An Interview with Maria Tash
We know rocking multiple piercings is nothing new; however, Maria Tash has found a way to take this concept to a luxury level we can't help but connect with! We jumped at the opportunity to interview the legendary piercer and fine jewellery designer herself!
1. How did you discover your love of fine jewellery?
As a child I would rummage through my mother's jewelry box, and to her amusement, I would frequently walk around draped in multiple layered necklaces, and bracelets. My mother enrolled in an adult education jewelry class, and brought me when I was age 9, where I started hammering designs into bangle bracelets. I made more jewelry on my own, like double finger rings, and knitted a metal purse in my early teens. At about age 15, as I got into punk and goth music and culture, I developed a love of multiple ear piercings, and spent time in libraries researching historical references of elaborate piercings, like those of Indian/Pakistani weddings and certain African tribal pieces. I grew up in suburban Long Island in New York, and was very inspired and excited by street culture involving the goth/punk music scene of Manhattan in the 1980s as well as my first trip to London in the late 1980s. It was an exciting time in fashion and music culture. I began to mentally integrate the liberating mix of asymmetric fashion looks in the punk and goth scene with the best of historical jewelry references, which started me on my journey of developing my own style and creating something new in the piercing world.
I was and still am drawn to stones and beautiful construction of jewelry. I see jewelry components, like stones and mechanisms, admire them, think of how I could put them together, improve them, and make new wearable concepts for different parts of the body. Maria Tash is a new type of business that lies at the intersection of jewelry, fashion, and beauty and I am thrilled about it. It is very satisfying to see the ideas living in my brain come to life. I love the fun, joy, and empowerment that emanates from clients after being styled or pierced with my jewelry and curated concepts.
Fine Jewellery Designer Maria Tash
2. Your designs are renowned for their high quality workmanship and innovation. How did you hone your craft?
My background is a hybrid of self teaching, collaboration, and rigorous study. Piercing started organically from reading literature which led me to experiment and practice on myself and friends. After a couple of years advertising in local papers and piercing clients out of my NYC apartment, I decided to open my first store in the East Village of Manhattan called Venus Modern Body Arts. I then traveled to San Francisco to formally study under Fakir Musafar, one of the early Western pioneers of piercing. In the early 1990s, San Francisco was the hub for new and exciting piercing placements and techniques and I was glad to be a part of it. In addition to Fakir's classes, I worked at a prominent piercing studio in San Francisco flying back and forth from NYC regularly, and I learned other piercing techniques that were being developed independently by the best in the burgeoning piercing art scene. I always tended to view piercing as a form of beauty, and stressed beauty in both the placement, size, and jewelry design, as opposed to others that stressed tribal ritual, or S&M cultural affiliations.
One of the great advantages of being immersed in Manhattan meant I was able to attend fine jewelry conventions regularly and get to know vendors exhibiting from around the world. I was exposed to the best fine jewelry, beads, and loose stones at these conventions. I studied, took cues from classical pieces, components, and mechanisms, and as a result my own jewelry design style emerged.
I had jewelry concepts in my mind and there wasn’t a business out there that offered a combination of unusual piercing locations paired with beautiful jewelry designs, so I honed my craft through lot of experimenting, including both making things myself and surrounding myself with people who could turn my vision into life. It’s still evolving. I’m still evolving. I’m not done.
3. Can you talk us through your creative process? What inspires your work most?
Design is my favorite part of what I do, and a natural part of how I think and look at the world.
Sometimes I am inspired by a new innovation in the jewelry industry, like laser diamond drilling or a new alloy of gold resulting in a new metal color. I want to innovate new ways to hold diamonds/gemstones, or to think of how to cut a diamond in a way you have not seen before. I also like to think in reverse: 'How can I treat metal like a diamond?' Additionally, I want to find ways to wear or embed the new pieces I create in the body for an effect you have not seen before, and that can be worn continuously. I value the importance of comfort and continuous wear to my pieces, and also to the overall weight of a piece. They can't be too heavy. I am drawn to minimalism in modern architecture specifically with respect to flush set and recessed lighting techniques.
