Recently I worked on a project that I would have to categorized as the largest project I’ve worked on.
The Dream Forest – Designed By Rafi Perez
The Dream Forest was conceptualized and designed to allow the observer to explore the nature of happiness itself, through an immersive interaction with whimsical ancient beings that come to life as you meander through their magical realms. Each one explores a different facet of the “gem” that is happiness, asking thought provoking questions and offering words of ancient wisdom.
I created five rooms within a free standing structure that was about 80ftX40ft in order to give the illusion that you were walking into a different world.
Each sculpture was designed and fitted with animatronics in order to get them to talk and move. You walk up wave your hand and the sculpture has a special message for you about empowering yourself.
This project took about 6 months to design and build. It will be traveling around the country.
I am honored to say that I have created some little piggies… well, they’re not really that little.
I was asked to come and take a look at a large wall in a place that will soon become a Pensacola icon. Global Grill’s new restaurant called Urban Swinery is scheduled to open sometime this year and have asked me to create some pieces of art for their wall.
After meeting with them and Studio Pica to discuss the look and feel of the new restaurant, I fell in love with the project.
It was on, I was going to create some giant pigs… something that I actually hadn’t done yet.
This was a fun project and I worked with some amazingly creative people to finish what I consider some amazing pieces that I am very proud of.
All I can really say is “That’ll do pig, that’ll do.
Two things that have been on my to do list for quite some time was to create a life size sculpture, and create something awesome using garbage.
I think I can cross both of those off my list with this awesome Nature Of Being Sculpture that I created for the Artel Gallery show called “RECYCLE, REUSE, REPURPOSE… REPEAT.”
This sculpture is modeled after a series of mine called the nature of being. This series combines human beings with trees to create a beautiful symbol of being rooted yet consistently expanding towards the heavens. Connected, growing, evolving, expanding, and beautiful is the message that I want to convey.
In this piece I wanted to expand on that message, by using old plastic bags to create the form and pose. I wanted the piece to be dynamic, to show some distress, yet be fluid and organic in its movement.
The message is open for interpretation, but in my mind, it is nature reclaiming the world, and bouncing back from the brink.
This piece was very challenging and an absolute roller coaster ride to create… I enjoyed ever minute of it! Below you can see the steps I took, forming the skeleton, adhering the plastic bags, creating muscle structure, creating a fiberglass shell, melting and adhering plastic bags, shaping the details on the body, and painting.
It was so worth it… Oh, and I won BEST IN SHOW for this one. I am so proud of this work.
Every year I try to do something special for all the amazing people that collect my art and others in my community. We’ve had open studios where I’ve printed out hundreds of prints to give away, we’ve also given stuff away at live paintings, and every once in a while I donate a piece of art to a charity for auction.
This year we did our art hunt with an added twist. Not only did we have small paintings, but also had over 100 small inspirational drawings on magnets. These where placed all over the downtown area of Pensacola, with the new title #INSPIREASMILE, meant to brighten people’s day.
This particular day (March 12th 2018) was very cold, windy, and dreary… So it felt nice to go out and inspire smiles.
Immediately people responded.
This makes the projects list because it is a project that gets expanded every time I do it, and it is something I am very proud of.
It was an absolute blast and I can’t wait to see what awesome evolution happens next year with it! Enjoy the pictures of the cold and windy day where we brought a little sunshine into Pensacola.
Recently I was presented with an exciting and challenging commission that I could not say no to, even though I was admittedly somewhat reluctant to take it on. Reluctant because, well, it was centered around the largest and most beautiful opal I have ever had the privilege of holding in my hands.
Proposed by two collectors of my work who have not only become good friends of mine over the years, but who continuously support and believe in me as an artist, always pushing me ever further into the realm of “Sure, I think I can do that.” They had purchased an astoundingly gorgeous Australian Lightning Ridge Semi-Black Opal from a local lapidary artist, who is also a friend of mine and an expert at his craft. The cut opal weighed in at 24 carats and measured 34x27mm, originally intended to be cut into two or three separate opals but was too magnificent to be separated into smaller pieces.
Immediately following the purchase of the opal they brought it to me, placed it in my hand and said “You know you’re the one we’re commissioning to make a necklace with this, right?” To which I replied “Uh… sure! Wait… are you sure?? I can’t believe this opal! Yes, sure! I’m honored and terrified to be the one to work with it!” and the commission had begun.
Anyone who has ever owned or held an opal knows that you can break them by just looking at them the wrong way. How can something so pristine, with such a delicate composition, contain so much life and color that it appears to have the very fire of creation itself within it?
