A Peek Behind the Scenes of Portland’s Vittrock Jewelry
Hilary Contolini’s unique brand of west coast inspired creations have gained a respectable following in Portland and beyond, including a recent feature in BUST. We visited the Vittrock studio where all the magic happens to learn where Contolini finds inspiration and her experience making a name for herself as a PDX maker.
MIP: How did you get started?
I let a growing collection of necklaces tangle around my neck to the point where I couldn’t remove them for nearly four years. The overwhelmingly awesome reaction to that piece of accidental adornment inspired me to make deliberately beautiful creations. Also, I wanted to rock the whole west coast around my neck, and since that didn’t exist, I learned how to cut it out of metal myself.
MIP: What/who are your biggest influences that can be seen in your work today?
Other than a cadre of impossibly bizzaro homies near and far… I dig into popular catch phrases from top 40 hip-hop – modern mantras with a timeless quality, like “bitch don’t kill my vibe,” because I think expressions that people universally relate to are powerful and important.
The historic nature of chains is also super fascinating – from the regal adornment of kings to the shackles of imprisonment to the playful and sexual nature of BDSM props. Metal is imbued with so much heavy history, and it’s inherent permanence makes it so meaningful in this otherwise fleeting world.
MIP: What’s most unique about your creative process?
I like to “think” as little as possible when designing. I’m very into to dadaist sensibilities – overthinking gets in the way of channelling the subconscious, and I’m always trying to access that zone unobstructed by human interference.
Other times, I make deliberately literal pieces – the pendant with a baby who holds a literal silver spoon, or the cuff that looks like a five-dollar bill made in a material that by definition serves as the currency it recollects. Double entendres are also rad: “Made in Portland” is one my favorites.
MIP: How has the Portland community reacted to your work?
Portland people haven’t been the most receptive to the “shiny gold quality” of my work, which makes sense – Portlanders tend to favor a more subdued and humble aesthetic. That’s definitely changing as it becomes more cosmopolitan, which is at once redeeming and also kinda unsettling. I grew up here but spent most of my 20’s in San Francisco, which endearingly favors a more ostentatious aesthetic. I feel like I’m perpetually and involuntarily channelling a synthesis of environments.
MIP: Please provide a few online links and/or physical storefronts where people can find your work available for purchase: