Tiny Armour, Big Impact
El Segundo-based artist and jeweler Angi Quincy, founder of Tiny Armour, creates unique, minimalist pieces for a variety of budgets.
Interview by Maureen Kingsley
The Scene: Where were you born and raised, and when did you arrive in El Segundo?
Angi: I was born in Detroit, where I spent the first 11 years of my life. I then moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, a ski town in the Rocky Mountains. I’m a city girl with a deep-rooted connection to nature. I went to college at Colorado U. in Boulder, where I got a degree in Film Production, then moved to Los Angeles in 1997 to work in film and animation. I discovered El Segundo in 2007 after living all over LA, and I decided this was the perfect town in which to raise my kids. We moved here in 2008 and still love it!
When did you first take an interest in jewelry design and jewelry making, and how did you learn the craft?
I first became interested in jewelry design through one of my best friends during college who is a metalsmith. She showed me the basic tools and how pieces are made by hand. Later, when I was living in LA, I was looking for another creative outlet and found a metalsmithing workshop out of an old Craftsman home studio in Echo Park. I learned all the basics of silversmithing there, and then took a few other workshops over the years at different studios. I would say I’m mostly self-taught through trial and error. Nothing teaches you the craft more than just putting in the time to practice and master the basic skills of sawing and soldering metal.
When did you launch your Tiny Armour brand? How did you arrive at the name “Tiny Armour”?
Tiny Armour was officially launched in 2003. Before that I had been making beaded pieces, which started selling well in local shops, so I branched out into making my own original designs in metal. This is when I started doing more traditional jewelry production by carving my designs in wax, and then making molds and casting them in silver and gold.
I came up with the name Tiny Armour by thinking about what my jewelry really was at heart. Jewelry is a reflection of personal style, but it can also feel like a form of protection. It can be very sentimental as it’s often given as a gift to mark a special occasion, or handed down as a family heirloom. I wanted to make pieces that felt fresh and modern, but that also feel like the piece you want to wear everyday. Something that feels like your own talisman of protection.
How would you characterize your Tiny Armour line of jewelry? From what do you take inspiration when designing your pieces?
The Tiny Armour brand is a fresh take on modern minimal design. I strive to make pieces that are unique yet maintain a quality of timeless design. I want my pieces to be something you can wear with anything, day to night. Some dominant themes that inspire my collections are the textures and shapes found in nature, architecture/furniture design, fine art, and music. I am very drawn to modern art, and I think of my jewelry as tiny modern sculptures in wearable form.
What do the processes of jewelry design and production involve? What are some of the essential steps?
The process of jewelry design/production is different for each designer depending on whether they want to craft pieces by hand or do large-scale production. I do a combination of both. I have a backyard studio where I design and fabricate the prototypes for all of my pieces. I then take them to a manufacturer in downtown Los Angeles to have them cast and make molds. When I start a new collection I’m usually struck by a specific theme or image that’s been cycling in my head. With each collection I fill sketchbooks with general shapes and write notes about the story behind it. I gather visual inspiration to make a mood board of colors, textures, and shapes that represent the feeling I’m going for. Usually things start to take shape when I get in my studio and just start messing around with the stones and metal. Sometimes I will start by sketching a piece and cutting it out of flat metal, and other times I start by carving wax so I can get more organic detail in a design. Then I take the final pieces to a production facility where they cast them in metal and do some of the finishing work of polishing and stone-setting for me. It is important for me to design pieces that last rather than to take part in the fast-fashion culture of seasonal collections and excessive production. I try to use sustainable production methods by sourcing local supplies and using recycled metals. Recently, I have been experimenting more with designing my pieces on the computer, then working with a CAD designer to translate them into 3D-printed waxes that I then cast in metal. This has been a great way to make more technically accurate designs and allows for more graphic-inspired pieces. I would say this is the industry standard for doing large-scale jewelry production as well.
Do other forms of art inform your jewelry-making process? Are there similarities to making sculpture, for instance, or to other types of fine art?
Sculpture and painting both inform my design process. I would probably consider myself more of an “artist” than a “jeweler” by definition. I have always thought of the pieces more in terms of sculpture than jewelry. I think that stems from my love of modern art and minimalism. I love the challenge of boiling down a design to its most basic form while maintaining the overall mood and shape. I am endlessly fascinated by arranging colorful stones and metal shapes. Color, balance, harmony, and structure. I would say it’s a lot like painting and sculpture, but what makes it jewelry is how it interacts with the body and the person wearing it.
What are some of your customers’ favorite pieces that you make?
I have two types of clients that buy my jewelry. The majority of them purchase my fine jewelry pieces made from 14-karat gold with fine gemstones because I can offer them at a much lower price point than retail shops by selling directly from my website. My gold stacking rings with baguette-cut emeralds and diamonds, and my classic black-diamond stud earrings are two best sellers. Then there are the modern-art lovers and fashion-forward crowd that want my more unique designs, which are often fabricated in more affordable metals like brass and silver. All of my pieces work well together because of their simplicity, which makes them great for layering and stacking.
What is the best way to shop for your jewelry, for readers who are interested?
The best way to shop for my jewelry is through my website and my Etsy shop. I also take commissions from clients that want something custom that is in line with my brand style. If you have something specific in mind you may reach me through my website and social media channels. Thanks for letting me share my process with you!
This interview appears in the May 2020 issue of The El Segundo Scene.