Tell us a bit about yourself (name, location, affiliations, personal stuff).
My name is Ami Nyitray. I’ve been a very visual and artistic from the moment I opened my eyes. (My husband sometimes jokes that I’m a life support system for a pair of eyes.) Art school seemed like a natural choice, so I earned a BFA in printmaking from Maryland Institute, College of Art. I love printmaking; but luckily I had the foresight to take enough graphic design classes to land a “real job” when I finished school (meaning not as much fun, but pays the bills). I worked as an Art Director at several design shops & advertising agencies in Manhattan, specialising in website design. After my son, Spencer, was born in October 2003, I made the difficult transition to full-time stay at home mom, and have been one ever since. After a couple of years of mothering (and cooking and cleaning and laundry), I found myself in dire need of a creative outlet; and in March of 2006, I made my first piece of jewelry.
And most recently, after living in major metropolitan cities for all of my adult life (Manhattan and London), I have just made my first foray into the ‘burbs (Stamford, CT, as of 7/2!). I fear it will take a lot of getting used to… The silence can be deafening!
What is the first thing you can remember making by hand? How and why did you make it?
As a child, I used to glue googly eyes on everything. It was magical to me – all I had to do was glue a pair of eyes on some object, and suddenly it had a soul.
I also used to draw rows and rows of tiny circles when I was very young, filling whole pages (I don’t actually remember doing it, but my mother has shown them to me). Speaks volumes about my personality!
What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
I am really inspired by Jan Svankmajer. I remember the first time I saw his version of Alice in Wonderland, I almost fell out of my seat! I just couldn’t believe that someone else in the world shared (almost precisely!) my bizarre aesthetic – crusty, creepy, patined… We must be soul mates!
I am also a fan of Nick Bantock’s work. And of Kurt Schwitters, for the way he took mundane scraps of everyday ephemera and made such stunning collages…
I’ve also always been fascinated with the Victorians and their compulsive tendency to collect and classify everything. I share their love of taxonomy, and their habit of creating mounted, pickled and taxidermied “collections”.
But most of all, I am inspired by the look and feel of the ephemera itself!
What are your favorite materials?
Paper, mostly. Especially intaglio printed. I love things that have been printed on letterpresses or from etched plates, where you can actually detect ridges & indentations… And stamps. I just love the way cancelled stamps look – tiny detailed portraits of dignitaries, delicately etched in jewel-like colors… then post-marked with heavy black lines, letters & numbers; creating interesting layers of texture & pattern… And old photographs – I love to speculate about what the grey, grainy people in them were actually like… And letters – little windows into people from bygone eras’ lives. I especially love the smell and the texture of crumbling brittle paper, and the beautiful curling handwriting (a lost art!)… And also dried or preserved “specimens” (sea creatures, shells, bones, plants, insects…), reminiscent of some great uncle’s bug collection discovered in the attic… I also love old porcelain with cracked glaze; but I haven’t figured out how to make jewelry out of it yet….
What is your favorite color?
Very boring: brown or taupe. (Although I have a secret fondness for red, moss green and sometimes turquoise; but only in very small doses.)
Any tips on selling handmade stuff?
Well, not really. I could probably use some, actually! I just sort of fell into this by accident as a by-product of my creative urges, and have been surprised by the response I’ve gotten so far!
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
As I mentioned, I am a full-time stay at home mother of a 2 & 1/2 year old. It is a very demanding job, and doesn’t leave much time for anything else! But of course it is very rewarding. Spencer is an awesome little person – he surprises and delights me every day!