“Your Sweetness Abides”: An Interview with Toy Whisperer Jared Gold
Interviews & Features
In the Beginning, there were Toys
Jared Gold, fashion designer and artist best known under his moniker Black Chandelier, is stepping back into the well-deserved limelight, this time as a boutique toy designer.
Gold has always felt a huge connection with toys throughout his life. In fifth grade, Gold transformed one of his pencil boxes into an incredibly ornate dollhouse with its own chairs, furniture and beds that stunned his teacher. In art school, all his projects ended up turning into toys. Toys were also always a big theme in Gold’s Black Chandelier fashion line and in The Misfit Toys, a band he conducted to accompany Black Chandelier’s fashion shows and store openings that featured garishly dressed musicians in bright green and pink playing punk and Christmas hits on tiny, toy instruments. “I was always trying to put the ‘toyness’ in the clothing of Black Chandelier somehow, like putting a picture of a toy on a T-shirt or in a crazy hat,” says Gold, “and I think that’s what really drew people towards Black Chandelier’s clothing—its unabashed charm to play with you, to trick you into being irreverent.”
If toys speak a secret language of their own which most children stop hearing past a certain age—perhaps 10 or 11—Gold is one of those rare adults who has somehow retained the understanding of that hidden language of childhood, innocence and wonder. “Toys are just in my blood. Every time I go to a toy store, I’ll just wander through for hours … or, when I go to visit people’s families, the first thing I say to the children is, ‘Bring out your toys, show me your toys.’ We go through all the toys, see what the toys are doing, see what the Legos are up to and just the energy coming off them. Nothing else really gives me that kind of joy,” says Gold.
He continues, “When you see toys, they do something to you. They are meditative objects. They arrest our attention, and take us somewhere away from worry and fear. Even if it’s just for a minute. That’s where I wanted to get with toys. There’s so much power in them. They are undeniable to people – you cannot deny a toy’s optimism. I think I’m leaning on the primordial power of that … Even animals recognize toys. There is a YouTube video of a little armadillo that runs into a pen where there is a rock and a little inflated pink ball, and he runs right up to the pink ball and starts to play with it. How did he know to do that?”
Sutras of Delight Toy Line
After a great deal of brainstorming and trial and error, Gold just released a high-end, handmade, revolving boutique toy line available in small, limited-edition sets/collections. His first set has a holiday theme and is available for pre-order Fri., Nov. 11–Mon, Nov. 28. Once the pre-orders close, Gold will tally up the orders and work with a local printing company to print and cut the toys before shipping them out to customers two weeks later. This first set of toys will ship on Dec. 12.
For his first set of toys, Gold took four initial ideas from hundreds he has sketched out over over the years and came up with a winter-themed set of four toys to release this holiday season: Welcome Krampus: Black Gingerbread Lodge House for Krampus; Fashion Snow: Art Deco Fashion Illustration; Snow Bells: Art Deco Jeweled Stand of Snow Bell Flowers; and Starlight Sleigh Ride: The Beautiful Snow is in My Soul. The toys are in the form of prosceniums–intricate, sturdy paper sets fashioned after the models theater companies build for stage shows. Gold designed the models, constructed them by hand, cut them out, colored them, installed lights on them and posted the models online, where people can then view and order the products. Gold also accepts custom orders.
Hand-cutting the toys was “murder on your hands,” says Gold, so he was relieved to find a printing company in October who could do the printing and cutting for the actual orders. The final products are cut out of thick, 50-pt. paperboard and printed with Canon UV gel ink with their own votive LED lighting system. Each one has a dedication plaque with an original “greeting” poem written by Gold, which can be customized. Since they are limited edition items, each toy is signed and numbered by Gold.
“I wanted to do something that was not Christmassy per se, even though there is a Krampus, and there is no Krampus without Christmas,” says Gold. “The toys feature these very natural things, like sledding in the snow at night; the fashion illustrations with furs and winter coats from the art deco period; the snow bells. I wanted the proscenium style of them to be this thing that pulls your gaze in.”
The printers were a bit flummoxed by the toys the first time they saw them; they asked what they were. Gold replied, “‘Well, I don’t really know exactly.” They asked, “Well, what is it doing?” He said, “It’s doing it right now, it’s doing it to you right now.” Of the pieces, Gold says, “I think as an artist, sitting around and pontificating on your art and what you meant by it is useless. The real question to ask is, ‘How did this art make you feel? What did this art do for you?’
