Talk with Janet Zuccarini, Visionary & Owner of Gusto 54 Restaurant Group

One of the brightest stars in the eatertainment industry, Janet Zuccarini knows how to successfully integrate food and vibes components to create remarkably welcoming eateries.  A talent, an empowering mentor, and a visionary, she runs exhilarating restaurants where unpretentiously perceptive to charmingly elegant people enjoy the fresh and tasty food.

Janet Zuccarini - CEO & Owner of Gusto 54 Restaurant Group
Janet Zuccarini – CEO & Owner of Gusto 54 Restaurant Group

Savvy with finance with years of experience living in Rome, savouring ethnic dishes, Janet Zuccarini is the owner and CEO of Gusto 54 Restaurant Group and a resident judge at Top Chef Canada. Janet’s restaurants, Trattoria Nervosa, Gusto 101, Pai Northern Thai Kitchen and Kiin, Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen are among top laid-back favourites serving wonderful, flavour-filled foods and delicious cocktails in Toronto. Her LA Hotspot Felix Trattoria has been awarded  “Restaurant of the Year” by Eater LA,  “#1 Best New Restaurant in America” by Esquire magazine, and one of Los Angeles Magazine’s 10 Best New Restaurants of 2017, finalist at James Beard Foundation Award, is the dope place frequented by Leonardo Di Caprio and Frances McDormand.

Felix Trattoria - LA - Evan Funke’s take on traditional Italian cuisine, with pasta made on sight, right before your eyes.
Felix Trattoria – LA – Evan Funke’s take on traditional Italian cuisine, with pasta made on sight, right before your eyes.

Jupilings: How do you describe yourself?

JZ: Positive. Tenacious. Hard-working. Fun. Zest for life. Lover of food, business, and travel.

Jupilings: What qualities made you successful in the hospitality industry?

JZ: Being in the restaurant business isn’t easy. In fact, it’s probably one of the most challenging industries you could choose as an entrepreneur. When I opened my first restaurant over twenty years ago, I worked sixteen-hour days, seven days a week. I did everything from the bartender to bookkeeper to bussing tables and seating guests. Knowing every angle of your business, and knowing it really well is a huge advantage when it comes to making those big decisions. As a restauranteur, you have to expect challenges, and then have the passion for keeping pushing forward. If you have a genuine love for the work you do, no roadblock or setback will get in the way of your goal.

Trattoria Nervosa - Toronto- House with a rooftop patio offering a chic & chill setting for classic Italian dishes & drinks.
Trattoria Nervosa – Toronto – House with a rooftop patio offering a chic & chill setting for classic Italian dishes & drinks.

Jupilings: What are the branding principles in hospitality/lifestyle that you want to manifest in your restaurants?

JZ: I’m fortunate to have seven successful restaurants under my belt, with two set to launch in 2019, which is incredibly exciting. One thing I’ve known from day one is that you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to restaurants – something seen in all of my concepts. For example, with Felix in Los Angeles, we knew we had to make it a destination restaurant, and that meant partnering with an exceptionally talented chef and locking down a piece of property on one of the most sought-after foodie streets in the world. With Chubby’s we wanted to bring the warmth and vibrancy of Jamaica – a place that I fell in love with after going there many times on vacation – to Toronto. The strategies for those concepts are vastly different from Gusto 101 or Nervosa which are designed to be neighbourhood fixtures that withstand the test of time. The one common thread that ties all of the restaurants together is the idea of a transporting experience, complete with delicious relevant food, inspiring design, and soulful hospitality. As long as I am grounded in these three pillars, I feel free to innovate and expand wherever my imagination takes me.

Kiin - Toronto
Kiin – Toronto inspired​ by delicate royal Thai cuisine, this marble-tiled restaurant serves artfully composed food.

Jupilings: What are the elements you consider when it comes to conceptualising a new venue?

JZ: Location is certainly key. When we made the jump from just a few restaurants to a global restaurant group in 2015, we solidified our mission to build the most culturally relevant and celebrated collection of restaurants and innovative culinary experiences in the world. Location plays a massive role in bringing this mission to life. Whenever possible, I seek to purchase the real estate in which my restaurants are housed. I believe that design is equally important as incredible food, and purchasing real estate affords me the opportunity to invest in infrastructure and have full control over the details. With any concept, our goal is to create a transporting experience.