Everyone involved, especially me, knew it was going to take some time to create this piece. They wanted it created in solid gold and they wanted something that had never been seen before, something to truly do the opal justice. We bounced ideas back and forth for weeks, some playing it safe, some really outside the box, until we landed on the concept of fire. “Our son mentioned that flames might be awesome, is it doable?” they asked.
I honestly wasn’t sure it was doable, but in the spirit of going with inspired thought, I expanded on the idea and rendered a sketch of layers of flames in yellow, white, and rose gold, and presented it to them (along with a few other “safer” design layouts) to see what they thought. To my excitement and horror, they loved the not safe, totally daunting, tri-tone gold flame layer design. I loved it too. We all knew it was the one. Now I just had to actually make this thing… in solid gold… no pressure.
It could not be rendered in wax and cast, it had to be completely hand fabricated because of the three types of gold that would be used. The flames were so organic in shape, so free flowing that anything other than just jumping in with both feet and going for it would not have produced the desired look. So, I went for it… in sterling silver (I’m not THAT crazy folks!)
I built a prototype piece in sterling silver to make sure that the design actually worked, would protect the opal, and would look as amazing as I hoped it would. It was many hours of successes, setbacks, design tweaks, small challenges, inching forward until the prototype was finished. I presented it to them and they were thrilled with it. Then it was time to make the actual piece in gold.
Thank goodness for the prototype, it allowed me to work everything out beforehand and create a piece in gold that I was beyond happy with. Organic shaped yellow, white, and rose gold flame layers, carefully built section by section to form the back setting for the stone. Rose gold “Flame Petals” as I call them, and yellow and white gold prongs to wrap gingerly around the sides and front of the opal to hold it securely and complete the design.
Once it was built, I set the opal in the design, more slowly and carefully than I’ve ever done anything in my whole life, looked at it, went into slight shock that it was finished, and then screamed joyfully at Rafi that it was completed and I had done it!
Throughout the whole process, I had been referring to the piece as the “Fire Flower” (a working title) to try to describe something that embodies an intense amount of light, passion and fire, and is simultaneously impossibly pristine, serene, and delicate. It described the opal as best as words can, and it described the design of the piece that would complete and represent it. I feel it also describes the beautiful woman it was commissioned for, and there’s a bit of myself represented in there as well. We all resonated with the feeling and the name “Fire Flower” stuck as the official name of the piece.
It was the most challenging and thrilling commission I’ve had thus far, and also the longest running commission, ongoing for about six months from concept to completion. I have to thank my collectors and friends Dina and Kelly, and their son Kyle for the challenge, and the trust that made it possible to create something I would have previously never thought possible.
I am now refining the Sterling silver prototype I had created, in which I will set a Nuummite stone, and will belong to them as well. The silver counterpart to the Fire Flower.
Recently, I was given the honor of creating a piece of art for a great local company, something large that would hang by the meeting room and lobby. They wanted something that would tell a story about their passion for paper, and add a little color to their offices.
You guys know that I don’t take on commissions unless it fascinates me, for every 10 people who ask me to do something, I may do one. Commissioned paintings aren’t shown in galleries, or in public most of the time, and generally take a lot longer to create. So when I do take on a commission, it’s because I am excited about the concept, or I really connect with the person who is trying to commission me.
This being a corporate commission, I was surprised to find that I was excited about the concept and I absolutely adore the people who commissioned me.
The piece tells their story, and is constructed of materials that they produce. They ship different paper products all over the world.
The piece tells the story of their global reach, production, transportation, uses, and overall importance of what they create. So much comes together in order to make a perfect picture, adding a little color to the world in the process.
That was the overall story I wanted to tell.
I am so proud of this piece, it pushed me beyond some of my own personal limits, and it definitely pushed my studio to it’s size limit, which was fun.
Watch this video for the why and how of the Oren International Commission:
I made a change recently to my mural in downtown Pensacola. Although you would think that someone asking me to change my artwork would be offensive, in this case I was honored.
If you remember correctly, I created a large Pensacola mural at 114 Palafox place, which was Marty Campbell Gallery. I wanted to create something that would make people proud of this beautiful place that I’ve fallen in love with.
Originally, I had a multicultural woman’s face as a representation of the diverse culture here.
When Marty moved his gallery back out to Gulf Breeze, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to the mural. I knew that the property owner loved the mural and would attempt to protect it. She would also need to make her new tenants happy, and if they didn’t like the mural, there was a good chance it would get painted over.
