Recently, John Eric Home sat down with Nadia Watts of the iconic American Tiffany family to discuss her new collection, her family, and life. Nadia has seamlessly captured the ethereal essence of Tiffany glass in a tangible fabric line.
JEH: What is your professional background?
My design career began with Elaine Stephenson Interiors and Julie Lawrence Interiors in Roanoke, Virginia, where I fell in love with the business while finishing my BA at Hollins University. Within days of working with Elaine and Julie, I knew design would be the rest of my life.
I had the opportunity and moved to New York to work in the American Decorative Arts Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Furthering my design education, I enrolled in a program at the New York School of Interior Design. I supplemented NYSID with courses at NYU in the Business of Design, knowing I would start my own business one day. New York was an amazing experience for me. Throughout my curiosity and education of design, I was dating my future husband born and bred in Colorado. When moving to Denver in 2007, I worked with Douglas Associates, Interior Designers before starting my own business in 2009.
JEH: What was the inspiration for your new fabric line?
In 2017, Ellen Kravet invited me to spend the day at the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass in Queens New York. The Collection houses a quarter of a million pieces of the Tiffany Studios archival glass. The glass is catalogued by color, size, and technique, ranging from pieces that are 24”x24” to small 1” jewels. I was speechless, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A feeling of inspiration overwhelmed me. In that moment I knew there was something I had to create. This beautiful glass belonged on fabric. To take one medium- glass and interpret into another- fabric, connects this work to Tiffany.
JEH: What was the process of taking your inspiration and making it into a physical product?
I think in color and scale. As a designer, I know what we are in search of when looking for products; color combinations, repeats, and textures. While working through this entire process, I was constantly thinking of the end user and how it would be applied in a room. I am excited to see how people will use this fabric in their own ways.
JEH: What was your creative process in design?
I began drawing with pencils, working through my ideas as they came, and referring to inspirational moments that had stood out for me. For color, I started painting with watercolors and then went on to markers to create color combinations adding to the design patterns. After this I had fabric made by creating digital files of the designs and having the patterns printed on a variety of textured fabrics; velvet, silk, cotton, linen.
JEH: Is there any habit that you adopt or outside source that you use to trigger your creativity?
I was taught to look at the world with an open mind, in an objective way, to be curious. I am constantly taking in visual cues from my surroundings – colors, patterns, textures, light and shadows. I love architecture, and I love nature.
JEH: Aside from the fabric line, what else can we expect from your vision?
I am currently working on new designs that I want create for wallpaper, large scale and abstract. I am creating new textile concepts with inspirations based on organic forms.
JEH: What is your personal background?
I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia and spent holidays and summer in and around New York and the Berkshires, with my grandmother and extended family. We would spend our weekends in museums, going to the opera or symphony, house and garden tours.
As I share this with you, I realize how much my personal and business lives have always been enmeshed, weaving between the love of the arts and sharing that love with family. I am lucky to be in a creative field. I have been surrounded by the arts my entire life. It is my soul. I live in Denver with my wonderful husband, two amazing children, and two beautiful golden retrievers. I love to be able see the horizon and mountain landscape in Colorado. And now I enjoy taking my children to museums and gardens on the weekends.
JEH: How has your family impacted your work?
Art is a conversation in my family. I feel it is very important for me to continue that language with my children. When I am working on new designs, we will discuss them around the dinner table, it is amazing to hear their point of view on colors and patterns.
JEH: As a child, what was it like to be a member of an iconic American family and brand?
A child cannot comprehend the vastness of this iconic American family and brand. I felt it was important by the way it was spoken about around me. At times I feel as if I am still discovering what it means to be a part of American history. It is truly amazing.
My first memory of Tiffany was in 1989, during the Masterworks of Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Renwick Museum in Washington DC. My grandmother, aunts, and cousins came to town and got dressed up for the opening gala of the exhibition with my parents and older sister. I remember feeling the excitement and energy that night this was something important. I was too young to attend, six at the time. My mother promised to take me on the weekend to walk with her through the exhibit. I remember the beautiful colors in the stained-glass windows and objects, the colors and textures in the glass were unforgettable.
As a teenager, I remember receiving my first Tiffany & CO blue box, a necklace from my parents for my birthday, the silver Elsa Peretti open heart. I have always loved Elsa designs.
JEH: As an adult, what does it mean to you to be part of the Tiffany legacy?
Profound. The Tiffany legacy is profoundly important to me, to be able to share with others the deep connection that I have for art and design through color, scale, and texture, it is very special. These are the design elements that I have been surrounded by my entire life and am now sharing them with the next generation. Tiffany was a prolific artist; he touched every type of art medium.
JEH: How do you incorporate this legacy into your creativity?
I stay curious and open minded. I am constantly asking myself – What if? Let’s try it! Art was my first language.
JEH: At times you act as an ambassador for your family – can you speak on one or two projects or events that you have been a part of in this regard?
I recently had the most wonderful experience at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota Florida for the annual Jean & Alfred Goldstein Exhibition, Tiffany: The Pursuit of Beauty in Nature. I was the keynote speaker and shared the family’s artistic legacy and how it has inspired my designs and led me to create The Gem Collection with Kravet.
JEH: If you had to choose one, what would be your favorite Tiffany piece? Why?
Oh, my goodness, I don’t know if I can. I would say the architectural objects at the Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida from Laurelton Hall, the country estate that Louis designed and built in Oyster Bay Long Island. The Loggia from Laurelton Hall is in the courtyard of the American Wing at the Met. I love to stand under the lanterns and look up…to think my grandmother and family were surrounded by these beautiful elements and objects.
To read more from the John Eric Home spring issue, please click here