Chubby_s Jamaican - Jerk chicken, curries & Jamaican snacks, plus tropical cocktails, served in a resort-like setting.
Chubby_s Jamaican – Jerk chicken, curries & Jamaican snacks, plus tropical cocktails, served in a resort-like setting.
Gusto 101 - Toronto - Southern Italian classics with a global twist in an industrial setting plus wine on tap.
Gusto 101 – Toronto – Southern Italian classics with a global twist in an industrial setting plus wine on tap.

Jupilings: Regarding your latest venture, Felix Trattoria, in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, what sentiments you want to capture & what kind of experience your audience will gain?

JZ: As my first international endeavour, Felix has a special place in my heart. When the opportunity to open a restaurant on Abbott Kinney fell in my lap, I knew I had to bring my A-game. Felix is deeply rooted in the culinary traditions of regional Italy combined with the fresh ingredients grown by California’s greatest family farms. When you walk into Felix, we want you to feel like you’re at home – everything from the food to the atmosphere feels comforting, but in the same breath, extraordinary. Our Chef, Evan Funke, brings the time-honoured tradition of pasta fatta mano or handmade pasta to Felix, resulting in some incredible dishes. We’re so grateful to have been honoured as both “Best New Restaurant in America” by Esquire Magazine and “Restaurant of the Year” by Eater LA. The transporting experience at Felix is next level, but you’ll just have to try it yourself to see.

Felix Trattoria - LA - Evan Funke’s take on traditional Italian cuisine, with pasta made on sight, right before your eyes.
Felix Trattoria – LA – Evan Funke’s take on traditional Italian cuisine, with pasta made on sight, right before your eyes.
Felix Trattoria - LA - Evan Funke’s take on traditional Italian cuisine, with pasta made on sight, right before your eyes.
Felix Trattoria – LA – Evan Funke’s take on traditional Italian cuisine, with pasta made on sight, right before your eyes.

Jupilings: Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

JZ: My first job was working with my father who brought the first espresso machine to Canada, and I would, as this tiny 12-year-old, haul espresso machines from restaurant to restaurant to help my father out in his business. Seeing how hard he worked first-hand instilled within me a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit. I remember he would always say, “Janet – whatever you do, work for yourself!” Reflecting on where life has taken me, I’m sure his words were a massive influence on the career path I’ve chosen.

Jupilings: As a female entrepreneur can you, please share five tips to achieve one’s career or entrepreneurial aspirations in the hospitality industry?

JZ: Male, female, it doesn’t matter – we’re all just humans here. If someone else in the world can succeed, why can’t I?  All it takes is a big dream, and the grit, hard work, and passion for making it a reality. But advice specific to hospitality? You better want it and want it bad. This business isn’t an easy one, and you have to be prepared for things to go wrong. At the end of the day, if things go sideways, it’s going to be your passion for what you do that will give you the confidence to get back up and make it work.

Gusto 101 - Toronto - Southern Italian classics with a global twist in an industrial setting plus wine on tap.
Gusto 101 – Toronto – Southern Italian classics with a global twist in an industrial setting plus wine on tap.

 

Jupilings: What’s one branding lesson you’ve learned in your career and ventures?

JZ: Authenticity is always central to everything I do. Beyond having incredible food and design, knowing your brand voice is one of the most important things to have locked down – know who you are and who you aren’t; speak to your audience, not at them; and be authentic. Especially with social media, everyone feels like they play a part in your brand. We have thousands of loyal customers both on and offline, and they will let you know if something isn’t right. That’s why when it comes to hiring, I’m very selective with who is part of the team. From the person who manages our Instagram accounts to the server that brings out the plate of food, each team member is an extension of the brand. I’ve learned only to hire awesome, and to invest in those people to ensure they have the tools and training to bring each brand to life.

Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks?

JZ: Having been in this industry for some time now, I’ve developed a thick skin for any setback that comes my way. Especially when it comes to the restaurant industry, you have to expect the unexpected – but having an indomitable spirit is what allows me to keep going. Sometimes setbacks can be your greatest opportunities. Whether it was a hard lesson that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life or a mistake that turned out to be a blessing in disguise, I try not to be afraid of setbacks as I continue to build my company. I remember when we were building Gusto 101 we ran into some troubles with the construction of the foundation. This roadblock turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to us as it led to the creation of a basement with a private wine cellar – one of our most celebrated features in which we now host private dinners.

Jupilings: Who inspires you and why?

JZ: One of my earliest inspirations for business was my father who owned his own espresso machine company. Working alongside my father taught me about entrepreneurialism and the hard work it takes to run your own business.  My father was also one of those people who knew how to make people feel special – I have fond memories of homecooked meals growing up where my friends and family would pile around the table to devour anything my parents would serve us. This sense of soulful hospitality is something that is deeply instilled in me and is something I make a point of incorporating into every restaurant I open.

