When Drew and I left Los Angeles and drove across country (for the second time), we made our way west before heading south. I realize this makes absolutely zero geographical sense, however, it make perfect 'soul' sense. You see, Denver is home to, among other things, our Italian Family.-The Grazianos and we had been invited to spend ThanksGiving with them. While it wasn't exactly the most practical decision we could have made, we also knew that we could't say no to Mama Sharon.
So we packed our things and drove out of LA for the last time. 16 hours later we got into a 36 degree Denver just before midnight. Tired and cranky we pulled up to our friend Tinas apartment, unloaded our things, and fell asleep to the soothing sounds of a space heater. Little did we know we had stumbled into the secret world of a modern day maven.
We have known Tina for years. She is fun and funny, Italian (aka loud and full of life), and uniquely herself. She creates fine art that feels mystical- like seeing the fibers of a thought being pulled apart. And she is one hell of a cook. Before we lived with her that week I admired her work. I admired who she was as a woman and a creative. But after that week, I found myself enchanted and rather obsessed with her mind and motivation, her dedication and craft. If I had to sum her up in one sentence it would be this-
Christina Graziano solders like a mofo and then goes into the kitchen to make mind melting pho... it is obvious why I'm obsessed with her (and you probably should be too).
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?
My name is Tina, and I make all the things. I have a background in sculpture and fabrication. My goal in life is to make everything in my house by my own two hands. Currently I am focusing on jewelry and wooden home goods for my line Blade and Knoll. I love minimalism, v into abstract sculpture and impressionist paintings, repetitive architecture, natural instillations and plants. Did I also mention clothes? God I feel like this is the beginning to a beautiful tinder profile.
Do you feel living in Denver has influenced your design or process?
You know, I started my business here in Denver, so lots about this place has influenced my business decisions. Nothing really design wise, other than I really know my demographic here so I know what sells. Denver has a specific old style, and a new transplant style, and both are pretty clear to someone who has been here as long as I have. Process wise, everything. I was super lucky to meet a bunch of other amazing makers, artists, or small business owners here right away. We used to all hang out pot luck style and talk about art and business and shit. We called it “Art Church”. Continuously learn a lot from those guys. And every time I have the opportunity to go out into the woods, that always clams me down, lets me re-align, and gives me inspiration to work.
Favorite material to work with?
Metal. There are just so many types and forms, and so many options of processes to make something 3d out of it. It is just sooooo satisfying to me. It’s also a more flexible and forgiving compared to wood, and, its badass.
What entertainment medium inspires you the most? Film, music, literature?
I’d have to say Music. Not all, obviously, but music is very emotional to me. When I hear music that I really enjoy, it gives me this kind of inspirational energy.
What are you watching/reading/listening to right now?
Ha, my main thing right now is trying to learn Spanish. So the good old Rosetta Stone and similar podcasts. I figured while I’m spending a billion hours in production, I might as well learn something. Also my partner is v Mexican so there’s that. I am also making my way through Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins when I have a moment before bed if I am not too exhausted. And let’s be real, a lot of my time during production, Netfilx is on. Either some crazy show about Alaskans and their subsistence living in subzero temperatures, or some other stupid shit. I have also listened to the new Kendrick album about 20 times.
Who or what motivates you and your art?
Fashion definitely motivates my jewelry business. Every changing season gives me inspiration and energy. Now this might sound weird, but my work ethic in my jewelry business inspires my art. You know when you are producing everything by hand there is so much time that passes while you are running through production months. So when I have a moment to take a break, my mind is full of ideas that isn’t just a part of the assembly line, so I really have to just take those moments of opportunity and just get cranking.
I know you love to cook and spend some qt in the kitchen. What are you cooking these days? These days I’m trying to focus my cooking attentions on healthy paleo meals. I spent way to long not thinking about that kind of thing. So challenging myself to doing the Whole 30 or sticking to strict guidelines like that is easier for me than especially when I am so busy. But let’s be real. I’m 100% Sicilian, so I make a killer gnocchi. M lady loves and I are also trying to perfect a Bolognese recipe over much red wine.
What is your philosophy on work/life? Do you believe there can be a balance or does one seem to take over the other?
You know I haven’t found that balance yet. I definitely think I’m getting close, least I hope so after 4 years. I mean, the reason I do what I do, is because it makes me happy to create. I need to create. So having a very busy self-induced work schedule and being so productive, makes me happy. But I am a very introverted extrovert. I need a lot of time alone, but I also need quality time with my loves. I am starting to keep track of why I wanted to do this in the first place, and that is the actual physically design and production side. Anything else that really doesn’t fall into that category, I am trying to delegate.
Where do you see yourself in the next year? Personally or professionally-
I see myself getting more of my business side perfected. Delegating what I have too, making what I have too, and designing the things of my heart. I feel some sort of change coming along soon as far as my living/studio situation goes, but that’s a little abstract still to talk about.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Cigs and 40s and warehouse parties.
What little life luxury could you not live without?
My tools, my giant glorious bed, my electric face scrubber, sharp knives, toilet paper.
Favorite Denver haunts (for food, coffee, bevies, shops)?
Favorite coffee shop, Thump- its right across the street from my studio, so I am there almost every day. It’s quite literally the best coffee in Denver. It’s always crowded so it’s a very in and out place for me. If I’m going to meet someone for coffee, we go to Crema. Drinks – Tooeys on Colfax. Its v close to my house, its grungy and I love it. They play heavy metal or old school country, there is a pool table, big buck hunt, it feels like home. Or I go to Ft. Greene. Its kinda on the outskits, but it’s worth it. Eleonore the owner is a friend, so she always lets us put on funny parties there. It also has its own sense of style, not this bullshit that every new restaurant/bar/coffee shop in Denver tries to look like.
Food- I have two ridiculous cravings here in Denver. One - The breakfast burrito at Taco Del Mexico. Two - Spicy Chicken Ramen at Uncle in the Highlands. Mostly when I hang with my loves, we are always cooking.
Lastly. What life lesson do you live by?
Um, not to sound stupid but…
Work hard, Play hard.
Not my baby.
When Tina talks about 'production' she is being modest. The girl pushes out hundreds of hand made pieces a week and still keeps a smile on her face, it is incredible. To be fair I am bias, as a friend and fan of her work. But you can't argue with compliments- every time I wear my Blade and Knoll earrings or use my cutting board as a serving dish at a party everyone (and I do mean everyone) compliments them- the proof is in the pudding y'all, er the metal rather.
Want to get your hands on some hand crafted Blade and Knoll goodies? Go to instagram, follow along with me @kelseyzahn and @bladeandknoll, tag a friend in the comment section on our posts announcing the give away and cross your fingers for a chance to win a pair of Tinas amazing earrings. Can I get an amen!?
Tina, you know how I feel about you. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.
Sending you all love and light.