The three neckpieces that were on display at the Loom in Bushwick, could best be described as part jewelry, part sculpture and all unconventional. Designed by Haitian-American artist, Joanne Petit-Frere, these neckpieces, part of the Comotroovaysa series, were made to stand out. In that sense both artwork and artist are alike, as Petit-Frere opts to not blend in.
“As a freshman, I was just trying to prove myself through crazy wardrobe,” said Petit-Frere, who attended F.I.T. for two years. “I gotta be eccentric and crazy with colors and prints.”
During her internship at Ralph Lauren’s Women Collection, Petit-Frere toned down some of the crazy colors and prints, but held on to the eccentricity, evident in her artwork today.
It took losing her job to give Petit-Frere the push she needed to strike out on her own. She’d already created a jewelry piece called Baby, and had received compliments on it.
“Why not?” she said. “I enjoy putting myself in accessories, so why not make my own.”
Comotroovaysa was born in the last months of 2009. The name, a slang derived from a French phrase, means “how did you find that?” A fitting name since the raw materials that go into her work are found in the oddest of places. Petit-Frere says no to your run-of-the-mill pearls and sapphires and opts for a different kind of hardware.
Dainty is a piece that incorporates door bolts and chandelier crystals; Baby consists largely of brass fixtures; Bamboo is a collection of pipes.
“First there’s the attraction,” Petit-Frere said as she describes the process of finding her odds and ends around New York. “I look at it and try to plan, is this something I can work with?”
Often, in the absence of a plan, Petit-Frere goes with her instincts, buying pieces she feels strongly about and letting inspiration strike later. The jewelry sculptures are not the most wearable pieces and perhaps not fashionable in the conventional sense, but they are definitely for the bold looking to make a statement.
Deciding to strike out was a daunting venture. Without the full support of her parents on her choice of career, Petit-Frere came to rely on her friends, Nia K. Evans, Tomashi Jackson and Eric Mack.
Evans is the business mind behind Comotroovaysa, and her Brooklyn apartment also serves as the Comotroovaysa workspace. Jackson occupies the dual role of friend and art consultant for Petit-Frere’s Comotroovaysa. Art student, Mack has been a friend for over four years and is also an art consultant for Comotroovaysa.
“Joanne already has a great eye for what works,” said Mac, but once in a while he is there to offer much needed insight. Petit-Frere is grateful for the insight and support and is determined to take Comotroovaysa to new heights.
“Right now, we are starting off and it is just jewelry sculpture, but what I do is fashion,” she said. “We are not limiting ourselves.”