]amie Lyn Dorfman of Ax+Apple dabbled in almost every possible visual art before falling in love with jewelry design. Having worked on a few period films in her stint as a props person, she accumulated an assortment of vintage findings including an array of world coins, various men’s pocket watch chains, and pen knives. She began artfully combining these and other fine vintage components, with a modern eye and an appreciation for “making things like they used to”. As the demand for the line grew, so did the range of findings used in the pieces and in the spring of 2009, the first collection was born. Ax+Apple can now be found in boutiques across the U.S and Canada.
Artist Interview: Jamie Lyn of Ax and Apple
Over the years, as Creative Side has developed, the community of makers have increased and a certain culture has been born. The studio is a safe place, where makers of all skill levels can enter and feel nurtured, cared for, and supported along their journey in jewelry making. The team and instructors at Creative Side focus on guiding the students’ desire to gain knowledge and confidence in the craft, so they can succeed and leave their mark.
Stories of artists learning the foundations they need here then continuing on to have successful careers is why we do this. We want to share these stories and dig a little deeper into what makes these makers successful.
-What are your roots in Austin? Is it true that Ax and Apple started here?
I started making simple coin jewelry when I was living in Wilmington, NC, prior to Austin, back in 2008. Once I started consigning some simple designs and felt like it was something I wanted to do more seriously, I moved to Austin to try to develop as my brand grew. I always loved the vibe there and thought it was a perfect match energetically with what I wanted to do. It was there that I started my wholesale operation, and working with the amazing artist community to create the lifestyle/ branding images that I believe really helped set us apart in those crucial early years.
-What classes have you taken at Creative Side and when?
I took a lost wax casting class with Courtney back in… oh man, must have been 2010? Before that I was doing mostly chain work with a lot of vintage re-purposing. That class completely changed my life. Being able to create findings unique to my line made all the difference in the world.
-Tell us about your work space and your team.
The answer to this question is an ever changing one since my life has shaped up to be a pretty nomadic one. These days it’s just me, and my work space follows me wherever I go (which is currently back in Austin!). I’ve moved my set up so many times over the years, even onto the open road at times. I’ve worked hard since leaving my studio in LA in 2016 to reconfigure my operation, specifically to slim things down and make my whole set up as portable as possible. I usually enlist seasonal help around the holidays, but other than that I like to keep it as uncomplicated as possible.
-What does a typical workday look like as the boss of a jewelry line?
There is no real “typical” day for me, which is my favorite thing about my job. I drink coffee, check my to do list, light some incense and get in my head. Most of the time it’s as simple as walking into the studio and seeing where things were left off the night before. Sometimes it’s packaging and shipping, sometimes it’s developing content to drive online sales, sometimes it’s going into a creative zone, sometimes its nourishing my artist-self and exploring a new medium, sometimes it’s writing emails or doing paper work. It’s a pretty intuitive process at this point. I feel it out, and then just get moving.
-Can you tell us about your creative process and inspirations when building a collection?
Like most artists I know I’m pretty influenced by my surroundings. I guess that’s why I like to move around so much, to experience new things and see how they come through in my art. I’m also an avid “antiquer”, and the treasures I find in the dusty cases of roadside antique shops have always played an integral part in the overall feel of my line and collections. I source locally whenever possible, whether that be stones or antiques, and I try to let that principle be the seed everything else grows from. It’s been a fun life-long scavenger hunt and also fuels the lifestyle branding behind A+A.
-Tell us about the production of your work? Are the components fabricated or pieced together from vintage sources?
In the beginning all my findings were vintage, sourced throughout my travels. As the line grew and I started wholesaling, I had to create my own findings which I when I took the class at Creative Side. I wanted to keep the same vintage appeal, so I always look for inspiration in the antiques I find on the road. Last year I took a metalsmithing course at Penland School of Craft and it once again has been a game changer. The work I’m putting out now is mostly hand fabricated one of a kind work.
-Your line really stands out because of the lifestyle branding approach, do you have any tips for emerging artists when building their brand?
Aw thanks! I’ll always say to this: BE YOURSELF. My lifestyle branding approach is strictly to portray my actual lifestyle. If there’s one thing I really have to say to the younger generation of makers coming up (and to remind myself constantly) it would be to stop paying so much attention to what other people are doing and hold tight to your own perspective. Create YOUR art. Your unique voice is your super power. It’s more difficult to not be influenced these days with a flood of images at our literal fingertips 24 hours a day. I was pretty well established with my voice and in my business before I signed up on any social media for my business and I am so thankful for that.
I heard this quote the other day and I think it summed it up perfectly: “It’s easy to keep track of art is by what it’s not. It’s not following a manual, reading a Dummy’s book, looking for a map. It tends to be people who work with a compass instead. Who have an understanding of true North and are willing to solve a problem in an interesting way. – Seth Godin”
-What has been the evolution of Ax and Apple and what are your future goals?
When I started Ax+Apple, my goal was just to create a vehicle for my creative outlets whatever they might be at any given time. Jewelry came to me naturally although I had no schooling, and I liked the portable nature of the inventory because I always envisioned a life on the road. Once I got to Austin wholesale started taking off in a way I hadn’t even imagined (that’s a whole other story!), the vision changed and become something much bigger in terms of scale. I followed the white rabbit all the way to LA, flowing with the opportunities that came. But in time I realized this new direction wasn’t as fulfilling for me. I was creatively spent. I decided to take a big step back and reconfigure. I left the city, went back to school for metalsmithing and that brings us to now! I am thrilled to be back in a place where my original dreams are more in focus again. Bench work is an inspiring new challenge. I wouldn’t trade any of it, and I have learned that “the dream” is a constantly shifting one. It’s part of the fun. I’m excited to get back to Austin and reconnect with the amazing community there. I am hoping to be teaching some too when I get there which has also always been a part of my vision!