Felix Trattoria - LA - Evan Funke’s take on traditional Italian cuisine, with pasta made on sight, right before your eyes.
Felix Trattoria – LA – Evan Funke’s take on traditional Italian cuisine, with pasta made on sight, right before your eyes.

Jupilings: What does it mean to be a woman today & what are the unique traits that women bring to your industry?

JZ: Today women have a lot of opportunities, and being a woman shouldn’t be seen as a disadvantage. If anything, it’s an advantage – women have an intuitive sensibility around details that most men just don’t possess naturally. This is a massive strength for me when it comes to considering everything from the ingredients of each dish to the unique design details of my restaurants. Something as small as having purse hooks under each bar or good lighting in the bathroom are features that can so easily be missed but make a massive impact when it comes to overall experience.

Yes, society puts pressure on women to follow a certain path – go to school, have a career, get married, have kids – but now, more than ever before women feel empowered to take a path less travelled. When I was younger, I asked my father for the wedding money he had been saving to help with a down payment on a condo. He even made me sign a paper saying I wouldn’t come back to ask for wedding money down the line. Years later, I sold that condo and used that money to buy into the partnership at Trattoria Nervosa. I’ve never looked back since. Don’t be intimidated to enter into a male-dominated industry – it is just an opportunity to put your own unique stamp on the way things are done.

Jupilings: What is your life motto?

JZ: The greatest determiner of success is grit.

How To Creatively Communicate Your Brand Promise

People are drawn to the luxury industry for different motives. The traditional luxury ambassadors hold on to the ephemeral feelings driven by the narratives touching on superiority and pride. Then again, the experience hunters are seeking personal connections in the brand’s promise to unleash their dreams. Last but not least, the hip netizens who are fuelling the luxury space are powered by stories and the purpose of the brand. They have leaped over from “what I have” attitude to the sphere of “Being.”  More and more, the mindset is about  “who I truly am” & “what I stand for.”  They want to be rewarded by the legacy, the qualitative experience and most importantly the echo of self-identity.

With this mindset, the brand promise matters more than ever. From everyday luxury such as Starbucks to super premium brand SilverSea Cruise line or ultra high-end brands such as Graff, desires are stimulated by the strength, the reputation and the feelings tied up to the brand promise. Once developed and channeled into multimedia storytelling, the narrative must resonate with the personal branding of the luxury aficionados whether the futurists, rebels, individuality seekers or vanity driven groups. It should evoke an identity aligned with self-perception and aspiration of the customers.

Starbucks brand promise: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

SilverSea brand promise: Silversea’s small luxury ships are designed for those who delight in the thrill of discovery while indulging mind and body in the most lavish surroundings imaginable.

Graff brand promise: “The House of Graff stands for the finest, the rarest and only the very best stones.”

Recounting the brand promise is more than touching off swagger or reality-distortion but skillfully emulating personal achievements, memories, and traits. A compelling narrative taps into the subconscious reveals the not so perfect identities and connects with weird fantasies with no judgment. Interpretation of brand promise through unexpected whimsical campaigns to the unassuming rebellious image is all about keeping it “real.”

Here are some suggestions on how to bring your luxury brand promise to life and connect with the expressions of identities:

  • Observe many types of consumption to adapt the content. The how and where your audience garners and shares their personal information.
  • Feature desirable qualities even so with an honest portrayal of human behaviours and circumstances. Tiffany, the premier jeweller, designed the window displays of its 5th Avenue, in tribute to New York’s graffiti culture while adding a gutsy attitude insinuating that things can happen in real life.Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 12.29.01 PM
  • Illustrate the concept of “who I am” and “what I stand for.” Luxury fitness brand Equinox voice not only a healthy luxury lifestyle but what gives meaning to life and what succinctly defines their customers.

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  • Create stories that forge emotional connections and exhibit meaningful outcomes. Rolex tell a story campaign” features excellence, history, perfection and keeps us engaged by relaying it’s ambassadors experiences and testimonials.  Oscar-winning director James Cameron in a press release about the brand’s Academy Awards sponsorship said “A Rolex is not only a beautiful watch and a masterpiece of engineering, it’s very tough. It’s a watch that you can take into any environment and which can stand up to the pressure. So, what you’re saying subliminally to the audience is: that character can take the pressure, too; he or she has what it takes.”
  • Define the characteristics of your brand and align them with your storytelling. The unapologetic authenticity in the brand’s narrative is appealing and strengthens bonding between the brand and it’s customers. Tom Ford’s Limited Edition F*cking Fabulous fragrance branding, is a perfect example of blunt authenticity of the brand and Tom Ford’s edgy spirit.

