Tuesday, March 09, 2010


North Park Jeweler, Gallery Owner with a Bright Future


Copyright © 2010 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

PHOTOS, top to bottom: two shots of Matthew Cirello (wearing his own jewelry), Matthew’s partner Jasmine with him, and two photos of his work

North Park — specifically the block of Ray Street, a little side street just one block east of 30th, between University Avenue and North Park Way — becomes a real “happening” place the second Saturday of every month from 7 to 10 p.m. That’s when Ray at Night, a community arts event featuring gallery open houses and live music, occurs. One of the current mainstays of Ray at Night is Matthew Cirello, a young San Diego native who took over the gallery at the corner of Ray and North Park Way about a year and a half ago and is using it as a showcase for some of the most stunning — and surprisingly affordable -— jewelry available in San Diego.

Matthew Cirello is a busy young man. We had to reschedule his Zenger’s interview when he got in a big order and had to ship it the day we were first supposed to meet. When we finally did the interview, he squeezed us in for 20 minutes before he had an appointment with another reporter — and while we were talking a passer-by stepped into the gallery (it’s open Wednesday through Sunday), two people called on his cell phone, and his partner Jasmine came by, with perfect timing, just as Matt was talking about her and what an inspiration she’s been to him.

The Cirello gallery is located on 3803 Ray Street and can be reached at (619) 795-4850 or (619) 201-4668 (Matthew’s cell number). His Web site is www.cirellogallery.com. The Cirello logo — a circle with his last name against a field of arcs and triangles — is good advertising for his work. So are the hand-crafted pendants Matthew and Jasmine were wearing while we spoke. See his stuff at Ray at Night, on the upcoming quarterly North Park art walks the third Saturday of every month, in his gallery during regular hours, or online.

Zenger’s: Just tell me a little about yourself, and how you got into art.

Matthew Cirello: My name’s Matthew Cirello, and I’m a San Diego native. I grew up out in El Cajon, went to University of San Diego High School, and was always interested in art. I took my first art class — probably in sixth grade, maybe before that — and my parents were both really artistic, so I went to Humboldt State University in the year 2000 as a studio arts major.

I started taking ceramics, painting, woodworking classes and sculpture, and I really got into sculpture. In the year 2002 I took metalsmithing and jewelry, and have been pretty much committed to it since 2002. I moved back home 3 1/2 years ago, and before I had the gallery I was in Spanish Village Arts Center, which is San Diego’s arts community of working artists, right in Balboa Park. I outgrew it, opened up this space, and do our second Saturday of every month art walk, Ray at Night, featuring a wide range of local artists.

I love the art scene, being creative, and now since the new year I’ve started my relationship/romance with Jasmine. She and I are doing really, really well. She makes art as well. Being a creative person, I’ve always been drawn to creative people, so having a partner who’s creative is very good for me. I love meeting new people. I love talking to people. I’m kind of a people person. I love having the gallery for that reason, because it means people can walk in, say hello, look at my pieces and get into conversations with me.

Zenger’s: You said you were drawn to jewelry. What had you been doing before that?

Cirello: Sculpture. I did large foundry work, like welding, so it was similar to the jewelry but in a large scale. When I took my jewelry class I really liked the fact that I could have a year’s worth of work in one case. I could set up the shop out of my home, which was a lot easier and less expensive than a foundry.

Zenger’s: And also, I would assume, there was a much greater market for this.

Cirello: Yes. Jewelry is less exacting. If you’re going into sculpture, it’s larger than life scale.

Zenger’s: Do you still do any other kind of art?

Cirello: Yes, I’m trying to draw and paint a little bit more. I have my sketchbooks, so I’m always drawing with my pen. I like to do geometric line drawings. It helps me with my jewelry design ideas.

One thing I’ve really got into in the last six months is reclaimed stainless steel. We’re going into San Diego steel shops and taking the scraps. We use surgical stainless steel, so it’s hypoallergenic. It won’t bother your skin. It’s recycled, and then we laser-cut our designs and hand-polish them right here in San Diego. It’s utilizing resources in a great way, conserving and recycling.

Zenger’s: You said your partner also does art. What kind of stuff does she do, and is there anything of hers here?

Cirello: I would say Jasmine is a really creative person all around. She helps with just about everything in the gallery, like curating, hanging things, lining up artists, P.R., sales, and working behind the bench with jewelry, metalsmithing. She’s got a lot of neat jewelry design ideas of her own that she’s working on. She’s a well-rounded artistic individual.

Zenger’s: Who would you say your major influences are as an artist?

Cirello: I would say my parents. My family: my parents and my three older sisters. They really gave me support. I would say number one is Jasmine, and then my parents and then my three sisters.

