my 20s traveling. Serving in the Peace Corps in Ecuador I saw true craftsmanship, artisans working a trade that had been passed down for generations. This experience was a pivotal moment that ignited a deep curiosity to learn more about my craft. After the Peace Corps, I returned to the states and attended a metalsmithing course at a community college. The ability to manipulate metal opened a new world of possibilities with design and expression. I couldn’t get enough studio time. At one point I was driving 45 mins after work to attend an evening metalsmith course. When I moved to Somerville in 2014 I found the Artisan’s Asylum it allowed me to experiment in a way that really encouraged growth in finding my voice. I now offer workshops at the Artisan’s Asylum and it’s a great honor to share and offer space for people to find their own creative voice.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think one of my biggest struggles has been finding a balance between creating and learning how to run a small business. I started selling my jewelry at the local farmer’s market when I was 19. Selling my jewelry pretty quickly into my journey as a jewelry designer I felt influenced to make jewelry that would sell. During an apprenticeship in Portugal, I had an amazing metalsmith mentor, Filomeno Sousa who asked me “are you making to sell or are you telling your story?” It really impacted me and gave me the opportunity to step back and listen to my story. We live in a world where we are so connected to other makers and creatives through social media, it can be a gift of inspiration and also influence what we make. I have found that over the years I follow fewer jewelry designers on Instagram to prevent myself from being influenced, even subconsciously and make more time to be out in nature to stay connected and true to my voice.
I love art that tells a story and feel so grateful for Filomeno encouraging me to continue to listen to my own narrative with more discernment.
Please tell us about AEO designs.
AEO designs is a contemporary jewelry line inspired by my perpetual exploration of both familiar and undiscovered landscapes. I have a nomadic heart and a deep connection to the land. I am always in practice to listen to the land. Working with metal is my way of processing and understanding moments of discovery and transition in my life. Everything is designed and handcrafted by me, I pride myself on the process and experience that goes into each piece of AEO jewelry. I am drawn to organic shapes, hand sawing every element making every piece unique and one-of-a-kind.