When Pamela Love launched her first book with Rizzoli earlier this month, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy, having long been mesmerized by her otherworldly jewels. As someone who doesn’t wear a lot of jewelry, I’m particularly, well, particular about what gems are worth my money, and hers have always landed high on that list.
In Pamela Love: Muses & Manifestations, Love invites us further into her world, sharing the widespread obsessions and inspirations that drive her design process, and inspiring readers in the process. Amid the reign of platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, there’s something almost radical about putting a book like this together—making an argument, it would seem, for the power of a tangible product over the Internet’s ephemera. And having actually rifled through the pages, keeping the book on my desk to revisit whenever, I find myself recalling its contents more than I might an Instagram deep-dive. But both Love and I agree that such a platform has its place—I called her up to chat about these new forms of inspiration, what’s driving her designs most these days, and her best advice for young designers.
Scroll down to find out what she had to say!
WHO WHAT WEAR: I dove into your book the other night and it’s really beautiful. What prompted you to put it together in the first place?
PAMELA LOVE: Rizzoli approached me [laughs] and asked if I wanted to do a book. I’d always wanted to do a book, but I didn’t think I was interesting enough or that we were anywhere [near] worthy of doing a book. But when they approached us—how could I ever resist that opportunity?
WWW: Right! And how long did it take to put together?
PL: Almost a year. It was a fun process, but it was a lot of work—there were a lot of changes, and it was very personal. It was me working side by side with a book designer on top of the job I have already, so I spent every night and every weekend working on it for a long time.
WWW: Did you find the process similar at all to designing jewelry?
PL: No, it’s a completely different thing, but it reminded me a lot of laying out lookbooks and campaigns—it had more of that feel to it, but it’s a totally different beast even than that. I think when you’re working on things for a really long time, [you feel like] how do you ever know it’s right? Even to this day, I think to myself Oh, I should have put this in or that there, or I can’t believe I left out that thing, but ultimately there’s a deadline you need to be done by, and however it is is how it’s going to be.
WWW: Right, it’s never going to be “perfect.”
PL: Nope, and for me, nothing ever is—that’s my perfectionist personality; I always want to change something.
WWW: Did you find anything surprising when going through old files to put into the book? I really loved that you included an old New Year's resolutions list.
PL: I couldn’t believe I found that; it’s the funniest thing! I found all of these weird diary entries that were really depressing, too, like, Life is horrible! I want to die! No one will ever understand me! You know, really ridiculous high school and college stuff [laughs]. But I think what I was most surprised by when going back into the design archives was finding some things that I had forgotten about and seeing how they still resonate with me—I’m even reintroducing and reworking some of them for next season.
WWW: So the book focuses mainly on what’s inspired your design process. What are you finding to be really inspiring these days?
PL: I’m constantly looking at new things—lately it’s been a lot of midcentury architecture, designs, and interiors, while also exploring what people at that time thought the future would look like. The future is definitely a recurring theme.
WWW: The book also hints at travel as a big source of inspiration. Have you been anywhere recently that had that effect on you?
PL: I recently went to Bangkok, which was mind-blowing. It’s a fascinating, truly inspiring place. And I’m about to go to Copenhagen, which I’m really excited about.
WWW: And when you travel, do you find that you’re always thinking about jewelry and designing? Or do you like to shut that part of your brain off for a bit?
PL: Yes, I’m always thinking about jewelry! I can’t help it—when I meet people for the first time, I look at their jewelry before I look at their faces. It’s a problem I have [laughs]. So when I travel, I’m always thinking about jewelry, looking to buy jewelry for myself—because I’m a huge collector of antiques, and also just constantly looking at how people from different cultures adorn themselves and what that means to them.
WWW: Has the Internet and the rise of platforms like Instagram changed the way you get inspiration?
PL: I kind of always joke that it’s ruined my life because it’s just so addicting, but I do try to pull my inspiration from real-world experiences more than anything else. I do really enjoy a good Instagram K-hole, or whatever they call it [laughs].
WWW: Oh yes, falling into the Instagram abyss!
PL: Yes! [laughs] Exactly.
WWW: What are some of your favorite accounts?
PL: I like this one called @sculpting__in__time—she pulls really beautiful references from the past—and I like a lot of the interiors ones, especially this girl @local_milk who also takes really beautiful food pictures.
WWW: The book also focuses on your fascination with the occult and mythical, otherworldly figures. Can you tell me about how that informs your design process?
PL: You know, I like to think of jewelry as a magical thing. It’s more powerful than shoes or handbags—the wearer is more spiritually connected to the pieces, I find. Not my pieces, necessarily, but just jewelry in general—it often means more to you than something else. It could be something your grandmother passes down to you or something that’s part of a ceremony, etc. It’s special… It holds a place in history that’s extremely different than any other type of accessory or adornment. I mean, before human beings were wearing clothes, they were wearing jewelry, and I think there’s something very powerful about that.
On top of that, I like to explore certain archetypes that are typical occult symbols and have appeared throughout different cultures and time periods, because they really make a statement: We are all human beings, and we are all sharing this one experience. So I like to explore the myths and imagery that have reappeared all over the world and across time, because for me, that expresses how we’re all connected.
WWW: Has your relationship to jewelry changed at all throughout your career?
PL: Definitely. I weirdly wear a lot less of it [laughs], and I’m a lot more particular about what I wear. I think I’ve just refined and then re-refined my taste as I’ve grown up and worked as a jewelry designer for nine years.
WWW: Are there any pieces you never take off?
PL: Of course! I never take off my engagement ring, my wedding band, or the ring that my father gave my mother when she was pregnant with me. I also never take off a gold necklace that I made, and since we launched the fine jewelry collection, I’ve been so in love with all of those pieces and wearing them a lot.
WWW: The book mentions that your first collection was created in honor of your father after he passed away. I was struck by that, as my dad recently passed, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how grief drives the creative process.
PL: Yes, it was more of a therapeutic way for me to deal with his passing and also, I felt, to communicate with him. It really helped me to process his death and to feel connected to him. I was dealing with a lot of imagery and themes that were interesting to him as a person, as well as exploring different cultural traditions of mourning. I found it really, really helpful, and I think he would’ve been very proud. Honestly, if I hadn’t done this, I don’t know if I would’ve been okay; I was such a disaster [laughs].
WWW: Well, you chose a very good outlet for your grief—not everyone goes that route.
PL: [Laughs] True, I mean there was definitely a six-month period where I wasn’t super focused, but I got it together eventually.
WWW: So a lot of young people are interested in getting into the jewelry design business these days, but it’s become a lot more competitive. What advice would you give to designers who are just starting out?
PL: I mean, I think it’s a very oversaturated market right now, as you said, so I would say to really take your time and confirm with yourself that this is the career you want, because it is a hard road to travel. I would also recommend saving up some money and having a business plan—I didn’t do either of those things, but I wish I had. If I thought it was going to turn into a real business, maybe I would have, but I just started making jewelry to feel better about myself [laughs].
WWW: And, last but not least, what’s your favorite way to shake a bout of creative block?
PL: Well, sadly, we don’t really get to have creative block in my world, because we’re on a schedule, so you just have to push through it. Luckily I have an incredible design team that I work with, so if I’m feeling blocked, hopefully one of them is not, and vice versa. We’re always bouncing ideas off of each other. For me, collaboration and synergy are so important.
I also like to get out and see as much as humanly possible—you know, go to every museum in New York City if you have to. Just keep your eyes open and allow things to enter your mind.
What's your favorite source of inspiration? Let us know in the comments!