A fun and simple way to indulge in body mod, tooth bling has become a trend revived from the days of TLC, Big Daddy Kane, and Outkast. More accurately, tooth jewelry has never really left the world of body mod and hip hop, but artists like Alexis, aka Gems LA, are making it more accessible to people who want to put a little sparkle in their smile without buying a 24k grill bedecked with diamonds. In this interview, Alexis talks about the creative atmosphere of Los Angeles, what it's like to work at Sang Bleu, and why she loves to teach her tooth bling skills to others.
First, how did you get into tooth gems and why was it something that you really felt drawn to? Why do you think it's such a powerful trend in the body mod community?
About two years ago I had got a few tooth gems for my birthday. I was obsessed with it and had just recently moved to Los Angeles. My boyfriend gave me the idea to learn the service for some extra money. I saved up to train and took the course. I was honestly first drawn to it for the money. I started off doing house calls and free gems for promotion, trying to get my name out however I could. I fell in love with it and realized I wanted to revamp the service. I looked around and seen so many jewelers offering gold charms that had no detail and poor quality. I wanted to offer more high-end gold charms and customs that would stand out and represented the culture that I grew up in. I seen that the tooth gem industry was lacking creativity so I decided to think outside the box and integrate new designs influenced by streetwear culture such as Murakami, Dior, Kaws, Bape and many more. Some of my most sought after pieces have VVS diamonds on them. It became a passion of mine and I was proud. Its so fun to express your personal style through your smile.
Can you talk about the main questions most people have about tooth bling and how you help them through the process of applying gems to their teeth?
Of Course! I’d highly recommend having this service done by a trained professional. Tooth Gems are Gold charms and Swarovski crystals applied to the teeth using a similar process as braces. It takes about 5-10 minutes to get done. They generally last anywhere from 6 month to over a year! Its non-damaging to the enamel and no drilling is involved! There are so many fun shapes to choose from for gold charms and so many colored crystals.
You also teach others to apply tooth gems, which is awesome. Why do you feel it's an important aspect to your artistic output to educate others?
Yes, I began offering training a few months after starting Gems LA. I thought it would be a great way to expand my services and help others begin their own business. I felt honored that people were reaching out inquiring about training and were inspired by Gems LA to create their own business. I enjoy being able to help my students, I was once in their shoes and want them to know that they are capable of being successful if they put in the work. With my training I allow only my students to purchase gold charms from me to keep it a bit more exclusive! I’m actually very proud of my students and having the pleasure to train people from all over the world.
What makes Sang Bleu LA special? What do you love about working there? What do you love about Los Angeles and why is it such a perfect plae for creative people?
I’ve been with sang bleu for quite some time now and it’s been an amazing experience. I am extremely grateful to work with so many talented artists from all over the world. Manuela Soto inspires me the most, she is a very dedicated artist. I thank her for believing in me and bringing me into Sang Bleu. Los Angeles is an amazing place for creatives, although it is very competitive it’s a fun place to be. So many styles and trends are accepted here.
Beyond your work what are you really passionate about? What do you wish you had more time for?
After expanding into more high-end gold charms it really influenced me to get into working with gold. I’ve always wanted to learn the process of making grills, to me it’s very interesting to see the process of gold being molded into art. This year I plan to dedicate my time into making it happen and expanding my services into grills once I’m confident in my work.
Do you have any projects, goals, collabs, travel plans, etc. coming up in the future that you'd like to share?
I have a collab with Soto that will be dropping early 2020! I’m extremely excited because she’s someone I’ve wanted to work with for quite some time now. I also plan to expand my services into other fields of jewelry which will be really fun.