The Mystery of Objects
Eric Silva starts each day surfing, whether the waves are Southern California perfect or the ocean is rough and unwelcoming. He may take one or two of his four sons and often meets his friends at the beach. Despite the company, surfing for him is a solitary endeavor. It engages him completely and relieves the pressures generated by owning his own business. He proclaims, “It’s my joy!”
After returning home he steps out of his door to the detached garage that has been his studio for the past eighteen or so years. One of his assistants begins work before he arrives, skillfully assembling components of his production jewelry. Preferring to create in solitude, Silva often just helps her organize supplies and oversees progress, then returns later in the day or at night to design new works or carve elements that will be incorporated into one-of-a-kind creations.
The “cluttered organized” studio, in Whittier, outside of Los Angeles, is filled with tools and raw materials, thrift store acquisitions and oversized tables. The central maple table is about five by six feet and is where he and his assistants work, with their pliers, stones and wire accessible in the middle. His jewelers bench, an oak table, and a steel cabinet table are special—his great-grandfather Joe made the steel one, and his maternal grandfather, Joe’s son, “Little Charlie,” made the first two. He says of Little Charlie, “He always gave me anything I needed to make a shop. I always had a helper.” Silva keeps beads in antique wooden machinists chests and jewelry is organized in an old card catalog. A little hallway houses grinding tools for cutting gems, and additional areas outside are home to his anvil and blacksmith materials. He describes the spaces as “my little world.”
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Ashley Callahan is an independent scholar and curator in Athens, Georgia, with a specialty in modern and contemporary American decorative arts. She has written books and curated exhibitions on sisters Ilonka and Mariska Karasz, Hungarian-born modern designers based in New York, and Henry Eugene Thomas, a Colonial Revival furniture craftsman from Athens. Her book Southern Tufts: The Regional Origins and National Craze for Chenille Fashion will be published by the University of Georgia Press in December. She met with Eric Silva when he attended the American Craft Council show in Atlanta and appreciated his willingness to speak with her about his work, art, surfing, thrifting, and the craft world.