Leveraging narrative to construct and associate values to the self-concept of the consumers needs to meet the expectations, perceptions and most importantly it must be consistent with your brand promise.

Modern Luxury – Trends in Branding

The new modern luxury roars freedom, flexibility, and eccentricity.  The collaboration of stylish streetwear with luxury brands, genderless approach, quirky brand images and the flair of uniqueness rattles the traditions.  As our planet moves towards positive partnerships and collaborative sentiments to create flourishing communities, the luxury style is powered by acceptance, inclusion, affiliation, and sustainability.

Gucci - The new men’s Tailoring campaign features Dapper Dan, the Harlem couturier renowned for the custom designs he created for celebrities, athletes and hip-hop artists in the 80s and early 90s.
Gucci – The new men’s Tailoring campaign features Dapper Dan, the Harlem couturier renowned for the custom designs he created for celebrities, athletes and hip-hop artists in the 80s and early 90s.

Undeniably the luxury lifestyle is being emblazoned by street art & fashion, sportswear brands, social and political uncertainties, technology and personal sentiments.  The acceptance of this cultural shift, influenced by emerging designers that have been brought up by the influence of Hip Hop and Rap culture and conspicuously merge authenticity with creativity is apparent throughout luxury brands. At the same time, the majority of growth in this particular market is driven by the change in wealth distribution and the shift in consumption of luxury goods by affluent millennials.  As for the luxury industry, it’s attempt to be relevant and represent this mindset demands adventurous creativity and savvy business approach.

F is for... Campaign:  Six super street legends, got together and wrote the word FUTURE in six different languages inside a giant yellow ring. To spread a mega positive vibe across Rome and beyond, breaking all barriers for a fearless future for all the freaks around! Image by Frendi
F is for… Campaign: Six super street legends, got together and wrote the word FUTURE in six different languages inside a giant yellow ring. To spread a mega positive vibe across Rome and beyond, breaking all barriers for a fearless future for all the freaks around! Image by Frendi

The zeitgeist of our times values unexpected collaborations and distance itself from flying solo. This particular trend has been successful to motivate the affluent millennials.  To engage and consume the intangible image created by luxury life and style is about seduction to the extent that the sense of belonging and acceptance in this particular community is not an option but essential. This idea might appear two-dimensional; however, the underpinning notion of blurring the hierarchy lines between different brands in its way is the language of progress and social inclusion. Distancing from the old styles and introducing fresh attitudes bring brand awareness to a diverse audience.

In 2017, Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with Supreme is undeniably an endorsement of inclusion. Supreme has all the elements of a valuable affiliation due to it’s young demographic, genderless designs and limited editions.  Consumers from different realms of taste, behaviours and dress codes where brought together by their shared interest in fashion honouring their differences.  Together the two brands created a tribal affiliation and an exclusivity hype resulting in a sold-out experience.

Supreme X Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 2017
Supreme X Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 2017

Another good example is the collaboration between the luxury fashion house Gucci and Spanish artist Ignasi Monreal. For the past few years, Gucci has appealed and secured an affiliation to millennials thanks to their design evolution and remarkable online presence. Their narrative illustrates mythical and surreal universes and underlines quality and uniqueness of their brand.  The combination is Super Cool!

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Having social-conscious values and adopting responsible environmental practices add the desirability quality to the luxury brands. They need to take a principled stand to gain favour among the millennials, the growing segment of the premium consumer market. Cultural diversity, labor practices, philanthropy or environmentally conscious lifestyles foster respect among the customers.

For instance, delving into luxury hotels, the ultra-exclusive Nekupe Sporting Resort & Retreat, built by the American Nicaragua Fund, is an innovative way that offers high-end luxury experience. The ANF, founded by Alfredo and Theresa Pellas, a wealthy family that believes in creating opportunities, self-sufficiency, and dignity for the poorest sectors of the population through the partnership model. They have reforested their 1,300 acres by planting more than 14,000 trees, hoping to restore natural habitat, increase local employment and their income. The ANF has contributed to well being of villages by building homes, creating access to health care, education and water management solutions. An Eco-Friendly resort that offers luxury experience with a clear conscious.

