Today we’d like to introduce you to Elaine Unzicker.
An international, award-winning metal/jewelry artist with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Illinois State University. Her work has been featured at the Smithsonian and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Through the Ojai Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, “The Triangle Dress” was displayed at SOFA Chicago in 2018. She was featured in Intersection: Art & Life by Kevin Wallace published by Schiffer Publishing in 2018 and Chain Mail Jewelry by Terry Taylor and Dylon Whyte published by Lark Books in 2006. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. Please see her website: www.theunzicker.com for further details and photographs.
After receiving my Master of Fine Arts degree, I moved to Chicago where I worked at a number of jewelry stores and an art gallery. Wanting to have more freedom and the ability to be creative too, I accepted a position as a secretary where my hours were 9am-5pm. This allowed me to open my business and I found my fellow workers purchasing my jewelry. I branched out and began selling my work through wholesale shows on my vacation days and retail art fairs on the weekends. Yes, I was busy, but I didn’t care. I was doing something I loved. I left the office work behind when I had to call in sick to be able to do a show.
In 2001, I made a big move to Ojai, CA where something new burst out – a dress made from the stainless and anodized aluminum chain mail. This led to a whole new line of wearable pieces made of metal along with a category of art other than jewelry. Now, I could display my work under metal or fiber in the art shows. I opened my market to art shows all over the country including the Smithsonian Craft Show, winning awards along the way. That very first dress, “Shimmering Free”, appeared in various magazines and newspapers and had its own show circuit without me including a 2nd place award in an International Fiber Exhibit in Palos Verdes, California.
During one of my tours in the art festival circuit, the stars lined up and I met photographer, Stacia Morgan, at the Coconut Grove Art Festival in Florida in February of 2017. She had a photo shoot coming up the weekend after at Peterson’s Harley Davidson in Miami. My dress “Splashes of Gold” was chosen because the back consists of fabric-like folds similar to a bustle. The shortness in the back allowed the model, Charlotte Godfrey of London, to wear it on the back of a 1910 Harley motorcycle with ease. Stacia’s beautiful photographs led to a cover photo and a 4-page spread with a feature article in the Ojai Quarterly magazine the fall of 2018.
Each of my dresses is a one-of-a-kind piece and often take up to 2 months or more to make. Inspiration comes from being present, present to my surroundings and listening to inner guidance. I’d also have to say I just love the way the material lays and falls over the body. I happen to create directly from the material and use sketches infrequently. The weight and movement of the “Authentic metal lace”TM, as I like to call the chain mail, will move a design in an unexpected direction at times. But these unexpected happenings can often lead to moments of exquisite beauty.
After the Thomas fire in Ojai, I unveiled my most challenging dress to date, “Armored Dreams”. To accompany the dress in its appearance at a fashion show at the Museum of Ventura County, I wrote the following:
“Out of the ashes arises a new woman cleansed by the fire. She feels “Strangely Empowered”TM embracing the passions of life. Without the passion to cling to earth’s elements, life cannot go on. Each precious breath, each brave step into the unknown is important to her development. Staying present and guiding herself along the journey of life, slowly with deliberation. Until a transformation of strength arises from her depths, forging a “Strangely Empowered”TM Empress ready to take on whatever challenges arise. “Armored Dreams”, “Authentic Metal Lace”TM, is the garment of choice. Now, moving gracefully and with confidence, she conquers her life. She embodies elegance; her passionate emergence glowing for all to see.”
Katherine McClelland, a friend of mine, wore “Armored Dreams” in the fashion show where it was a big hit. The difference with this particular dress – a nickel rod with brass calla lily flower shapes was suspended in the mesh. The stainless took on the shape of the rod creating folds in the dress unfamiliar to the way chain mail would normally lay. And, in this case, I used a torch to solder the rod after it had been fed through the “Authentic Metal Lace”TM. Trust me when I say, “I was nervous about soldering this piece. There were so many things that could go wrong.” But, the finished dress was more than I could have imagined. The creative process for me allows for the unknown; I do not know what it will truly look like until the very end. Then, and only then, can I step back and see the full results.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I guess the biggest challenge happened just as I was starting my business. Less than a month before that first wholesale show in February of 1993, my father passed away at the age of 56 of a heart attack. It was completely unexpected as he was the youngest in his family and still physically active playing softball with a league of young guys. I flew home to be at the funeral and figure out what to do next.
My mother and I had many discussions; including a lengthy conversation about my new prospect. We both finally came to the conclusion that I should go ahead with my plans for the show. I had already spent the money and committed to being there. And, in addition, we both felt that my father would have wanted me to be there; to begin, to start somewhere. It was challenging being there in so many ways, but it was a move forward. Something I needed, to help with grieving and starting my life without him.
I have no regrets about this decision. But, I wouldn’t say it was the best show I ever did either. In any case, sometimes it’s important to keep moving; to continue with life as you are grieving. And, having new projects to work on brings a sense of accomplishment amongst the chaos.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Unzicker – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Unzicker is known for chain mail clothing, jewelry, and accessories which I now refer to as “Authentic Metal Lace”TM. As the world’s first women’s empowerment couturiere, I specialize in creating one-of-a-kind or limited edition wearable art from “Authentic Metal Lace”TM in stainless steel and anodized aluminum. Working with an individual to create unique, wearable art for them is joyful. And, seeing them wear it brings a sense of accomplishment as the art comes to life as they move. The personal touch with an unusual sense of style is something I strive for in my business; the “Strangely Empowering”TM feeling is a bonus.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
With the success of the fashion show at the Museum of Ventura County, Katherine McClelland and I decided to continue working together by creating a women’s empowerment retreat titled, “Encountering the Empress Within: An Intimate Awakening” to be held in Ojai, October 25-28, 2019. Building community in addition to sharing your unique gifts for the world is a part of our mission.
Each woman will choose a chakra to explore deeply with the assistance of Katherine. I have created exclusively for this retreat, “Sacred Chakra Amulets”TM in metal, a gift for each one of you. With my help and guidance, you will be accessing your creative passions to embellish each “Sacred Chakra Amulet” with stones of your choosing to support you and your essence. In addition, you will be writing a statement expressing where you are in life and where you see yourself going. To enhance and anchor the overall experience, a ceremony in which you read your statement while wearing the amulet takes place. To affirm the deep-seated learning and to move beyond, stepping into your own feminine confidence with grace. The ceremony will allow you to feel the energy permeate your body and experience as you wear it; for a heightened sense of power and confidence in the chosen chakra area. It would be such an honor to work with you and to be a part of you stepping forward. See www.emergingfeminine.com for details.
- Earrings from $35.00 to $75.00
- Bracelets from $88.00 to $280.00
- Necklaces from $225.00 to $600.00
- Scarves from $100.00 to $400.00
- Purses from $450.00 to $700.00
- Wearable Items from $500.00 to $1800.00
- One-of-a-Kind Dresses are Priced Upon Request
- Men’s ties: Narrow-$90.00 and Wide-$150.00
- Address: Ojai, California
- Website: www.theunzicker.com
- Phone: 805-646-4877
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: theunzicker
- Facebook: @theunzicker
Stacia Morgan- photographer, Charlotte Godfrey- model; Donna Granata- photographer, Kassy Mahea- model; Tracy Frugoli- photographer, Alexandra James- Model; Debra Lyon- photographer, Katherine McClelland- Model, Allen Bryan- photographer