It’s A Capitol Affair, on a Saturday in December. Seattleites and out-of-towners drift in and out the multi-shop event, attending to their holiday gift hunt. For this day, we have an added excitement in the Concept Shop; Shannon Koszyk, an old friend and fellow Seattle maker, is hosting a trunk show, quietly lounging in the corner, backed by a wall of her creations. The centerpiece of her display is an enormous driftwood cross, draped with brass ornaments, white turquoise, and hand-braided rope. Her bold jewelry waits in tiers along to wall, beckoning passerby to look closer, to touch, and to share a quiet moment with a glint of antiqued silver.
Shannon and Francine met at a trade show in New York a few years back, and quickly stuck up a friendship. Koszyk’s unapologetic pursuit of her vision resonates with the Moo-Young philosophy, and we are are excited to feature her in-store. Her work has had its own display in our space for several months now.
The necklaces we first hung are striking pieces that each tell their own stories. Some people walk right past them, perhaps because their boldness require a certain… well... boldness. Other people are transfixed. This jewelry has a quality that I can only describe as “aura,” and now we showcase an even wider range of her creations, including more bangles, rings, and embroidered jackets. I was thrilled to have a chance to finally speak to the maker, and to discover what is really driving this unusual collection.
First, I should say that when I first saw Shannon’s work, I assumed each piece featured an antique artifact. I learned that while a few of them do, Koszyk actually designs most of the medallions herself, or reproduces older items, and has them cast locally. There is a heavy motif of Catholic iconography, the Victory Angel from the French Revolution, and skulls. All of these images and symbols are part of the her creative cannon. While some items are small or delicate, many are on heavy silver chain, with a weighty coin for a centerpieces.
I ask Shannon about where her inspiration comes from, and she unfolds for me a comprehensive system of aesthetic belief, tying her personal history to her love of world history. Koszyk describes her artistic identity as “Gothic Beach Girl.” And not goth, but truly gothic, as in gothic architecture. She grew up living part time in Mexico, and later spent much time in Santa Barbara, where the gothic aesthetic of the Catholic church is woven into much of the architecture and history of the cities.
But there’s more to her jewelry than just an aesthetic drive. She tells me that this work is about protection, which is why the images of saints are so important. On top of that, she tells me, “I love an underdog. My thing is I have a big justice issue. Like, it makes me really angry when there’s injustice. So with Joan of Arc [imagery], it’s like, “don’t fuck with me.’” Shannon calls on the symbolism of Joan of Arc, angels, and saints to embolden the wearer. She’s heard from many customers, regardless of their gender, “I feel so much stronger when I’m wearing your pieces.”
People agree that there’s energy to her work, and Shannon feels it too. She tells me with the most matter-of-fact demeanor, “I don’t know where it’s coming from, because I make it, and I don’t really understand. I feel like something is working through me - I’m channeling something.” Interestingly, Shannon isn’t religious at all, and maybe that’s where the magic comes from. She taps into a deeper spirituality that’s rooted in peoples’ own strength and belief in themselves. She quotes Bonnie Raitt for me: “Religion is for people who are afraid to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.”
Granted, she isn’t always met with open-mindedness. She describes threats she’s received, particularly when showing her work in more conservative areas. Yet in the face of those reviews, she’s completely unfazed, and has striking conviction in her vision. “I’m just reporting history. I’m not saying whether it was good or bad, I’m just saying ‘here’s what happened.’” In fact, its controversial nature makes it all the more powerful. Here, she quotes Alexander McQueen: “if you’re not pissing anyone off, you not doing anything important.” Shannon is perfectly comfortable living this statement, and her pieces speak to those individuals of a similar alignment. And besides, she tells me, that’s just who she is. “I’m not someone people are indifferent about, my personality or my work. People are like, ‘I love you’ or ‘I don’t get it at all and I don’t like you.’ There is no middle of the road. I tend to deliver my message with a hammer. I don’t do it on purpose, it’s just part of who I am I guess.”By this point in our conversation, I’m convinced that this jewelry seeks out those who need it most. It’s not for the faint of heart, the placating, or the indecisive. By this point in our conversation, I’m convinced that this jewelry seeks out those who need it most. And at Moo-Young, Shannon has all of us on board with her motto: Fortune Favors the Bold.