Christie Calaycay perches on a stool in her shared studio at Pink Dog Creative in the River Arts District. There’s an ease in her movement as she leans forward to talk, a sense of cheer, even as she pauses to speak with care and precision about her work. Her well-worn, full workbench greets visitors at the door of the studio, where she shares space with two other artists. “I love it here. I used to have a workshop space in my home. I got a ton done, but I had no separation … it’s nice to be able to come and create and feel everyone’s creative energy.”
You know a Calaycay piece when you see it — rustic but refined lines, modern but inspired by deep tradition, industrial yet steeped in nature, simple yet full of texture and movement. Calaycay effortlessly marries these opposites. “I love to do this because I could never find the jewelry I wanted to wear,” she explains. “So I’m always making what I want to wear. I like that mechanical, industrial look, but I also like it to be a little bit more delicate.”
A longtime Western North Carolinian, Calaycay draws on her years studying Appalachia while in graduate school, as well as her family’s deep history in the Philippines, since she is a first-generation Filipino-American. Many pieces are deeply rooted in the natural world, whether they celebrate the sea oats of her native coastal Florida, the ferns at Pink Beds in Pisgah National Forest, or details of Asian architecture. “I really love small details that make you look at a piece more closely,” she says.
The earrings Calaycay wears look a bit like pods, luminous beaten silver ovals curving to cradle a freshwater pearl. From her collection celebrating her heritage, they are actually inspired by Balangay boats — the oldest watercraft found in the Philippines. Her pendants embrace the curve of a light bulb, or a stack of hand-beaten bowls.
Asked about her future work, Calaycay pauses; true to her academic roots, she is still in the research stage, which for her comes long before sitting down at her bench. She’s exploring a possible collaboration based on the five senses. For taste, she envisions “crazy utensils that have nice stonework.” She’s also thinking about how to celebrate the work of traditional folk artists in a nonliteral way, inspired by the textures spun by fiber artists and the tools that inhabit blacksmiths’ shops.
She waxes poetic about her collection of hammers. “I always loved documenting blacksmiths and woodworkers — I found their whole process fascinating. When I was little, I would take apart clocks and radios and see if I could put them back together.”
Christie Calaycay, Calaycay Design, Pink Dog Creative (344 Depot St., Studio 100, River Arts District, pinkdog-creative.com).The artist also sells work at The Jeweler’s Workbench (80 North Main St., Waynesville, thejwbench.com); Blu29 Denim & Decor (146 South Church St., Asheville; blu29.com); Asheville Art Museum (ashevilleart.org); Uncommon Goods (uncommongoods.com), Etsy, and her own website: calaycaydesign.com. Look for pieces by Calaycay at the upcoming Art Affair auction for Open Doors Asheville on Saturday, March 9.