Artist in Residence: Margo Nathanson Introduces Her New Line UtopiaDryGoods

LOCZIdesign's longtime designer, Margo Nathanson has recently debuted her full line of jewelry and accessories as UtopiaDryGoods. Her jewelry has adorned many of us at the studio for months, so we spent one afternoon taking a peek inside her intimate thoughts on art, creativity, and the world she surrounds herself in. We are proud to feature Margo in our Artist In Residence series.

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UtopiaDryGoods | Margo Nathanson wearing her 36" double tassel in yellow
UtopiaDryGoods | Margo Nathanson wearing her 36" double tassel in yellow

As an interior design and painter, how has your path brought you to creating jewelry?

"I think that I’ve really always loved making things, and physically touching things — I am very much a tactile person in that way. It's very important for me to be able to create with little difficulty, and accessing the materials I use. As part of that, I found that my love of wanting to be a furniture designer was very time consuming and I had to sort of withdrawal from that. The money to invest was causing inaccess for me. So one day, I was on Ebay and found this old box of Italian leather couch upholstery samples. They had that sort of very ugly, very cheesy 80’s colors scheme and pattern and so naturally I bought that entire box for 20 dollars. As soon as they arrived, I got out my x-acto knife and instantly started making jewelry for about a year off and on. Later on I went to revisit it and began to feel like it this was something that I could actually do."

UtopiaDryGoods Look Book; featuring Yellow 'Big Cheese' Neckware
UtopiaDryGoods Look Book; featuring Yellow 'Big Cheese' Neckware
UtopiaDryGoods Bronze Pearl Natural Fringe Collar
UtopiaDryGoods Bronze Pearl Natural Fringe Collar

Where do you source your materials?

"My main goal was to source within the United States. There's a place in Napa called The Hide House that supplies leather to Hollywood and a lot of the Design Industry. The Hide House gets a lot of their materials from Italy, because Italy happens to have such a beautiful quality of leather. I did some research and found that the owner is very conscious of his resources and uses only responsibly produced leather. All the lambskin I use is by-product of the meat industry and they only deal with sustainably sourced materials."

You appear to be someone who is very refined about your taste, how do you see that play a role in the work that you create?

"I really love the simplicity, textures, colors and materials of what you often find in Native American wardrobes, African wardrobes and those of Equestrians — that's sort of where my love of tassels come from. I'm really affected by all these different ideas of what beauty is and how people express themselves themselves through beauty and fashion. I draw from all of those things and try to contain them in my pieces of jewelry."

UtopiaDryGood Look Book featuring yellow tassel thin cuff and black gem tassel earrings
UtopiaDryGood Look Book featuring yellow tassel thin cuff and black gem tassel earrings
UtopiaDryGood yellow tassel thin cuff
UtopiaDryGood yellow tassel thin cuff

What else inspires you on a daily basis?

I love the way women express themselves. Being out in my neighborhood and seeing all different types of women in really unique things, I can tell by looking at them that what they choose to wear is a direct reflection. That really inspires me and I truly really love that. Oakland especially makes me proud of the fact that a lot of my inspiration really come from there. The makers movement in the Bay Area is really exploding; I would check out SF Made and Oakland Makers, particularly. I feel like that's one of the main reasons why I committed to my passion. There are a lot of creative people who are trying to survive in the midst of the gentrification and trying to make beautiful things.

I've always found you to have a very classy, minimalistic approach to your way of being — almost like an ethos. Is that an accurate way to describe you?

I feel like simplicity and minimalism are definitely things that I am drawn to and I cannot think without them. So, to create something that goes against that sort of subtle and simple design, kind of goes against my sensibilities and the world that I feel comfortable in.

Within your process, what colors do you find yourself drawn to. Do you have a particular way of selecting what color is for which piece?

I feel like my life colors all follow the same format of what I make — beautiful neutrals with pops of dramatic colors. Since it's fall, I have a lot of neutrals with a couple pops of darker and more rich berry, teals, and yellow. I feel like we all need a little sunshine in the winter. But in the springtime, I feel like I'll probably add more playful colors like lilac, light blues and others that resemble flowers blooming. I find that shedding that layer of skin actually does make you feel a lot lighter, so the colors should reflect that. I don't just randomly pick colors because I think they go well with a line or a season. When I'm making something, I envision the person that I'm making it for; a friend or a family member that I feel would be affected by these colors. Color has such an effect on people. And as a designer, I think about color all the time, while painting my clients' walls, choosing their furnishings — all the time"

UtopiaDryGoods | Big Cheese Necklace in dark teal (left) Big Cheese necklace in Yellow and Fringe Benefits Color in Black
UtopiaDryGoods | Big Cheese Necklace in dark teal (left) Big Cheese necklace in Yellow and Fringe Benefits Color in Black
UtopiaDryGoods strand "bangle" in natural brown
UtopiaDryGoods strand "bangle" in natural brown

How would you describe your artistic and personal background?

"I've always, always, always loved design. I've always loved art. My grandmother, my mother and my father exposed me to art, architecture, design, and music from the day I was born. I was always encouraged to completely engage in art as much as I wanted. My mother who is a very logical person, also wanted me to have a career, like most parents do. I became aware that I had a lot of privilege with my upbringing and exposure to art and I took full advantage of it and dedicated my life to it. So I went to art school and really tried to be open to every culture and every class of people. I find that every culture on this planet inspires me, and without sounding too corny, I still always wish we could all live in harmony. That's why I called my line UtopiaDrygoods, maybe I'm a socialist at heart.

So you've chosen art as a way to be a part of the greater world. Do you think that you see art and your work as public art or wearable art?

Well, I'm glad you mentioned public art. I always have loved that in major cities, you can walk down the street, and I especially remember as a child being able to turn a corner and see an Alexander Calder sculpture around the corner. It touched my soul in a very special lasting way and I don't know why. But Storm King Sculpture Garden, if I had to choose a place to lay down and die — that's where it would be.

For more information on UtopiaDryGoods, how to purchase jewelry, accessories and when her upcoming trunk show is, visit UtopiaDryGoods.com