 

Nekupe Resort
Nekupe Resort

 

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Last but not least, enabling consumers to live a lifestyle true to themselves and being responsible towards community are the pillars of a brand’s authenticity.  Successful representation of the authentic perception of your core values to technology savvy consumers involves meaningful digital narratives as well as offering instant gratification through mobile and e-commerce.

 

Ray Caesar – The Artist Who Embraces Gender Fluidity

Ray Caesar – The Artist Who Embraces Gender Fluidity from Jupilings on Vimeo.

Innocent to sinful, unrestrained to attentive, humorous to gloomy, flirtatious to modest, Ray Caesar, the acclaimed digital artist, unlocks his state of mind and his power of imagination through playful and witty themes. He chose to undertake one of the most difficult aspects of life by laying bare his painful and unpleasant life experiences, acknowledging his fears, submerging into his desires and fantasies through art.  His compelling imagery links the dreamy yet self-discovery realities to earthly concerns. He opens up the portals of his multi-layered universe and delves deep into his subconscious and emotional states of being.

Sol - Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Sol – Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House

Ray Caesar’s self-observing depictions challenge us, shake us and impel us in unforeseen directions, perhaps to a place where we re-examine our own realities and progressively relate to our world with compassion. As he gracefully and brilliantly indicates:

” My work is about defining myself in my own way and then sharing that as Art….what if we all did that ?, share our unique qualities in an effort to find our commonality.”

Communion - Courtesy of Ray Caesar /Gallery House
Communion – Courtesy of Ray Caesar /Gallery House

Learn about what drives Ray Caesar’s creativity and his intentions, in an exclusive interview with Jupilings:

Tell us about yourself and how you got into art:

Ray Caesar: I grew up in south London in the 1960s in a very dysfunctional and abusive family. I began making pictures as a way to dissociate and cope with a difficult reality. After immigrating to Canada, I started working at a children’s hospital in Toronto in the medical art and photography department and stayed there for 17 years. I had always painted and sculpted, but during these years, I began to once again make art as a coping mechanism as the material I dealt with at work was quite overwhelming. I then worked for several years in the film industry doing 3D modeling and animation and, from there, began making art with digital tools.

Old Wounds - Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Old Wounds – Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House

Who is your protagonist?

Ray Caesar: She is my alter ego and a way for me to present a side of the fluidity or ambiguity of my gender. As a child, I used to behave and dress very much like the figures in my work, but an expression of that soon became too dangerous in the volatile family I lived with in the 1960s. It was also unnerving to my father that I talked to dolls and insisted they would talk back. Years of therapy have suggested this is a form of dissociative identity disorder, but I have some ideas of this myself of a slightly more mystical nature. I am comfortable with the idea that my protagonist is a side of my subconscious identity that I had to hide in a paracosm or inner world to survive. Today my images are simply a window into that world that has been growing in my mind for over half a century…an aspect of my psyche of gentleness and femininity and also a way to manage a strange but dangerous inclination that in some way has grown up in a separate world from this one.

Sailor Boy - Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Sailor Boy – Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House

What is the fundamental principle in your creations?

Ray Caesar: To explore and heal my own fractured psychology through images by creating my story as if it was a book of pictures. To give the suppressed and partially broken aspect of who I am a physical presentation. I take memory and dissociated emotions and experiences and give them physical form not just in a 2-dimensional picture but as a 3-dimensional virtual environment with a 3-dimensional figure. My protagonist is movable physical doll covered textures of my own skin in virtual rooms and clothing and textures from a variety of memories from my own past. I am writing a story of my life in pictures that evoke feelings I can’t put in words.

You have indicated that your artworks are inspired by your childhood, life experiences and your involvement in Sick Kids Hospital which are the inner force, what about motivation, what is the outside force that compels you to create?

Ray Caesar: To personally see a reflection of who I am. To define myself in my own evolving mind image. We have no control over how others define us …we do have a choice in how we define ourselves and that plays into how we ourselves define others. I didn’t start publicly showing my work for the motivation of profit as I have other skills that could have and did satisfy that need. I certainly don’t do this for motivations of ego as I am extremely shy and uncomfortable making my work public and rarely attend openings and have to force myself to post on social media in fits of agony. For me, my work isn’t Art …it’s a presentation of who I am. A method for self-expression so I can see myself presented in a way that expresses how I feel. I make it public as I have learned that showing work in some strange way “completes it” …it makes that image part of the greater whole and by doing that ….. its meaning changes with each person that looks at it in such a way that I am forced to look at it again as if I have never seen it before …that has always been its greatest mystery and surprise to me.