Zenger’s: Did you have any older artists that influenced you?

Cirello: Kris Patzlaf and David Laplantz. They were my jewelry teachers and they really gave me my foundation for all my metalsmithing techniques, jeweler’s saw, files, sandpaper, all of that.

Zenger’s: What special techniques are involved working in sheet metal, since most of your pieces do seem to use sheet metal?

Cirello: I’m a machine fabricator, so I deal with sheet and a jeweler’s saw. I’m dealing with positive and negative space, so I have to design with that in mind, whereas if someone’s doing casting with wax, you can carve it away and cast that. I guess my limitations are whatever you can fabricate out of a sheet. I do not do any wire work. I’m a sheet metalsmith/fabricator; I guess would be the correct term.

Zenger’s: Is it one of those things where you’re inspired by the limitations of the medium to work around them?

Cirello: Yes. I like to be very hands-on and attack the metal as I am working with it. With wax I felt more separated from it. I like to be connected to it as I’m creating.

Zenger’s: How have you selected the other artists that exhibit here?

Cirello: For the most part, it could be a friend, a friend of a friend referral, or they just come in and show their stuff, and we go from there. There’s a bit of a reviewing process, and I guess it kind of has to fit the vision, if you will. I’m kind of open, but in general from what you see in here, I like to keep it within that theme.

Zenger’s: And how would you describe the theme?

Cirello: I definitely have an abstract feel going on. We have a couple of artists we feature on a permanent basis, and they give us new stuff all the time. We have Will Barton; he does a lot of jazz pieces, which are really nice. We also have Andrea Rushing, an oil painter. He’s been in North Park for the past 20 years, and he owned this gallery before I was here. He does more surrealistic paintings.

I like to have a little bit of everything, as long as they’re not too offensive. If it’s anything like if it’s something that’s very negative or directed towards one group, I might not be O.K. with that. But other than that, it’s pretty open. And as far as the caliber of the art, the marketing, promotions, Web site, business cards and a proper portfolio are prerequisites.

Zenger’s: Would you say that the jewelry you make is just for display purposes, or do you intend it actually to be worn?

Cirello: More to be worn than to be displayed, actually. The handmade pieces that are bigger, the sterling silver, the more expensive ones, the custom pieces I do for people are more ceremonial, maybe for something special, family heirloom. They don’t wear it all the time. But the stainless steel is to be worn like every day. People who buy these love them. It’s like their everyday piece. People who normally don’t like bracelets or forget to wear them are falling asleep with them on.

It’s almost like your favorite piece of jewelry in your house, because it’s great. It never rusts, it always looks the same, and it’s light, and it’s not too expensive as well. The stainless steel line is kind of designed to suit everyone’s needs. We have designs that are a little more masculine, a little more feminine. But even those that are a little more feminine, it seems like the guys are really enjoying those as well. We have earrings, rings and pendants.

Zenger’s [referring to the pendant Cirello was wearing]: Is that one of yours?

Cirello: This is one of the handmade sterling silver ones. We’d want a little more like $800 for this one. Jasmine’s is like $2,500 because there are a lot more rare gemstones in there. And those are unique items, “one of one,” as we say in the art world. These are things that are more like investments. They’ll appreciate over time. The stainless steel is something fun you can wear out at the clubs. The handmade stuff you might not want to wear every day, though Jasmine and I wear ours every day!

I also love to do custom-commissioned work. That’s really my passion. I just love it when two people come in, especially couples. They have a vision and need my help to make something, or they have a family heirloom stone that they want to showcase in a unique setting. It’s so neat to be able to help people through that and help them manifest that vision into a reality. It’s a real treat.

Zenger’s: How are you doing, business-wise?

Cirello: Pretty good. We’ve been here a year and a half. The first year was a little tough. We’re also starting to rent out our place for private parties, so that’s helping out a lot. We do birthday parties, private events, anniversaries, baby showers, whatever you really want, so people can come, bring about 20 to 30 of their friends, have a great time and utilize this space. Since we realized we needed to create our own buzz here and bring people in, it’s been pretty good.

It seems like every day we’re getting more and more busy, setting more things up, so we’re planning on being here long-term and getting established. It’s nice getting our feet in the soil and letting our roots start to grow a little bit. So so far, pretty good. It has not been easy, though, for sure.

Zenger’s: Yes, starting this right when the economy was tanking.

Cirello: That’s why we’re really trying to encourage the private events, because everyone who’s done them has just loved them and had a great time. It’s also great for us, because it helps with the overhead, of course. We do wine tastings as well. Those are really fun. We bring in a wine specialist and charge about $20 to $30 a person to come in, taste the wine and be able to buy the wine. If you wanted to have one of those events privately for you and your friends, we’re open to that as well.