Bill Schiffer, New York City, NY
Artist and jewelry designer Bill Schiffer has lived in New York City for his entire life: painting, sculpting and, most notably, creating bright, wearable art jewelry pieces bursting with color. Schiffer’s approach to necklaces, brooches, rings and earrings was spirited, groundbreaking and became his signature; combining the neoclassical art styles of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s with objects people could wear. “People always ask my what my favorite pieces are,” says the artist, who is moving from his Soho apartment and selling its contents. “I can’t point out one over the other. What I’d always wanted from my pieces was to constantly go back and see new things. They stay alive for me.”
A Soho Story
“I started designing wearable art jewelry in 1973 and I moved into this 5,000 square foot loft in Soho in 1976. I wanted to bring art to product. I felt like people who ran department stores were fairly unconscious about what art could bring them, so I started creating pieces for visual effect. At first I didn’t want to put value into the materials, so I made everything out of a polyester resin and then I’d hand-paint. Eventually I started using crystals, and then I got into silver and gold.”
“The first store that decided to take a chance on what I was doing was Bloomingdales. They had a department for higher end pieces, and they weren’t sure they’d be able to keep my counter going, so they made a deal with me for one month. They wound up running the counter for 10 years, and adding another one for my lower end pieces. Saks Fifth Avenue noticed what was happening and they approached me. I had a counter on their main floor for 12 years.”
Fashion Should Be Fun!
“People have been fascinated by my color sense and the joy that generally comes from my pieces. They’re usually abstract, and they’re all about moving the eye around. The original series I did was called “A Little Bit of Fun,” and the reason for it was that if someone saw you wearing the piece, they generally smiled at you. They fell in love with it as well."
“In the mid seventies, right after I started selling around the country and the world, my late wife, Sally Hawkins and I thought it would be a good idea to open a gallery in New York. We started looking for a space in Soho because it was then the the center of the art world, and in 1980 we moved into a building on the corner of Broadway and Prince. The ground level was jewelry, and the second floor was strictly an art space where we did group and individual shows. It ran until 2005, when Sally was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer.”
Artists, Crafters, Creators, Take Note:
“For those who want to create, this is a great opportunity to get materials from the supplies that I’m selling — crystals, materials, beads. Most of the Swarovski crystals are unavailable now; they stopped making flatbacks. A number of the crystals that I have are from Japan and Czechoslovakia and no longer in production.”
Home is Where the Art Is
“All of the items that I’m selling from my home were individually selected because my wife or I fell in love with them. We wanted pieces that we felt were beautiful and had a creativity to them. Like the Knoll pieces — I love the architectural sense and the beauty in them. Or the yellow Alessi vase — I love Alessi’s work. I thought the green plastic wine racks were very creative, because you can slide them into any shape you want, or divide them up into two racks. Those are pieces I like; pieces you can create with.”
Not all Black or White
“I love color, as you can see in so many of the pieces, like the Windsor-style chair. I got it in Pottstown, PA and it was very drab, so I decided to bring to life what I saw in it. But I also love black and white. I flip from doing pieces that are strictly black and white with no color, to doing full color work. I can’t explain what it is, it just attracts my eye.”
“That mosaic cat figurine is from Costa del Sol in Spain, where I’ve been going since 1969. I absolutely fell in love with the area, and I’ve been wanting to move there ever since I found it. I’m finally moving. I’m excited to go there for a new color sense, because the tones are different. I’m anxious to see what I create.”