THE COOLEST GIRLS WE KNOW: SAMANTHA JO of OZMA AUTONOMY
The first person I thought of when I thought to create this segment of our blog was Sam, a young, creative, intelligent, world traveling, beautiful, badass babe. Not only an amazing jewelry designer, Sam has traveled through America and Europe, started her own company OZMA Autonomy, and has learned to overcome life's struggles in a way that is all her own. I had the fortune of working with Sam last summer, as well as an awesome crew she lassoed up for a lookbook shoot of some of her latest jewelry designs and vintage finds she sells on her site ozmaautonomy.com as well as on her etsy. The experience was awesome and I felt like Sam was someone whose drive really inspired mine. She worked hard, did what she loved, and committed to it. How cool is that?
I asked Sam some questions about how she got to be so awesome. Her answers made me feel inspired, motivated, and like life truly has a lot to offer when you make an effort to learn from your past and move forward with great intention!
MM: How do you find your Joi de Vivre? What are some things you do creatively, recreationally, or in your career that make you see your true love of life?
SAM: Hmm, some days that's a really hard thing for me to find. I felt very free my last days of high school and some where between then and now I felt like I lost a part of myself, only now do I feel closer to what I felt like then. Traveling and working on my own schedule have been two things that have sustained happiness in my life. Growing up an only child left me to my own devices, which was the foundation for creating my brand. It's about being creative when you have nothing left, I would make up stories as well as anything I could build/make in my alone time. The things I did alone are what helped me find joy when no one was around and when there were people, I showed them what I had done in that time which brought the satisfaction full circle.
At this time traveling and being able to really understand more about the history of our country has inspired me. There's so much out there to learn about the world, its had to explain this in a brief statement yet I do feel like living in the east coast (or one place) limited my resources and mental state.
When making jewelry I take this literal stance with it, as if I were a college student and a professor gave me some strict guidelines to a project. There's a lot of heartfelt meaning in the work I make. For instance my first full line of jewelry was inspired by a necklace I had made of tons of hand carved ivory beads in the shape of elephants. All I care about is that I'm doing something I love and I'm doing it the honest way. I found love in this series by exposing the nasty trade behind ivory and turning it into something beautiful.
MM: What were the first movies, books, images, and/or pieces of art you saw that truly inspired your creative instincts? Did you have any icons that drove you to create your own path?
S: Wow! What a trip, some of these things/people still resonate in my life. When I was like… 8 I loved Hanson… I know embarrassing! But I also loved the Monkees. My dad played them for me and he also played T.rex. Marc Bolan is one of the most inspiring to me, he played with Bowie, and helped book shows for The Damned which happen to be one of my favorite punk bands ever. I remember hearing the song "Fame" on tv when I was young, asking my mom who sang it, and her being really confused. I fell in love with The Clash and although I wasn't interested in their history too much, they're lyrics made me feel like I had reassurance in some of the feelings I felt. My love for 80's punk music drove me towards the movie SLC Punk, I also loved Empire Records, Labyrinth, and the Lost Boys. I guess these sounds and images paved the way for the stories I wanted to tell in my photographs. The Lost Boys was always this wild movie where I wanted to be like the characters in it- when I first got to California I realized 'Holy shit, these characters are real'
After all the media sunk into my mind I was able to start exploring fine artists. I used to adore Diane Arbus, Gustave Klimt, Mucha, and Egon Schiele. Shortly after I realized how fucked up some of these artist were and forgot about them for awhile. When I got into jewelry design I remembered how much I loved Mucha and thought 'wouldn't that be awesome if he made jewelry?' well thats when I discovered Lalique. Because of all these artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, and general nut case friends I had- I realized I just needed to be taking my own path and it was fine. I think my friends inspired me the most, they were the real rockstars.
MM: How did your family and upbringing prepare you for your future path?
S: This question hits hard, its Feb. 22nd 2015- I just got back to California after living in a van for six months with my partner, this was the longest I had been out of the east coast my whole life. I went back east to move out of an apartment I had for almost three years in Brooklyn and stayed with my parents most of the two week trip. In that time I put a lot of pieces together.