Following this, Gold says that each piece is meant to instill an emotional response. “Krampus is like a mosh pit, a meditative state where you have to lose control of yourself in order to partake in it. The fashion show toy has a little gold reflector in it, so it flickers this golden light. Snow Bells is my favorite. I think so many people have lost someone this year, or are having a really hard time in their life. I wanted something that gave the message of evergreen or renewal—that, no matter how big the snow and ice, the little tiny snow bells always come back. They’re unstoppable, and even in the face of the most terrifying winter, there they are.”
The sleigh ride toy was inspired by a song from a Christmas record Gold wrote while living in LA called Starlight Sleigh Ride. Gold says, “’Starlight Sleigh Ride’ was about going out in the total dark with the snow and mountains and the moon. The silence is majestic. Being alone in the dark in the winter is magical.”
The toys are unique, but also emanate the cohesive, intentional energy of one mind and one artist. They evoke the feeling of a time gone by, of Victorian cottages with crackling fires on the hearth, molasses pies baking in the kitchen and snow falling gently outside.
The Transformational Power of Toys
The response to the toys online so far has been overwhelming, which has felt healing and validating to Gold after enduring a great deal of insecurity and risk in the creation process. “Even if the toys hadn’t had the response they had, I would feel so good anyway knowing that I did it,” he says. “Every second of the time I spend making the toys, I’m just floating around in a pink cloud. I feel like I’m almost aging in reverse. After all the hardship and stress of life, all that’s left is this little Krampus monster and he’s so cute and he lights up at night.”
Some years ago, Gold temporarily withdrew from the public eye as a larger-than-life fashion designer who set runways on fire with his one-of-a-kind designs that were equal parts Edward Gorey and Candyland, pieces meant to shock, delight and inspire. During these years, Gold was still dreaming, sketch-booking, writing, meditating and building his own inward creative realm.
This hiatus reaffirmed for Gold that toys were his path. He says, “I had to get to the point where I wasn’t afraid of it anymore and I just had to embrace it. Finally, it just came out. It was also very much a spiritual pursuit. I felt like I was reconnecting with the spiritual feelings of my childhood that were not exclusive to a religion but I realized were actually mine the whole time. It was as if I was reconnecting with myself.”
In order to return to the joy of toys, Gold says, “I had to claw my way out of an incredible hit of self-doubt and insecurities to do it. The will to be creative can be in you, but it can be suppressed because of fear. Somehow, you’ve been convinced [that] your idea’s not good enough or it needs to be something else, by somebody else, because of the idea’s preposterousness. The logic keeps yelling in your face, that ‘this is ridiculous.’”
Gold believes the power of toys can help restore wonder and boost morale in a pandemic-, politics- and financially ravaged world. “In the end, the toys helped me. The toys freed me. They let me feel the wonder again,” says Gold. “Everyone has been in so much pain, and even though I can’t do everything, I can do this one thing. It’s my way of pushing back, leaning into the wave of pain, the pain that just swallowed us whole. These toy luminaries are meant to be a return to wonder, to undo the hardening that the world has caused, to return to softness.”
All Tomorrow’s Toys
Gold feels empowered right now and “humbled by the toys and the responsibility of them,” he says. “I feel people can benefit from something wonderful like this. And I just can’t wait to do more. All I do now is just sit in my room completely alone with the Exacto knife, just cutting and cutting and cutting and cutting and cutting. You can make anything; you can think of absolutely anything.”
Gold’s next toys will have a Valentine theme will be able to fit in the palm of your hand. “They light up and have their own little tokens and are symbols of love, sexuality, magic, and the most beautiful interactions among people. One of the most beautiful interactions we have is empathy,” says Gold.
He finishes, “My toys are something to hang onto during the storm, to remind you that there’s still good in you, there’s still good in the world [and] there’s still wonder in you. And one day you wake up and realize your sweetness has survived, that your sweetness abides. That all the things you lost, they weren’t your real power anyway. Everything you need, everything you’re ever going to need, you have within you.”
Find more information at sutrasofdelight.com.
Read more about Jared Gold’s Art here:
Fashion Renegade: The Fabulous Life of Jared Gold
Touch It, Turn It to Gold: Jared Gold Brings Vivacious Couture to SLC