When you are creating a work of art, you are forging an engagement with a situation or an emotion. Do you aspire to drive public awareness to activism, in any stage of your creation?

Ray Caesar: There is no intended dogma in my work or social commentary other than a very personal exploration of who I am and it is a very self-indulgent process that I need to do for survival. I think of it as a visual diary and personal emotional guide. My work is simply a self-portrait of my own mind and self-image. It’s about my own sense of fluid gender and my inability to comprehend who I am and where I fit in a world of polarized views. I believe we each need a mind view or image of who we are as a template to build our actions and progress and evolve in a strange world. Although my work is very self-indulgent I do think self-exploration leads into how we as a species have to define what it is to be a human being. So much of our problems with race and gender and cultural identity stem from the inability to connect as a species and define our long term goals and aspiration (this absolutely reflects my own problems with dissociation ) ….to take an active role in our own evolution by a series of smaller conscious revolutions that build the template of what a human being is and what it could be and should be. If we define ourselves individually as unique complex individuals with flaws and amazing potential and realize that there has never been another person in all human history just like us and no one has ever had our unique experience…..then that’s how we define others!  Not by our physical sex organs or skin pigmentation or where we were born, or what familial religion or organization we belong to.  We are a species of unique individuals that are attempting to define our spiritual and practical goals and that’s something every single one of us shares. My work is about defining myself in my own way and then sharing that as Art….what if we all did that? Share our unique qualities in an effort to find our commonality.

World Traveler - Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House
World Traveler – Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House

What does women empowerment mean to you?

Ray Caesar: As someone who is fluid gender and who has never really felt entirely male or female and lives in a mind that could be described as ambiguous and hermaphroditic, I am fascinated by recent events in a gradual growing realization of enlightened women and men that patriarchy is fundamentally flawed. I would love to see our species grow beyond a system that is based on self-centered fear, power, and dominance. It’s time for our species to evolve and acknowledge that we all have masculine and feminine aspects to our subconscious psychology. The balance of Anima and Animus is crucial, not just in the individual, but in the very fabric of human society and the way we choose to govern ourselves and interact in a variety of social levels. In my own attempt to reflect this about myself through my work …it is not lost on me that our own personal struggles reflect the greater struggles of our species and society. The empowerment of women is really a foundation stone in the self-realization of what direction we need to travel for the species as a whole that can ultimately benefit the whole. It is an evolution in progress and from a personal point of view, it is amazing and beautiful to witness. In a hopeful way, I see our planet as a fundamentally feminine thing. Earth or Gaia is a living goddess, a tangible deity that exists and is the giver of life. This thin strip of the atmosphere is like a womb feeding and nurturing and protecting the fragile life that exists within it. Within her is a sea of conscious awareness of millions of species and She is the sum of all the consciously aware life on this small blue world. She is a tangible touchable living conscious Goddess and we are destroying her through our primitive patriarchal arrogance, our fear, and ignorance, and our need for power and dominance. This planet is alive and a living thing! …we are part of this life and not separate from it and our conscious awareness is only part of the sum of existence that lives here,  life on this planet is more than just us. We are part of a caring protective matriarchal ecosystem called Earth and dependant on her like a child is of a mother. We cannot exist without her and our species will have to evolve and learn to treasure this Eden before we are expelled from it.

Kat in Laundromat - Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Kat in Laundromat – Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Tainted by the sea - Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery of House
Tainted by the sea – Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery of House

What are your tips about building a brand name as an artist?

Ray Caesar: Make the art you love and explore avenues that excite you and that are fundamentally about you. Realize that your own choices and values create your brand as if it is an expression of your world view. If you make what you love someone else will love it too. Network and find people that have the same passion for art or creation that you do and realize you can’t do this all alone. I work with my wife Jane and my friend and manager Belinda Chun as a kind of team or family. We like to think of all this as a collective of different skills, not unlike a fashion house or crew of a ship and we call that “Gallery House”http://galleryhouse.ca/. I make the Art, Jane keeps spreadsheets tracking every single piece and keeps me balanced and Belinda then builds a series of partnerships with galleries and dealers and organizations around the world that become a kind of extended family. It’s no longer a world of just one gallery and one artist splitting everything 50/50. We learn to trust these galleries and they learn to trust us and it all starts to work like a functioning engine that creates work, markets work and puts that work in places that visitors and collectors can view it and experience it online and in real spaces like galleries and art fairs and boardrooms and charitable events. It’s not just about me ..it’s about the different parts of the engine that function in tandem that create something of emotional value from nothing but a concept and a piece of paper and canvas. Dior wasn’t just Christian …it was a house and a company of people who believed in something beautiful and worked together to build something that was more than just a dress…they made that dress a piece of art.

