Rebecca Rockefeller: It was definitely the most difficult job Ive ever had. The people I was working for were really wonderful; they were incredibly generous and really warm. And the kids were really wonderful kids. But it was just a little bit too much of a culture shock for me.
FF: When I was at Sarah Lawrence I had a friend who was a graduate student, she was in one of my Greek or Latin classes, I cant remember, and her husband had a job over there. He was working for one of the oil companies.
Rebecca Rockefeller: Oh sure.
FF: And she went over there, and she could not take it because she couldnt walk down the street without being totally harassed constantly. And she just told her husband, look Ive just got to go home; I cant take it.
Rebecca Rockefeller: Most westerners who go over
there live on compounds, which is where Im sure your friend was. Its these
little -- these odd compounds there, you know, literally walls with armed security guards
at the doors. And theyd open these electric doors and theyll let you drive in.
And once youre in there its like youre in an American suburb from the
Fifties. And its very strange. The Little League, you know, baseball diamonds, and
people having barbecues and women running around in shorts.
And then you drive out, and its like driving back centuries. But I wasnt living on a compound. I was actually living in a palace with the Saudi family. So I was never harassed when I went out, because I was always with Saudis, and I had a driver who basically, when I went shopping, these housekeepers would come with me -- I was never allowed to like pick up groceries. They would always pick up what I wanted, and put it in the basket for me and ...
FF: You wouldnt be harassed because they knew who you were working for ...
Rebecca Rockefeller: Exactly, exactly. I would have Saudi men following me around and whisper at me in Arabic, because they thought I was Syrian and they tried to, you know, "Hey, hey whats your name? Youre very beautiful. Talk to me, just talk to me."
And I said, "No Ill get in trouble." "Oh please, please, talk to me." So ...
FF: Sounds very intense.
Rebecca Rockefeller: It was very intense. It was actually a really fascinating experience; I think if I just could have handled it physically I would have stayed longer. But I mean, its 125 degrees about 85% humidity where I was in Jidda. And you have to wear full length clothing, and then over that you wear full length black silk, all over your body. I didnt have to cover my face. But, I mean, from a physical standpoint it was almost unbearable.
And then you start internalizing all of these
things that you really dont want to; like youre afraid to look people in the
eye. You dont want people brushing up against you.
I think if my parents had to level one main complaint against me, it would be that I just have led a very unfocused life until lately. I just basically have been really content to just sort of let one thing turn into another and just try out a bunch of different career paths. Without any sort of clear focus in mind, which isnt necessarily the way we should all go about life. But ...
FF: But you know, you never know. Its sometimes the better way.
Rebecca Rockefeller: You know, its definitely more organic I suppose than anything else. So ...
FF: Yes, I agree. I agree. Tell me some more about when you were married.
Rebecca Rockefeller: The man that I had married was Irish, and his family lived in Liverpool.
So during about a good portion of my senior year in college I actually went over to England and lived with him and worked on my senior thesis there. And then went back a few times after that and stayed there and hung around a lot.
And I just -- I loved both there and in Saudi Arabia. I loved all of the old architecture and the old wrought iron and the old -- just the colors and the earth and the sky, and spent a lot of time in Scotland, and just saw these amazing old pubs and old houses. And I think it was all of that stuff is basically whats turned into my jewelry.
FF: Yes. Yes. Its interesting you say
that, because I mean I remember seeing your work for the first time. And I remember even
in the beginning, I was looking at it and thinking its so interesting, because
theres an aspect thats Venetian, in the sense of the hint of Byzantium, and
then theres a little Renaissance, and then theres something Celtic about it.
And then -- now I hear your story and Im thinking well maybe -- I mean I guess
Im hitting on it.
Rebecca Rockefeller: Yeah no, youve got it right. Which is why when people try to get me to tell them exactly what Im doing, and they say, "Well, is it Victorian?" And I say, "Well, no, not really. Its not Victorian, its not Edwardian, its not really one thing or another," because I dont base any of it on actual jewelry. Its all basically just all of these images that I collected while I was traveling.
FF: Right. Thats why I think its so interesting, because its so personal.
Rebecca Rockefeller: Yeah, yeah. I hope so.
FF: And so then when you came back from Saudi Arabia what ...
Rebecca Rockefeller: Well actually, one of the things that prompted me to come back was I had received a letter while I was there from a really good friend of mine whom Id gone to college with, who was actually a physics major. And hed been doing superconductor research. And he had started playing with Fimo and doing millefiore beads out of clay, out of Fimo. Its a weird sort of polymer clay from Germany. And he wrote me this letter and said Im starting this business. I know youd be incredible at it. I want you to come back early, and work for me, and help me run this business. And I was at a point there where I was getting really tired, and I thought, "Oh all right, Ill do it."
So I moved back, and he and his girlfriend and my husband Spike rented a house together in Seattle, and we set up this big sort of workshop in the basement where we would go down there all day and make little beads out of clay.
And youve probably seen a lot of teenagers wearing his beads. They have little cylindrical shapes, lots of little flowers, or like a little head and like Jimi Hendrix in the center or a little lion or a little mushroom. Its youth art.
And it was very plastic-y, and I didnt
like it at all. And I didnt like the low -- not just the low end aspect of it but
the sort of mass produced and non organic substance that smelled bad when youre
baking it in your oven. And it just -- it seemed slightly toxic to me.
So it was interesting to learn how to do it, and hes actually gone on to start a factory in China, and hes just been selling these things all over the world. Which is pretty interesting. But I got a little bit bored of doing the Fimo, and he had met my business partner Josh, who had met a man who was opening a craft gallery in downtown Seattle, who needed a manager.
And so he basically recommended me to this man, and I interviewed with him, and he hired me to run his crafts gallery, which also had a bead bar at the back; sort of like three bar stools and a wall of beads in shot glasses. And my job was to help people who came in design jewelry, using the beads that we had there, and putting it all together for them.
And I started doing that, and as the gallery
became more and more successful, we sort of phased the beads out, and I was making jewelry
that we sold through our cases, fine jewelry cases.
And it got to the point where I didnt have time to help people design their jewelry any more. I was doing all this paper work, and firing and hiring and all this stuff that I didnt like at all. And I hired a woman who had just moved to Seattle from Tucson, who is an amazing jewelry artist. And the two of us hit it off -- shes one of my best friends.
And we had worked there together for about a year, and wed got sent on a bead buying expedition by the owner of the store. He gave us twelve thousand dollars and sent us to the worlds largest bead show, and told us to just buy him beads. He didnt care what we got him.
And we were like, youve got to be kidding. Youre going to give us twelve thousand dollars and ...
FF: Youll never come back again.
Rebecca Rockefeller: I know. But it was the most fun Id ever had. It was so great to spend just that much money on beads.
FF: Isnt that nice, and its someone elses money.
Rebecca Rockefeller: Someone elses money. You know its not coming out of your checking account. But not a problem.
FF: What fun.
Rebecca Rockefeller: Then, while we were there,
we decided that we had just had it working for somebody else. We really wanted basically
to be in a position where we could do jewelry full time. So over a cheap bottle of tequila
we toasted our new business. We got back and quit our jobs with him, and started a jewelry
business. It was the most idiotic thing anyone could do. Everybody told us not to do it
and we did it anyway.
|Next, the birth of Five Dogs and a Hammer....|