Jennifer Floyd (far right) and Nicole Rueda Watts (far left) are two budding artists tending shop at the home design haven, Reside, located in the South End. But, behind the scenes the two are conjuring some of the intricate work that can be seen and worn in the shop at any given moment. True craftswoman and designers, their jewelry, bag, and shoe designs are shared conversations turned product collaboration. “What if!” and “oh definitely” statements poured from their mutual encouragement that I witnessed as they develop their independent styles, artistic brainstorm abounding. They also warmly invite other voices to join their brewing pursuits. For example, Ellie Mueller, owner of Oona’s walked in later to join in on conversation. Design meets “Coffee Talk” perhaps. I’ll give you a topic: Marc Jacobs meets Jeff Koons. Dis-guss…
With Nicole’s pieces, the collection known as “NYX” pronounced “Knicks”, conveys tribal and texture, while Jennifer’s pieces are abstract, sculptural with mixes of silver and copper. A bottle of wine, brie cheese, and candied walnuts, all three of us shared in a creative conversation that will leave you greatly anticipating their next artistic co-production.
Meggie: I usually start with the “where are you from” and “ how did you get interested” questions… so!
J: I’d say I’m from New York, originally from Concord. New York City has been the bulk of my life- 35 years. All over Manhattan – one of the Brooklyn pioneers when it was no man’s land. Nicole loves for me to mention Studio 54, way back when. New York is my home really.
M: Where did you go to school?
J: Well my sister, Janice – I have to show you something ... she is the most incredible – she went to Parsons. [She shows these sketches from Janice’s time at Parsons]
Nicole: I think we should print them. – look at this one it’s ‘Return of the Jedi’ chic!
J: So Janice went to Parsons and I went to F.I.T., I lived with her and learned the ropes. I got inspired all around. I was in the fashion industry, working for F.B.S,I was one of the first merchandisers with their catalogues. It was great travel and I was working with the first super models, styling Christie Brinkley. I stayed in the fashion industry for 10 years then took a left and got into music, catering, anything that inspired me.
We had two shops, one in the meat-packing district. It was a mixed vintage furniture store. We had a vintage clothing store, downstairs on Christopher Street right next to the first MAC make up. And because it was downstairs, Rupaul, all the drag queens would come. They loved the discreetness of it. I was zipping him up thinking, “if my father could see me now!”
Then we came to Boston. My husband, a singer was singing for Keith Richards to Sesame Street, to the “Jamaica, One Love” commercial had vocal chord issues. In and out of Mass General Hospital and also being originally from here, we decided to move back.
M: How long ago was it that you picked up designing your own collections?
J: I started taking silver-smithing back in 2008. I had a trunk show before I left New York and then once I was up here I had a trunk show. Then I met Nicole.
M: Do you miss New York?
J: I’ve been rediscovering Boston. Where do people shop? Nicole said, the South End. I think the South End is closest to Brooklyn. But, I do miss it. The way people are put together, the unpredictability around every corner.
But, Boston is perfect for this time in my life. I think we can make more of a statement here.
M: What about you Nicole?
J: I grew up in Hamilton. My mom [Pamela] opened Reside ten years ago.
M: She had always been into design?
N: She really reinvented her self, she worked in sales for a long time, traveled a lot with her company. She ended up heading their Latin America division in the 1990’s, going to Argentina a lot. But there was a drop of the eccentric. Growing up we always had artists living with us, and she was never an artist herself or never knew much about it but she just developed a passion for it. Which really just goes to show when you want to learn something, you can, at any age.
She was at a point in her life where she wanted to change. She was 50, I was 27. Someone came to her with a business proposition to open a furniture store. But within the year, she bought her partner out, took over Reside herself and she had her 60th birthday.
M: How did that inspire you?
N: We had always been a free- for- all family. Right after I graduated from high school I moved to Mexico to learn Spanish and we had family out there. It was interesting, I wanted to go to fashion design school and she would not back me on that. She said no to my ‘school girl dreams’. But I just took off to Mexico. My sister at 24, ran off and joined the circus, literally. She was in the Michael Jackson movie as a back up dancer, she’s in Cirque du Soleil. My father is in Mexico, retired, living on a ranch.
1. handmade silver rings by Jennifer 2. NYX and Jennifer's gold bangles together as my Christmas gift (!) 3. NYX rooster feather necklace
M: When did you start with the jewelry?
N: After living in Mexico I went down there a couple more times and did a silver- smith program. I would save up money over five months and go there in the winter and study under Billy King. People would come from all over the world to study with him. Returning I would always feel like I was part of the crew. This was in San Miguel.
M: And you would come back here?
N: I went to Mass Art. My sister also went there before she joined the circus – her artwork here is nothing compared to what she did later on. It’s so intense, funny, these dramatic works.
Jennifer: You should get more of her stuff here [at Reside]!
N: I know I should! You would lose your mind. You’d fall over.
M: This “NYX” – where did the name of this come from?
N: It’s pronounced “Knicks”- it’s my family pet name. It’s an intimate name for me.
M: You have a clear theme in your work – intricate yet loud and cultural. Why did you choose this style?
