100 Creatives

Phoenix Jeweler Alex Ozers of From the Reliquary on Choosing Aesthetics Over Narrative

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 70. Alex Ozers.

Alex Ozers pursued painting, but found metals.

It was while studying the former at Arizona State University that he took a metal sculpture class that changed the course of the Apache Junction-raised artist's career. "With painting, it felt like I had a responsibility to really say something, like philosophical or whatever," Ozers says. "Jewelry is really more concentrated on aesthetics than narrative, and I enjoy that."

Now 32 and based in Phoenix, he's the creative force behind jewelry company From the Reliquary, making wearable art that melds minimal and statement-making styles. Brass and copper pair off for dangling earrings, their hammered texture adding visual interest and color distinctly desert inspired. Stones such as amethyst dot draping necklaces, and domed sterling silver stretches like a shield.

"It’s all about surface and making a piece look worn," Ozers says. "Between selectively applied texture and different patinas, I’m really trying to simulate time."

As his work reflects the passing of time, the artist is working to plot better how and when he crafts and releases his work, available in Valley boutiques including Frances, GROWop, and Moonage Tempe. "This isn’t a joke, but I’ve recently been getting into planning my production with lists rather than just making whatever I feel like, and it’s helped a lot," he says. "Which is to say that being a good craftsperson has nothing at all to do with knowing how to run a business."

Which means Ozers is working to stay ahead in hopes of giving himself enough time to experiment with new ideas — precisely what his fans want — and, he says, to take "lots of breaks to get mad about stuff on the internet."

Phoenix Flea is next on the agenda. Ozers will set up shop at the market, set for August 6. No doubt the jeweler will keep his Instagram followers abreast of his offerings (his handle is @aozers) — and, of course, pictures of his dog, who comes up when the creative contemplates his greatest accomplishment thus far. 

"I snuck my dog onto an airplane so she didn’t have to ride underneath with the luggage; we’re both pretty happy about that," he says. "I know that’s not an art thing, but I really like my dog."

I came to Phoenix with a bad attitude. I moved into a live/work gallery space and I was making these really aggressive paintings that were kind of a dare, as in I dare you to try and hang this above a couch in a tasteful living room. It didn’t really work out, but I got some laughs out of it.

I make art because the unidentifiable existential forces compel me to? I don’t know how to answer that question. Sometimes when people look at art and design they think, ‘I could do that.’ I’ve always had a similar experience, but rather than a judgment, it’s been a call to arms. I think, ‘I can do that!’ And then I try.

I'm most productive when the seasons change, not in a kooky Burning Man way or anything. It’s just that when your entire environment is changing around you, it’s easy to want to join in on trying something new too. Except not summer. Never summer.

My inspiration wall is full of distinct images. I’m most inspired by ideas that are really far outside of the visual vernacular. My jewelry line is very wearable, but, what I hope, is that it’s having more of a debate with the style of the moment than just a conversation.

I've learned most from listening to how creative people in non-visual mediums think and create. That Marc Maron podcast where he interviews comedians has some of the most sophisticated conversations about craftsmanship in the abstract.

Good work should always simultaneously challenge and flatter its audience. Your viewer should always feel like they’re in on something special, but they should have to work for it a little, participate.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more self-criticism. Maybe. I don’t know. I think Phoenix is very good at inspiring people to begin a creative lifestyle, which is great. But I’m not sure that there’s a high enough expectation for people to hone, fine-tune, and develop their practice.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen