This week we’re catching up with local maker Krista Tranquilla, whose popular jewelry line incorporates a Tahoe-rooted sensibility into simple, understated designs. Krista puts a great deal of care into her handmade pieces. She’s as committed to quality craftsmanship and artistic growth as she is to developing sustainable methods for creating. Find her work at Bespoke, or catch her in San Francisco at this weekend's Urban Air Market.
Tell us about your path to becoming a working artist.
I studied business in college, and I took an amazing jewelry class in my twenties. It stayed a hobby until my mid-thirties, when I kind of jumped in without looking. My desk job wasn’t satisfying anymore. I wanted to make things, not be on the computer all the time.
When I was on maternity leave with our second child, I had a lot of time to reflect. I asked myself, Is this it? Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? In Truckee there are so many entrepreneurs, so many craft people just going for it. I thought, why can’t I do it, too? It was this place that moved me, being surrounded by the right people who showed me it’s possible. And then it was about my husband and I creating an environment where it could be possible.
Who do you look up
I’m very much inspired by my surroundings, so the people who come to mind are local artists. Alanna Hughes. I can remember sitting next to her by the pool one day, just talking. Our girls are the same age. She gave me the encouragement that I could make it as a working artist. It was very motivating.
Mary Burrows had a similar path to mine. She worked in the corporate world for a long time, and I loved her story, how she started with her love of words. Most of my own work right now is also based on some inspired moment.
What else inspires
Most of my inspiration comes from being outside, recreating that sense of peace and place. I’ve got two young girls and life is busy. I’m inspired to make stuff that calms me down and centers me.
Do you have any (silly or serious)
rituals in the shop?
The one I’m trying to get better about is vacuuming at end of the day! I don’t feel like the day gets started until I put on my shop shoes and my apron. I don’t have a commute and I don’t drive much, so I switch on NPR when I work. Our house backs up to greenbelt, with a window onto trees, so my studio is very calming. There’s lots of light. It’s nice. There’s no bad view in Truckee.
Tell me how you incorporate your environmental concern into your work.
I don’t have traditional art school training. I’m self-taught, and I’m always looking for ways to be more creative, smarter, and cleaner as I work. For example, I don’t use an acid for etching, just simple household vinegar and borax as a flux. Right now I’m enjoying using my camera and computer to make making images. I make a plate, then use electric etching, which involves copper sulfite. It’s still a chemical, but it’s much less toxic. I keep finding ways to get chemicals out of my studio, which is in my home. And it simplifies things. At the end of the day, you have to deal with whatever chemicals you use, with hazardous substances. I also try to use recycled materials. In fact, the pieces I make from reclaimed metal are my most popular items.
Can you talk a little about your Tree of Life design?
I have two in progress. The first is a classic coastal cypress, from being in Monterey a few weeks ago. I wanted the other to be more local to the Sierra. I chose a local cedar, because I wanted it to be more authentic and meaningful for mountain people. I’m thinking of a John Muir quote for the back: "...for going out is really going in." The Tree of Life symbol means that we are all connected, and I wanted to put a spin on that. It’s about being connected through connecting with the outside. I think that’s why most people come up here— to be outside, whether they’re visiting or they live here.