PICTURED: Artist Elaine Unzicker with her Authentic Metal Lace™ apparel, made from chain mail. Photo by Kristan Altimus

by Emily Dodi

“What you do matters. What you don’t do matters,” says Elaine Unzicker, the award-winning Ojai-based artist known for her intricate, wearable works of metal art. Unzicker’s work has been featured in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and on fashion show runways. 

“I think art can help in small ways”

 Deeply rooted in feminine energy and often inspired by feminine mythology, Unzicker’s work is celebrated for its embodiment of strength and beauty.

She harnessed that strength and beauty to do something positive in the wake of the Thomas Fire. Unzicker created EarthHeart, a “pendant for the Earth.” 

“EarthHeart came about when I pondered what it meant to potentially lose my home,” Unzicker wrote on her website. “Resolving to be passionate about my life in every moment, I created EarthHeart as a way to give back to the earth.” The hand-colored copper and sterling pendant represents a flame coming out of a heart, which, on its side, evokes mountains.

Unzicker launched a Kickstarter campaign that enabled her to purchase the equipment needed to make the pendant. She is now at work hand-making pieces for the donors to the campaign. A portion of the proceeds from EarthHeart sales will go to climate change initiatives and Unzicker has pledged half of her profits to the Climate Museum in New York City. You can follow the story at a special page on her website, unzickerdesign.com/earthheart/.

The Unzicker EarthHeart pendant. Photo by Deborah Lyon

Recently, Unzicker has also been giving thought to what she can do in the face of the COVID-19 quarantine. “I think art can help in small ways. If there’s some way I can help along the path …” When it came to deciding what to do, Unzicker naturally trusted her instincts.  

“I’m a very intuitive person. … and my intuition said to make 30 objects.” 

The idea was inspired by the common assumption that the quarantine would last a month. Unzicker, however, didn’t give herself a tight window of a month to complete all 30 objects — that would have cramped her creative process and gone against the spirit of the project. 

“I see them as offerings,” Unzicker says of the 30 objects. While her pieces regularly fetch upwards of a few hundred dollars or more, Unzicker has priced each item from the 30 Objects From the Heart collection at $50. They are “a gift from me,” she says. These days, “we are all needing stuff from the heart.” To date, the collection features necklaces, earrings, bracelets and headbands, each created in Unzicker’s signature style of making metal look and feel almost fluid. 

Unzicker announced the collection on her site with the message, “I’m going on a journey, come along!” 

No longer hiding

In addition to creating exquisite pieces of adornment, the journey has led Unzicker to turn to another craft: writing, which she shares through her newsletter and blog.  

“Writing is so powerful and creative,” Unzicker notes. “I’ve been excavating parts of myself and putting it on paper. Since COVID-19, I’ve been writing more about feelings. Most of it is positive. Some of it is raw.” 

Unzicker says that she has become more comfortable with sharing words to go with her artwork. 

“I’m moving to a place where more of who I am is coming out.” Unzicker adds that, for everyone, it’s no longer a good idea to hide. It’s time, she says, “to show more and more of what’s beautiful inside of us. We need that strength now.”

Unzicker recently wrote, “Musing about connection, I immediately go to my metal made up of interconnected rings. Each ring interlocks with four others which gives movement to the whole. If one ring breaks, a new pattern is created. Oddly, we’re in a place of a new pattern forming. One with invisible interlocking rings to join us. We can’t tell what the rings will look like or how we’ll all fit together, but we are definitely transforming …”

 As Unzicker uses this extraordinary time to do something meaningful, creating beautiful objects, made with love and built to last, it’s not too much to hope that we can do something that matters, too. Even if it is only to see the beauty and strength in ourselves and each other. 

For more information on Elaine Unzicker and her art, call 805-669-6204 or visit unzickerdesign.com.