Rimma Boshernitsan: Let's start with your childhood. What stands out as most formative?
Ivy Ross: I grew up in my father's house. He was an industrial designer and carefully designed every doorknob, every handle — everything. I grew up surrounded by details that broke conventional boundaries.
My father was very influential for me. He would encourage me to look at the subtleties of the world, to see beyond what it appears to be. He taught me how to abstract the tangible, to truly observe; not just objects, but people, too. I realized early on that there is design and intention in everything. I learned to notice the places where things connect, both within physical objects and in the way humans interact.
My father would take me to car shows when I was really young. I was so young and small that I was at eye level with the hubcaps. In examining how the hubcaps were made, how every hubcap was different, I would sink into a flow state. I would look at the way the spokes were connected, how it was polished, and how all the pieces came together so intentionally. I think that is why I became a metalsmith because it was the first thing that I spent so many hours deeply investigating.
My mother was a tap dancer and a violin player. She gave it all up for my father when they got married. Seeing this inspired me to say, “I don't ever want to be an acquisition.” I saw what she gave up and there were times when you could see in her eyes, what she wished she had.
RB: Your first professional design experience started in jewelry, or as you said, metalsmithing. How did this thread of interest develop throughout your childhood?
IR: As a kid, I would crawl into my dad’s office and play with different materials. I remember he had this chain-mail material. I took out my screwdriver and made a dress out of the chain mail metal. Some people were surprised, but I thought, “Here is this incredible material, what else could I do with it?” I just wanted to play with it, follow my curiosities. I wanted to see what would happen if I opened up the links and re-hooked them as I pleased. My exploration became a dress.
These early explorations continued to grow, and I was continually drawn towards becoming a jeweler because jewelry could be anything. Jewelry was used for magical reasons, such as talismans, and carries a rich history of decoration, adornment, and ritual. It could also be very graphic. I was intrigued by its richness and versatility.
RB: Do you still make jewelry?
IR: Not anymore. There are so many opportunities to explore, and when they present themselves I am become intrigued and must explore. For instance, I studied bio-geometry, taught by Dr. Karim, an architect and philosopher, and learned how shapes and forms express different energies. We worked with a pendulum to observe the difference of even the slightest shifts in angles, and how that would shift the energy given off. If I ever return to creating jewelry, I would be more conscious to incorporate specific geometry into all of the forms I invent.
RB: You’ve mentioned before how important intuition has been for your work, both as a designer and in your personal life. Have you always been intuitive?
IR: I think I have been. Once you see your intuition working for you — after you take that initial leap — you begin to develop the courage to live your entire life that way. It may seem illogical, but I’ve seen it work.
I breathe in both art and science. I am both logical and intuitive. So, of course, I go through pragmatic thinking, but after I have all the data, I have to trust the feeling in my body when I know things are true. It is a very certain sensation and while it can be frightening at first, I have learned to follow it.
Part of my intuition developed during my time in the fashion world. Fashion appears frivolous, but I have found it to be an intuitive cultural metrometer. It is often tied to the sociological currents of the moment, almost as a collective unconscious. When you're in the fashion business, you really have to listen to those currents to get a sense of what is coming, where materials should evolve to, and what people are going to be craving. To get there you have to take the facts, yes, but at the end of the day, you make intuitive calls.
RB: How has your sense of intuition changed the way you lead teams for innovation?
IR: My intuition allows me to see who people really are, what their talents are, and where their true gifts flourish. We often put people in organizational chart boxes, and we keep them there because they become an expert in the box we put them in. But we're all a product of our experiences, so as our experiences change, we change, and our talents grow. My sense of intuition has encouraged me to create situations or roles that allow people to shine in new ways, that in some cases, were very atypical.