Merchant of Venice - Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Merchant of Venice – Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House

What do you do to conquer fear or self-doubt:

Ray Caesar: I don’t as these are valid emotions … I use fear and self-doubt in a positive and creative way ..it’s not so much the conquering of a thing ( that’s a patriarchal practice ) but understanding that my feelings can create a choice of actions and that’s what I absolutely love about emotions …they give us choice. If I am afraid of something I acknowledge it and calmly look at my choices and use the negative energy in a creative positive way that creates a positive result. Bravery isn’t the absence of fear or the control of it, but understanding you have a choice of calm contemplative action despite the fear. I think a wonderful thing to learn is that fear can actually create calm when you realize it’s a way for the subconscious to communicate to the conscious mind that makes action. I think of all emotions like unformed energy that can be modified like a lump of sculptural clay into form …it’s only when we take action and that clay is cast that we will know the result. If I doubt myself that means I need to examine why I am doubting myself and sometimes that doubt is a very useful justified thing and sometimes it is an illusion. I don’t just try and be creative with Art ..I try and be creative with life.

Helios - Courtesy Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Helios – Courtesy Ray Caesar/Gallery House

 What are your thoughts about blockchain technology especially in support of digital art? Would you consider using a blockchain technology platform to reach global art enthusiasts? What are the problems in the Art Market do you want these platforms to solve?

Ray Caesar: One of the reasons Belinda Chun and I developed a different method of working with galleries is that I had so many problems being paid by previous galleries that sold my work. I have had many problems with my work on consignment not being returned. We now only partner with good trustworthy galleries that work fairly with artists and in doing so we make sure we work fairly with them. Blockchain holds a promise of improving that situation by giving greater clarity of any sale and transfer of work in any gallery in the world and letting everyone involved know when and where it happened. I am also interested in the potential for providence in terms of a digital form of a certificate of authenticity that can make providence absolute and travel from collector to collector. Blockchain is sort of like a digital Antiques Roadshow that carries the history of each item along with it and that history becomes part of the fabric of the art itself and can ultimately even increase the value or story of that particular object. As a printmaker of an unregulated commodity, each piece of an edition is very much like printing currency and in doing so one faces the problems any currency faces. Many years ago I was surprised I had absolutely no control over the price of my work …it developed a price based on demand or more accurately, someone’s guess or gamble of its demand. If I held the price down on my work, dealers bought it all and sold it for a higher price. I learned how the market creates the price and value of a limited unregulated edition whether it is a stamp, a dollar bill, or a piece of art.

What superpower you would like to have ? and why?

Ray Caesar: The ability to become consciously aware of subconscious aspects of my own reality and move towards a greater awareness of not just my own existence but a greater awareness of our species and the multidimensional universe we live in … it’s a superpower I am currently learning to cope with and not like trying to cope with X-ray vision or with the difficulty of wearing a spandex mask and tights and high heels and a troublesome cape that tends to get caught in revolving doors.

Which movie you would have liked to be the leading actor:

Ray Caesar: From childhood, I always wanted to be Emma Peel in the old British Avengers TV spy series…I loved her outfits and how she finished each show drinking champagne. She laughed at fear and always took humorous control and action in any difficult situation. She was a spy and secret agent, a lover, and a sculptor and was probably one of the first strong independent female characters on television. I have modeled myself on Emma Peel since I first saw her as a child in the 1960s….it’s a bit tricky to get into a leather outfit now and zip it all up but I suppose Diana Rigg has the same problem… I also think that she was the basis for M in the recent James Bond films …in fact in She was even referred to as Emma and Bond himself almost gave it away when he said he was mistaken when he thought M was a random letter.

Silent Partner - Courtesy Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Silent Partner – Courtesy Ray Caesar/Gallery House

What is your life motto?

Ray Caesar:: Pick yourself up ..dust yourself off ..and try again….keep in mind the only way out is through and leave by the same door you came in….also Fibre is good but too much Fibre isn’t so good.

Home Coming - Courtesy Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Home Coming – Courtesy Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Bound - Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Bound – Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Precious - Courtesy Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Precious – Courtesy Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Blessed - Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House
Blessed – Courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House

The impact of Blockchain Technology on Diamond and Jewellery Industries

Imagine the beauty & the emotional connection to your fine jewelry is supported by conflict-free, fair labor, and authenticity. Imagine that, one day, with a click on your cell-phone, you can trace from it’s inception to production, the history or the past ownerships. One of the biggest challenges of fine jewelry, specifically the diamond industry, is the convincing fakes, the swags, and the misleading claims.