Then, Innerlight Surf Shop moved in, and they loved the mural, but wanted to make one change. They wanted to add Yancy Spencer III. After a beautiful and heartfelt conversation with Lydia (The Late Yancy’s wife), I decided to do it, and it needed to be perfect.
Now, I’m not sure if you know this, but Yancy is regarded as the father of Gulf Coast surfing. Not only that, but he was an amazing human, so I was honored to make the changes.
I know some people, may be upset that I changed an aspect of my original mural, but trust me, I am so thrilled to have painted a legend.
This chair made it into our special projects page because it was a first for me, it is something that I am very proud of, and it was all for a great cause.
I was invited to create something new out of something old that will be something awesome for something that we all care about… all to help prevent child abuse.
This old chair that you see pictured here was converted into a work of art… This is for “From Blue To Better Campaign”.
This was a little outside of my comfort zone, I’ve never created an “art chair” and of course, my mind was trying to over think it with all kinds of elaborate plans, that are a bit ridiculous.
I then thought of letting the chair and what it would symbolized take over. I followed instinct instead of planning. I think it came out perfect. Check out the full project, plus where it ended up in the pictures below.
I was honored to be asked to paint something on The Graffiti Bridge in Pensacola Florida for April, which is Child Abuse Awareness Month.
The project started for me at 6am on April 1st, 2017 (which is early for me) and by the time I got there the crew had already been hard at work painting the bridge blue.
Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital #stopchildabuse
4-7 children die every day due to Child Abuse & Neglect in the United States. 7000+ reports of Abuse were reported to the abuse hotline in Escambia & Santa Rosa Counties in 2016.
I wanted to do something a little different than what I have done in the past. I wanted to evoke the feeling of innocence by doing something that represented a child’s drawing. I felt that along with the tagline I chose, it would get the message across.
These commissioned necklaces make the projects page because they are both milestones in my jewelry career and they both challenged me to once again push the boundaries of what I think is possible with my designs.
The couple that commissioned these necklaces (the Citrine for him and the Topaz for her) are not only awesome (they are extremely awesome), but they have a love of unique design and an appreciation of stones and metals that makes my nerdy heart beam with joy. They own several of my pieces and I’ve spent many hours with them learning about who they are and what they love, and sharing my philosophies and passion with them. I get really excited about stones and design and life in general, and I can go on for hours about it… and they share in that excitement and enthusiasm, which has made for some phenomenal conversations and jewelry designs that would never have been if not for that combined enthusiasm that we all share.
His geometric faceted Citrine nugget necklace marks the official beginning of my branching into the world of men’s jewelry. He (along with Rafi and a few of my closest friends) have been encouraging me to step out into that world (and I have previously made a few men’s pieces), but this piece has given me the nudge I needed to leap in with both feet. For this necklace, I was going for a masculine but pristine beauty with the shape of the Citrine and the setting. The setting is minimal, following the lines of the stone and finishing with prongs that are arranged to give the impression that the stone is almost floating there and couldn’t possibly be held by the prongs themselves. To accomplish the floating look, I designed the setting with inward facing rods going into the center of the stone, a technical challenge that I wasn’t sure was even possible but one that came together perfectly. I photographed the setting while I was creating it and it looks like some sort of strange and wonderful metal creature with legs sticking out in all directions. It was an awesome project and I was so happy with the end result that I teared up a bit at the sight of it.
Her spectacular Champagne Topaz was a stone that she purchased from a local lapidary artist and brought to me to create a piece. I was instantly enamored with this stone. It has a subtle warm glow and facets for days, oh, and it’s huge and magical. The word that kept coming to mind was “Beacon”. A bright shining, guiding light. The optical qualities of this Topaz are unbelievable and both sides are worthy of taking center stage, so it needed a double sided design that would enhance and not intrude upon the stone. I wanted a super clean minimalist prong setting for the front that would also be sturdy enough to hold such a substantial stone. For the back, a delicate woven wire setting that would nest the stone but not cover much of the faceting. It needed a heavy gauge wire bezel around the perimeter and heavy gauge prongs. It was my first time forming and shaping such a solid setting and then combining it with the most delicate of wire weaving. Every step along the way I was nervous and exhilarated… and yes, when it was finished I teared up at the sight of it also. One of the coolest features of this setting is it’s optical illusion quality. From the front, you can’t see the back setting and from the back you cannot see the front prongs, so all the focus is on the stone where it should be and it appears to float magically.
These commissions were some of my all time favorite as a designer and a total gemstone nerd. I am currently working on another exciting commission project for this awesome couple, which is sure to make the projects page as well.