From the swamp of New Jersey to the concrete streets of New York, GerardTully was created based on the integral roots from which it came from. With seven prosperous years of making animal themed jewelry, it’s safe to say the concept has paid off. The collection can be found in influential stores such as Barney’s Co-op, Opening Ceremony, Colette, and American Rag. Close friend Steve Halo, and 01’s Neil Simonton discuss animals, design and the sublime aesthetics of pro basketball in the 70’s and 80’s with the designer of Gerard Tully himself, Ryan Kearney.
SH. What led to GerardTully? Why jewelery when at the time everyone was doing clothing?
RK. I actually was pursuing a cut-and-sew line before the jewelry was even a twinkle in the back of my mind. I was having a lot of trouble getting to a finished product though… I had all the right connections and people to work with but I guess I’m more of an instant satisfaction type. I wanted to see my design in my head and know I could have a final piece in hand within a short time frame. With clothing I was running all over meeting with 3 to 4 different people to have one garment made. It was too much for me at the time, financially especially. I was funding all my own projects and I found quickly that a backer or financier would be necessary for me to get what I wanted with a cut-and-sew line. But I think I’ll pursue a menswear line and shoes for both men and women in the future.
NS. Where does the name come from?
RK. GerardTully is derived from my father’s middle name and my mother’s maiden name. It is a tribute to the both of them.I figured if they’re not able to stick it out for better or for worse, I can make it happen in my own way. They will be forever hitched through GerardTully.
SH. I know your mom means the world to you. What is it about her that keeps your love so strong and heartwarming?
RK. My Mum is the best! She is the strongest and toughest lady I know. She has shown me how to make it on this earth through the good and the bad while always having a smile on her face and an amazing sense of humor. She’s been through some super tough times as of late but you would never know it. We made it.
NS. The craftsmanship of the collection is really amazing. Can you explain your process a bit?
RK. The craftsmanship of GerardTully was always intended to be very classic in design, elegant, full of rich texture and hands-on detail. I’ve worked with my model maker for over seven years now. He is beyond amazing at what he does. I will give him an image or a detailed drawing to start. I then decide upon how the animal’s texture will be as I want each piece to be unique and completely different from any other in the collection. Lastly we discuss proper sizing and direction for the sculpture. He basically gives me a carbon copy in wax of all we went over and from there I make a mold. The pieces are to be a bit ambiguous from afar as if you were wearing an oddly shaped piece of rough gold on your hand. Only after a closer look does one see the animal head.
SH. I have seen a bunch of people with your jewelry on. What has been the response you’ve gotten towards the pieces?
RK. The response to GerardTully has been amazing! I’m hoping it’s genuine otherwise the laughs on me 🙂 From my tough-lovin’ mother to my lady Bunn, they say they like it!
NS. Why animals? What attracts you to using wildlife as your subject?
RK. I have always loved animals. People see themselves with an animal counterpart… my Chinese sign is the Tiger. I was born in Manhattan and we lived here until I was 3. My parents and I were comfortably living in a one bedroom apartment on 18th and 3rd Ave until I guess it was too much for them. We moved 10 minutes into New Jersey to the Swamp which was then a new development. So I basically spent my formative years growing up in what is now a nature reserve on a river. Everything from snapping turtles, muskrats, snakes, egrets, crabs and minnows. Gerard Tully is a juxtaposition of New York’s concrete and steel and New Jersey’s wildlife and swampy marshlands. The gold metals and diamonds are NY while the animals depict NJ.
SH. How did the designs and GerardTully concepts come to you? For example piecing the Frog and the Fly together as a pair.
RK. The concept is pretty basic. I always try to keep things simple so this was the natural selection for GerardTully. The idea of Predator/Prey just works.
SH. If you could change anything about Gerard Tully, what would it be? Or are you happy with the brand perception?
RK. Like my life, I wouldn’t change a thing otherwise it wouldn’t be what it is. Everything that has happened with GerardTully has made it what it is. I’m excited to continue moving ahead with everything and always be getting better and learning more.
NS. What’s inspiring you right now?
RK. Right now, not giving up and seeing things through to completion is inspiring me. I have had some friends give up so to speak as of late and I feel like quitting is not an option for me. Maybe it was at one point in my life but I am far past that point of return. I have been skating the entire summer and I have started taking pictures again as of late. I was very focused on photography before GerardTully happened and I have since taken quite a long hiatus from behind the lens. I want to get back to making books and getting more of my imagery out there in the world.
SH. Switching speeds for a second, I know both of us are big basketball guys, what draws you to the game so much (to play and watch)?
RK. I love basketball for the same reasons I like skating. It’s for loners. Where I grew up in NJ there weren’t too many kids around and practically none my age, Either younger or older. There was a court though. I could go shoot a basketball alone all day everyday if I had to. I was a rambunctious kid and even more so as an adult. It was an outlet for me. Basketball is a street game that is truly beautiful. I could just show up at any park in a number of cities, alone, and have an amazing time. All you need is a ball and some shoes and you’re in. It was a pretty affordable thing to do as a youngster. As I got older, the bond with the game grew.
Basket ball is a huge part of New York. The Mecca of the game. Everyone from Woody Allen to John Lennon loved NY basketball. I love the old designs, logos and unist from the 70’s and 80’s. The graphic design was impeccable. the colors, the hand drawn emblems, the style was amazing. It wasn’t such a big business back then. The teams didn’t have focus groups to decide that black and fuschia would be a sellable color for the times. Everything was much more original and beautiful. Half the team colors now didn’t exist in the 70’s. Money and big business can damage the things that you love.
SH. Tennis is also a love of yours.
RK. My Mom loved tennis so I would tag along and go hit if someone would give me the time of day. Another amazing game. I learned from watching all the old pros from the 80s. My favorites were Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, Wilander, Becker, Agassi and my French favs… Henri Leconte, Guy Forget and Yannick Noah! They all had amazing style on and off the court. I prefer the older days where the ball would go back and forth forever and the points were truly crafted. It was a game of touch and finesse where as today it is power. The style and fashion that derived from these two sports is hands down the best in my eyes.
NS. What sort of plans do you have in store for the GerardTully brand?
RK. GerardTully is branching off into a couple of tangent lines, which will be a bit more minimal. Ideas I’ve had for some time now but was so focused on establishing the animal kingdom so to speak that they had to take back seat. Everything will be classic, simple and beautiful in aesthetic.
NS. Are you pursuing any projects outside of GerardTully? If so what should we be on the lookout for?
RK. I am currently working on a T-shirt line with my good friend Stephen Halo 😉 and we are going to be in shops soon! Black White Color is the project. I’m going to be doing it all. All or nothing. Photography, clothing, shoes and hopefully some furniture design down the line.
Photos:1,2,5-GerardTully current collection, 3,4-GerardTully commissioned jewelry pieces for artist Terence Koh.