Resolving these issues requires the integration of innovative solutions into the trade such as Blockchain Technology. The transparency and the verification systems provided by this technology corroborate trust and significantly reduce fraud in the insurance realm or counterfeits. By creating immutable records to track and protect the valuable goods through Blockchain Technology, manufacturers and brands set the seal on the authenticity & ethical trade. Ultimately creating a progressive world where everyone is a winner.

The disruptive technology promotes socially fair transactionsprevents compromising reputation, and establishes personal connections between the customer and the brand. The industry is warming up, leveraging Blockchain Technology to generate value for its customers and reduce costs. One of the technology companies offering solutions underpinned with Blockchain Technology for the diamond industry is Everledger. A global start-up creating thumbprints across the supply chain pipeline to protect the ownership, authenticity, reputations, and challenges that bear a high cost for the owners, insurers, and all parties involved.

Industry leaders such as Debeers are also investing in new platforms supported by Blockchain Technology to create a highly secure database to record the activities throughout the supply chain while ensuring that the sensitive data will remain between parties involved in the transaction. Thanks to Blockchain Technology, the ownership joy of DeBeers refined collections is vastly expanded.

 

DeBeers - ADONIS ROSE CLUSTER RING
DeBeers – ADONIS ROSE CLUSTER RING
DeBeers - SWAN PAVÉ BAND
DeBeers – SWAN PAVÉ BAND
DeBeers - INFINITY BAND 5MM
INFINITY BAND 5MM

 

DE BEERS AURA HEART CUT PENDANT
DE BEERS AURA HEART CUT PENDANT

 

TALISMAN YELLOW GOLD LUCKY COIN BRACELET
TALISMAN YELLOW GOLD LUCKY COIN BRACELET

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reign Sapphire Corp., is another custom and branded jewelry company, that is incorporating Blockchain Technology to authenticate sapphires as a conflict-free and accepts Bitcoin as payment via Bitpay on reignsapphires.com.  They offer Australian sapphires, designed in Beverly Hills with chic and modern aesthetics appealing to millennials.

Reign Sapphires
Baguette Double Ring in Yellow Gold

 

Flexible Stiletto Earrings
Flexible Stiletto Earrings

 

 

 

Amor Ring
Armor Ring

Digital Artist & Blockchain Technology

Art and culture are credited for our communities’ wellbeing, education, and enlightening our emotional world. Various political statements, beliefs, or social values have been produced and communicated through Art, Music, or Literature by struggling artists and independent content creators of all kinds. Although the digital revolution has reshaped the Art and Media industries by introducing different production methods, distribution, and enabling reasonably priced promotional campaigns, the technology still has its flaws. For many artists and content creators working with brick-and-mortar institutions, streaming or other social web-based platforms is a grueling route. Why? Simply, the unfair treatment by the powerful intermediaries offers nominal royalty fees, commissions, or payments.

Ipso-facto, keeping the torch of artistry lit requires transparency and incentive. So enter blockchain technology. Progression from the age of information to the age of value, the blockchain technology serves the two essential elements for supporting and creating art. How? The simple idea behind the technology is that information or anything of value such as music, art, money, IP, deeds,… can be securely stored and relocated on an expansive global distributed ledger or database, run on numerous machines. The principle behind blockchain is to fulfill everyday needs by establishing trust through mass collaboration and smart code.

The transparency factor is about the provenance and the authenticity of the art of all kinds. A well-documented provenance confirms that the piece is authentic, not stolen, and has ownership history.

The application of blockchain technology for verification and ownership of physical art has been employed by several companies such as Verisart in Los Angeles, Tagsmart in London, and Ascribe in Berlin. They provide certificates of authenticity and provenance records.

The concept of ownership and provenance can be used for digital art. Once the art has a story together with the element of scarcity, it becomes collectible and eventually adds financial value. Beatriz Ramos, a Venezuelan artist, and CEO of DADA.nyc , has created a decentralized digital art marketplace on the blockchain offering the transparency factor and a social network where artists speak to each other through drawings.

The incentive factor allows ethical and fair payment to the artist. The common good practiced at the very best as art lovers reach their “high” from the ownership and have fulfilled their moral imperative by supporting the artist fairly and directly. Simultaneously, the stimulus is significant for the artists to be in charge of their creative work and gain from their magic.