"I started Buried Diamond because I didn't feel like I had enough time to Play at my 9-5 job, and I kept at it because the Play felt so good! I think experimenting is key!"
Martha Porter is a textile designer and jewelry maker. Her work is pure play. Known for her colorful handmade charms, her collections instantly sell out whenever she updates her online shop. She balances art, design and freelancing from her home base in Brooklyn, NY.
My best friend took this photo of me in a dollar store in Corpus Christi, Texas.
How did you get started as a maker?
I studied Textiles at RISD, which is considered a fine arts major. I learned a lot of technical textile techniques, but there was always an emphasis on artistry and experimenting. I didn't really plan on working in fashion, but I landed an internship at DvF that started right after I graduated, and from there, I continued worked as a textile designer for various fashion brands. I was always making art outside of my 9-5 job: painting, screenprinting, lithography, sewing. I can't exist without making things with my hands. Around 2010 or 2011, I was working at Tibi, and I started making jewelry on the side. My boss at Tibi, Amy Smilovic, is an entrepreneur, and she was encouraging, so I kept going. I worked at a couple of other fashion brands after that, always continuing to make jewelry and other products for Buried Diamond. The brand started growing and I was determined to grow with it.
Photo: I consider my large plaster charms to be 100% Play.
Your work is so playful. How do you make play part of your process?
I started Buried Diamond because I didn't feel like I had enough time to Play at my 9-5 job, and I kept at it because the Play felt so good! I think experimenting is key! I love to try a new material (papier mache, paper clay, ceramic, resin) and not worry about the results. In fact, I have the most fun when the result is not a viable product (sometimes results are trash, ha!). For me, Play is about process, not product. I have the least amount of fun when I am in production, making 30 of the exact same thing. I keep it fun for by allowing myself an experiment on the side. For example, when I'm dipping charms in resin, I'll let myself cast the leftover resin in a new mold or something. That way, the experiment, or Play, is almost a reward for completing the Work.
Photo: Taking photos of my work is 100% Play.
How do you bring play into the collaborative process?
I love collaborating!! When a collab is between Buried Diamond and another brand, yes, it is fun to connect and brainstorm, but a lot of times, it's also figuring out a licensing contract and making sure everyone is satisfied financially - and that's Work. On the Play side, I do a lot of collaborations that are not shown publicly or on social media. I make zines with friends, or I have friends over for lunch and we make things out of clay or do a photo shoot brainstorm session. I love working with friends on their projects, my projects, and our shared projects. Even if it has nothing to do with Buried Diamond visually or conceptually, those interactions feed my brain and fuel my ideas. Everyone's brain works differently and it is so refreshing to hear another person's ideas!
Photo: I'm mostly known for my hand made charms, but I make lots of other things!
With everything you're working on, how do you find balance in your business?
A huge factor in why I started selling things was that I was generating way too much stuff to keep. Selling didn't really come out of a business goal, it was more of necessity because I needed to make space for new things to be made, and make money for more materials. So yes, it took a while for me to understand how to make things work financially. I aways recommend hiring an accountant!! If I didn't have mine, I don't know where I would be. She gives fantastic advice. I freelance for a couple of reasons. Yes, it gives me supplemental income, and making money is awesome. It also puts me back in an office environment, which is great if you usually spend a lot of time working alone. I enjoy the social aspect. And that gets us to Work vs. Play. For Buried Diamond, I do whatever I want. The business started with me making what I wanted, and customers wanting it, too. I've never been beholden to anyone but myself and my vision. But I need balance! I enjoy working for a client because it's like a puzzle and I use a different part of my brain. I'm given an assignment with some parameters and some freedom, and I Work within those.
Photo: I always pull out old designs and make new doodles when it's time to start a new project.
What's the one piece of advice you'd give someone going through their own transformation?
To be honest, transitional times can be a little painful, so remember to believe in yourself and your vision. I always tell myself: there are 24 hours in every day, try to use as many of them as possible. But time is always limited! Be kind and patient with yourself and others. Be consistent with your work process - do something every day. If you keep chipping away, eventually you will look back and be surprised by your progress!
Photo: This is me on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts. I've visited the island almost every summer of my life.
Are you following the path of a trailblazer or being guided by a mentor?
I think my answer is no. Of course there are people I look up to: female artists and entrepreneurs...but I don't have a mentor. I would like one. I try to pay it forward by offering advice to those who ask for it from me.
Photo: This is a market in Mexico City - I love any kind of outdoor market or flea market. I am also very partial to dollar stores.
Where's your soul place?
The market and the 99cent store!! I love markets anywhere. I recently traveled to Mexico City and I loved that so much of the city was a market environment. I love that kind of commerce, where you dig a little, maybe bargain a little, and you don't know what you're going to find! I'm dying to go to Istanbul, Tokyo, and Thailand.