Natasha Ghosn, Jewelry Designer, Mondo Mondo
We are majorly saying GAH to Mondo Mondo, the eclectic, sculptural and surreal jewelry line of ethereally creative Natasha Ghosn. Mondo Mondo, meaning "world world" in Italian, is the perfect title for this otherworldly wearable art. Trained by local artisans in Mexico, Natasha has expanded on her foundation of traditional craftsmanship to grow her collection in continually unexpected ways. Today Lisa Says Gah chats with this dreamboat at her quaint cottage nestled in the fragrant citrus trees and giant cacti of Angeleno Heights. Natasha has honed her craft and built her business by staying committed to authenticity. Read on to find out how. Enjoy!
LSG: You live in our idea of heaven. Tell us about your studio space, neighborhood and home.
Thank you, this is definitely the cutest place I've ever lived in. It's like a doll house! Right now my studio is the basement floor of a three-story back house I share with my boyfriend in Angeleno Heights. It's about 120 years old and all wood on the outside. We have a porch and a garden and a black cat named Maria. The whole experience reminds me of a Miyazaki movie. The neighborhood is changing a lot, and I wonder how long we will last here but, for now, I try to soak it in while the getting is good.
LSG: Can you walk us through your path? What kind of stops were on the way to where you are now? What initially drew you to jewelry design/making?
I grew up in Houston, Texas. I went to art school in Chicago then moved to New York and worked at Bess NYC for many years during which we opened a location in West Hollywood where I relocated to run the shop. They were known for heavily studded punk clothes, but their jewelry was off the chain beyond genius.
When I was in New York, I tried taking some jewelry classes, but I was frustrated by the slow pace of the classes and became discouraged. A few years later I found a gem of a jewelry school in Mexico where my mom lives so I would go down there for extended stays and take classes every day. I learned the basics of metalsmithing and was able to set up a bench at home in LA where I taught myself the rest of the way. Once I got into working with wax things opened up for me. Before I made jewelry, I would make these really intensely detailed drawings, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that that skill translated well to wax carving.
LSG: What inspired you to branch out independently and pioneer your brand?
It's something I had always wanted to do but would talk myself out of. I felt like a misfit in the art world, but it was easy to write off fashion as a frivolous and unintellectual. I think once I stopped being self-deprecating about it I was able to find the mediums that spoke to me because my heart was fully open to it. I always wanted a little world that was mine to explore. Mondo Mondo means "world world" in Italian. There's a cinematic ring to it. Movies are like little worlds.
Even though it's insanely hard work I'm so happy that I followed this path. I think we have entered a time where fashion is fascinating and free again. There's so much humor and poetry in it. I love it!
LSG: Your work is artful and daring while still being completely wearable. Who do you imagine wearing your designs? Do you have a muse(s) in mind?
I really appreciate that you feel that way. At the end of the day, practicality is so important to me which is why I didn't pursue an artist career. I feel really comfortable in the design world and find its parameters to be liberating.
As far as muses, I think about Joni Mitchell and Terence Mckenna a lot. John Cassevettes, Joseph Campbell, Bette Davis, Dick Cavett, Fran Lebowitz, Richard Brautigan. None of them are necessarily fashion people, but I think a lot about their modes of working and their dedication to authenticity and style.
LSG: Can you describe the feelings you want a wearer to experience in your work? What do you wish your pieces to evoke?
That's hard to say, I think it's more of a dialogue between the customer and I. It's really enlightening when someone tells me how it makes them feel.
LSG: How does your environment / community influence your art?
I actually have to turn inside and put blinders on when I'm deep in design mode. I spend a lot of alone time and oscillate between consuming tons of imagery or looking at nothing, just drawing and messing around with casting wax. With the perfume same thing, just a lot of intense smelling.
LSG: Do you work alone? If not, tell us about your team.
So far it's just me and my caster. Sometimes my boyfriend helps me when things get really backed up. This year I'm learning a lot about my work capacity and the importance of asking for help. I'm looking forward to growing my team in the near future and seeing what that could look like.
LSG: Materials obviously play a huge part in your line. Can you tell us about why you choose the ones you do? Silver, white bronze, mood stones...
Like I said I love practicality, so I'm always thinking about the weight of the piece, whether it would be comfortable to wear and affordable without skimping on quality. Shaina and I did the Phaedra earrings in white bronze because it doesn't weigh much and we wanted a silver tone without using plating. I love to incorporate color with synthetic glass stones and the acrylic mood stones.
LSG: Starting a business and working for yourself is scary, a lot of people talk about it but never do it. What do you think holds people back?
It's hard to say because it depends on what kind of business. For me, I was afraid of putting myself out there as the sole person responsible for the success or failure of my business. It's not cheap either; you need a lot of extra time to be creative and develop your ideas which means time not working at a job or getting paid. It's easy to talk yourself out of something because you think too many other people are already doing it -which is probably true, but if you love something and can stick with it, space will open up for you.
LSG: Describe the first year of going independent. What was your mantra to get through hurdles?
I put a lot of energy into developing my ideas and growing my skills for jewelry and perfume making. A lot of quiet time and soul searching. I was totally focused on proving that I could support myself through my art.
LSG: As a business owner, what advice would you share with someone interested in starting a company?
I still feel pretty green about being a business owner, but I'd say don't take enormous risks but do take small risks and try to learn the rules before you decide to break them. Or don't. I think there's an art to knowing when to be conservative and when to put all your cards on the table. I believe that's called intuition. It's really personal for everyone!
LSG: What are a few things you love that have nothing to do with making jewelry?
Smelling perfume, making perfume, watching old movies, the idea of reading.
INTERVIEWED BY OLIVIA LA ROCHE