N: From the first piece of jewelry I ever made – I made this pattern, this filigree, oddly Byzantine- style silverwork. I always had this clear style, everyone usually knew , “that’s one of Nicole’s pieces”. It wasn’t intentional, it’s just what I do. I guess I’m lucky I had my own vocabulary. I knew from my first class too, that this was what I want to do.
M: Can you identify that feeling?
N: The way I can reference it was when people say “how I met my husband for the first time, I just knew”. I remember exhausting a lot of classes, then I took metal- smithing, and was like ‘cool, I got a game plan, just figured it out’.
I started investing and making a studio in my home . I’ve been making jewelry consistently for the last ten years.
M: How many pieces do you have?
N: Right now? I couldn’t begin to tell you. I sell to Topaz, Portabello Road, the Ruby Door on Charles Street.
M:I love both of your pieces by the way – the two of them together are so beautiful.
J: Ned knew you!
[The two conspired on my Christmas gift that I received from my boyfriend]
N: I think both of your styles compliment each other.
J: Who knew! It’s a great combo.
M: The tribal style, Nicole. Where did that come from?
N: I’m going through a phase right now – Boston I’ve been trying to please for a while. I would put things in stores and the managers would correct me – “this is what’s selling – we want them more like this…” Then you agree. I was caught up in pleasing others. We opened the South End store a year ago and for the first time I had my own storefront. Then all of a sudden I went bananas in a good way.
J: Considering it’s a furniture store, she has been doing really well.
N: Everything that I was oppressing trying to make Boston happen, was released.
Jennifer: And low and behold, it’s doing better than the furniture, considering the real estate it takes up!
N: I’m not upset at Boston, but I wasn’t being myself.
M: How would you describe Boston’s style?
Nicole: Conservative. I probably won’t make any fans saying this but I have always felt like a tourist here. I went to LA for a year and felt I lived there my whole life. People here, they’ll say to me “ooh you’re hands are going all over the place…’ Ya, that’s how I talk! Even the fact that it’s okay to mimic me… I was wearing one of my designs the other day and this woman comes up to me and says, ‘That is so incredibly brave of you’.
N: It was at my own jewelry party… I feel like I’m too rambunctious for this city. When I was in Los Angeles everyone was like, “That is awesome!”
J: I’ve just come to terms with Boston. Everyone here is very warm, friendly, not pretentious. It’s okay because people are willing to stay and talk. But with fashion, if people are going to be bold, they just really make a mistake [laughs].
N: I know there’s a younger crowd now in Boston that’s pulling it out. But for our older demographic, we seem like oddballs here.
Jennifer: Yes as soon as I met Ellie [ the owner of the Cambridge vintage shop, Oona’s], I said, ‘don’t leave!’. I want to know what’s going on around here.
N: If I lived in New York, I don’t know how crazy I would get and if this necklace I’m wearing would turn into a headpiece.
Meggie: Can I see some of your new pieces Nicole?
N: [Jokingly] No birds were damaged in my rooster feather pieces. I want to be responsible in my decisions. Rooster feathers are the most humane choice.
M: What other designers and people artists to you get inspiration from?
Jennifer: Inspiration comes even being in here at Reside. From the furniture, textures, these pieces from Africa. It comes from anywhere.
N: I didn’t even want to see other people’s jewelry when I first started. I wanted to see what came out of me authentically. But now, there are billions of people in the world, and I love getting a stack of magazines and devouring it. Moments of divine inspiration though come before they even become trends though – that’s why you’re a trendsetter. It’s not even like your trying, it’s like “You know what I’d really like to see? Well, I’m gonna make it because I’d like to see it!”
Jennifer: It’s an emotion that you picked up and need to create.
M: What are your favorite places or people here that you get your release here in the city?
Jennifer: I’ll answer first – I’d say Reside again, it’s pathetic that I don’t get out much, but the cross section of people that come in have allowed me to get a handle on Boston from here to Cambridge.
M: How did you find Pamela?
J: My sister was working for Pamela. I love bouncing back and forth and been very satisfied meeting people and sharing with people what they love about this place.
Nicole: Well for me – I like being on Newbury Street in the summertime and watching people. Little shop owners and people like Tracy Weiss from Ruby Road. Also, spending time on Martha’s Vineyard, a lot of my summers were spent down there.
Meggie: And now you’ll both be working together…
J: I think the premise of working together, sharing links, sharing inspiration it’s the only way to go when pursuing creative endeavors.
N: Yes, I would love to one day even do a website that is a curated boutique of Boston Indie artists.
M: Ideally what would you like to happen with your collaboration?
N: I think we’d like to make a living off our art, people liked it, were wearing it. I’d love to live the “follow what you love and the money will follow”.
J: I’d love to know that I have my day wide open to focus on what I love doing. The collaboration, sharing in the joy, to have that together would be wonderful….
[ Ellie – the owner of Oona’s walks in the door ]
M: Hey Ellie!
Conversation continued into the night. I arrived there at 7:30PM and didn’t leave till 10:00PM. New projects from the two are in the works and you’ll have to visit the place to see just exactly what’s in store.