"Creativity is never a straight line."
One look at the jewelry design of Austin Titus gives us a clue as to her love of the organic. Circles and coils, rippling pie shapes and cast forms from nature dominate her collections. Nature has always informed her creativity in part and her workspace is immersed in it. A native of Richmond, Virginia, home is a rural sanctuary just outside of town where her wall of windows affords her a light-filled studio complete with dense trees and pond views. Here she spends long days designing new pieces and filling orders for her customers across the country.
While she attended Virginia Commonwealth University for a time, formal schooling wasn’t in her constitution. "I was a terrible student!”, she admits. After leaving school to explore the west coast for a time, she returned to take individual classes from jewelers she respected and got serious about creating a business. She always knew jewelry would be her path. Growing up with parents who supported the arts, and an aunt who shared her New York style and influence, Titus’ childhood had a creative bent to it. “When I was 13, I was always making stuff for my friends, doing lots of beading and even selling!”
While she maintains an artist’s sensibility in her designs, she has a difficult time calling herself an artist. “I consider myself a maker. I think an artist tries to convey something beyond the visual, something more intellectual.” While she may not be concerned with pursuits beyond the decorative, there is an integrity to her work ethic and her aesthetic. “I aspire to make beautiful objects.” Where Titus finds beauty is in juxtaposition. Her work is inspired by elements opposed to each other: industrial elements of the city, contrasted with her idyllic country home; architecture contrasted with nature. “My work is organic, but edgy.” She refers to the idea of the delicate edge. This can be seen in a recent popular design that incorporates multiple layers of thin metal sheets in a nest-like form. It conveys the strength of a container, but with a fragile edge resembling a flower petal.
Titus says that people would be surprised to know how driven she is. She has a difficult time delineating between her working and non-working life.They are virtually one and the same. In the studio more than 8 hours daily, she has never lost her excitement for creating. Indeed, she often finds it hard to give herself a vacation and even then, she is always thinking about the next design. While travelling she gets inspired by wandering in cities, looking at street art, seeing murals and connecting with strangers. She explains, “I think my best ideas come to me while I’m walking. Walking gets my mind moving, juices flowing. Something about that repetitive beat, gets me in a zone. I never know where inspiration will come.”
Her years of hard work and long hours have paid off. She has a thriving retail and wholesale business with many returning customers. Most of her sales are generated on the road, averaging two shows a month all year long. While craft shows can be physically demanding she enjoys the balance of solitude in the studio with connecting to her customers and fellow makers. She admits however that jewelry making is a very competitive business, and is always on the lookout for new venues. “Everyday is a hustle”.
Being a single mom, and a small business owner has its challenges. There is a lot to juggle and Titus is wearing many of the hats. She recently has been able to hire part time help which has given her a bit more freedom. Since she does a fair amount of production work, she can now let others take over that end of things saying, “My employees give me the freedom to design new work, instead of making the 100th earring. “ She hopes this freedom will also give her time to experiment with new materials and learn new techniques, such as enameling. “I would like to have more time to play.”
Success for Titus has always been tied to the ability to support herself and her son. She feels happy and proud that she is now able to do that exclaiming, “ I’m just realizing this which is truly exhilarating to me!” For her, being her own boss was always the only way. She cites the ability to call her own shots, and have control over her day and schedule. This to her is the ultimate freedom. It seems what Titus may have lacked in her early school life has been resolved ten-fold by understanding her habits and the need to make her own way. Being driven to sustain her life on her own terms is finally being supported by the drive and curiosity of the maker that she is.
See all of her fabulous designs at www.augustninedesigns.com