I was recently inspired by interior design and the way light emerges from a gap between a wall and moulding. That was the inspiration for my designs created for the new Tash piercings that emerge out of the folds of the Helix and under the Rook. Diamonds are the light and the curls of cartilage are the moulding. Combining that concept with movement and new piercing locations created an effect never seen before.
4. When you’re designing your collections, do you have a particular wearer in mind?
I am proud and pleased that many of my jewelry designs appeal to both genders equally. My stores do not separate product into men’s and women’s in separate cases which is often found in traditional jewelry stores. I am honored to have many people of all ages buying my pieces and getting pierced by my teams. We have a wide age demographic and I think the reason speaks to the long historical tradition, and the ageless and raceless universal motivations for decoration and expression through jewelry and piercing.
Maria Tash Fall/Winter Campaign
5. With global expansion, a cult following of celebrity clients (including Rihanna, Blake Lively, and Jennifer Lawrence to name a few!) what has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
I did not imagine all that has been accomplished today, both domestically and internationally. It is beyond exciting to expand into new cities, meet the people in these new cities, and work with my team to design stores with our now iconic jewelry brand themes reflected in the interior designs in these new countries and regions. I'm proud of my team, their agility, their resilience during the current climate, and excited for our expansion plans in the near future.
A Few Celebrity Clients in Maria Tash
6. Can you describe a day in the life of Maria Tash?
I usually wake up automatically around 7:30-8am unless I have been up very late the night before. Once I do get out and into the shower, I try to remember to think of what I am grateful for because I think it gives me a calmer demeanor in the midst of stressful meetings and decisions later in the day. If I have been proactive and planned what I wear the night before, which is efficient, then I have time to do a 12-minute arm workout video on YouTube before I get dressed, put on my makeup, and start getting on calls.
I get to the office around 11am and I work until late in the evening. I’ve always worked better in the later hours. I meet or have calls daily with leaders of each area of business and then spend a lot of time working closely with the design team.
I usually go for a walk at night in Manhattan when it is not so crowded to unwind and get that mild yet very healthy type of exercise during the weekdays. When I get home I take a shower, put on my silky pajamas, and watch about 30 minutes of a classic movie (especially of the 1930s-1940s). I make tea infused with herbs specially formulated by my acupuncturist, and put on La Mer neck and décolleté cream before I climb into bed. I stop looking at texts and calls before I start these pre-bedtime rituals, and go to sleep right around midnight.
7. What are your must-have pieces for those starting their own Curated Ear Collection?
The perfect Curated Ear is not tied to any one piece. I’m often inspired and impressed by the layering and combinations that happen in my stores due to the synergistic creativity between the stylists, clients and piercers. Part of the reason we have so many skus is so that every client can leave and feel they have a look that is unique to them and resonates with their own anatomy, style, and personal story. Great curation is impressive and memorable and there are many ways to achieve it. It can be several elements emerging out of uncommon areas of the ear with no emphasis on the lobes. It can be very well paired, and precisely angled earlobe piercings with rings whose diameters are so well fit the eye glides up the ear and showcases the best features of the wearer. It can be that the pieces of jewelry relate to each other in a story and utilize different planes of ear tissue to create the perception of a story plus distance perspective like different sizes of diamond stars and moons to create a depth similar to a deep space effect. The perfect Curated Ear is as varied and unique as our clients.
Every Curated Ear is personal and unique:
8. We’re dying to know! How do you style our own ear?
I enjoy wearing an opulent look every day. Typically, it’s a bold cascade hoop in my First Lobe balanced by asymmetrical dynamic pieces from the High Lobe to the Low Helix. On the left side, I love the comfort of wearing our smallest pavé set diamond rings in this often overlooked part of the ear, and have added marquise and pear diamond charms for eye-catching motion and extra shine. On the right, I tend to favor a vine trellis running up my right ear for continuous sparkle. The vines are my personal pieces, but I am working on developing them for stores globally. And then I wear my Floating Diamond Tassel in my Helix — these gleaming diamonds cascade from a pave eternity ring to create a waterfall of shine.
9. Do you have a message for your Ottawa clients? We’re so excited to start styling your designs with our community!
I’m thrilled to be reaching customers in Ottawa. As far as styling, I would say be brave and "do it!" There are no rules anymore and years of enjoyment lie ahead for personal decoration.
Shop our entire Maria Tash Collection!