My parents did a great job of raising me and thankfully always accepted my choices. They're a strange pair, liberal rednecks would best describe them in a short phrase. My mom always had patience and my dad and I always had a temper, she held it together for both of us. My parents had also been together since they were 16 and 17, married under common law. It is amazing that they lasted together but this also created some strange fairy tale in my mind that everything was perfect. They were inseparable. Both sides of my family are Penna Dutch and have a lot of strange habits. In some ways my family set me up for disaster by keeping me sheltered and other ways this made me very unique. I was often naive about the things I went into and I went into almost everything head first. This made me learn everything the hard way. I didn't know when to keep my mouth shut, often was too honest, and got caught quickly if I were lying- which was probably for the best.
On top of being raised by a bunch of old timey kooks I also felt unrelatable to them at times. This goes back to what I sad about finding joy in life. I love/hated being alone and did the best I could with that time to create. So all in all when I felt lonely I made something with that time. I guess they set me up for a strange mix of codependency and independence. The independence allowed me to do nothing but create a world for myself and the codependency allowed me to be with my partner. Its been a bumpy road but somehow everything I wanted came together. I really believe that I called out to the universe for answers/solutions and it gave it back to me. They call that magic!
MM: What outfit do you feel your best in?
S: Every six months to a year I rediscover a new favorite outfit, usually its vintage shorts and a little top or a short dress, even a favorite coat that I wear with everything. When I was 21 and first moved to NYC I found my favorite 1970's halter top, white gauze material, and embroidered flowers at the bottom. This is probably one of my favorite things to wear as well as this cross back green mini dress from the 90's. I've had it since I was 19 and I'm never giving it up!
When I'm around friends these choices are the best, but after years of street harassers and abrasive people hitting on me I decided to tone it down. The first day I wore that damn halter top a mexican man circled me on his bike at a bus stop and said "How much Puta?" And I spat at the jerk. I like to wear what I want for myself but at the same time I couldn't get by in life lecturing everyone that made me feel uncomfortable for those choices. Props everyone who still dresses sexy!
MM: What advice would you give a young aspiring creative person?
S: I'm going to make this look like a how to, everything is already so complicated I don't think advice should be.
- Do what you want to do! Don't gauge your happiness by comparing yourself to anyone, gauge it by comparing it to where you used to be and where you have gotten.
- Be honest, be really honest, but don't tell everyone too much.
- Feel people out before you give them your all.
- Friends are going to come and go. Quality over quantity- this goes for everything down to what you own, the work you're producing, and your friends!
- Look for the good things in any situation, look for good things when you think something bad has happened- it's another learning experience and life will keep throwing you for loops.
- Its all about how you handle it and yourself.
- The notion that every good artist must experience pain is true, but that doesn't mean it needs to last.
MM: What is something important you’ve learned from a setback?
S: How to not screw it up the next time around! I've learned that I am capable of a lot of things I've been turned down for, especially jobs. I've been paid way less for jobs that I should have been paid way more for and in return stopped caring about whatever job it was at the time ow was stressed that I couldn't make ends meet, then that made me look bad. I learned that the only way I was going to get anywhere in life is if I work hard for ME, even if that meant making gyros in Palmer mall was awful for a summer but all the money I saved was for me and my aspirations. Everything is temporary.
"The road don't go forever, so ride it while it lasts."
MM: What is your biggest motivation?
S: I suppose my biggest motivation is wanting unity, bettering the world around us as a whole and also just having the satisfaction of creating something to show the world. We all need to be role models at a point and set standards. This place is a domino effect and it we want something to change we have to be the change, we have to start the trends, and we need to support each other.
Thank you Sam for answering, and enlightening us on your amazing journey!! Not even going to lie when I say reading this made me tear up and absolutely made me want to keep giving it my all!! You are a beautiful rock star!! Don't forget to check out Sam's awesome website and learn more about the story behind every piece!!