Bernice Kelly Shows Off Her Jewelry-Making Materials
She’s drawn to things that veer a little dark.
“I like to go to the core of things,” says Bernice Kelly of her straightforward design ethos. “That level of deconstruction has always interested me.” This is evident in the unfussy pieces Kelly creates for Macha, where her locally sourced metals and gems really pop. Want to know more? Bernice is happy to break it all down. —mattie kahn
Black Diamonds: “I was drawn to black diamonds because they sort of turn the idea of ‘the beautiful diamond’ on its head. They’re less sparkly. They’re a bit darker. They’re the inverse of what people expect. And I suppose it just comes back to my fascination with texture and origin. Black diamonds are closer in color to how the diamond looks in its natural form.”
Silver and Brass: “I love the way the look together. The brass tarnishes a bit against the silver and gives it this really nice sort of aged, industrial feel.”
Engraving: “We do all our engraving by hand, which is great because it means we can pretty much print anything—so the pieces are really personalized. Engravings remind me a lot of old British tradition, which is probably why I started doing them in the first place. I like adding that touch of history. There’s something really sweet about being able to give someone that.”
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The Four Key Kora Materials
Get down with Maxandra Short’s essential components.
For Kora, it’s all about sustainability. Maxandra Short, the talented, continent-hopping designer, and all of the based-in-Africa artisans behind the jewelry line have become pros at making necklaces and cuffs from repurposed goods. From shattered glass to old pans, she gives us a start-to-finish guide to how Kora shape-shifts these once-discarded materials. —carlye wisel
"Horn is byproduct of the food industry. Beef is a staple of Kenyan diets, and all the cows have these massive horns. When we started about three years ago, the horns were being burnt, just like trash, but then the butchers realized they could start selling the horns. They’re a real pleasure to work with because there are just these beautiful natural variations."
"The Of a Kind edition is a new version of our Polychrome Ruma Bangles, in which we combine Greek leather and brass wrapping with horn. For this, we wanted colors that felt really fresh—the mint is my favorite thus far."
"We actually use brass two different ways: We cast in it, out of recycled scrap metal sourced from around Tigoni—a semi-rural area outside of Nairobi. We also use sheet brass that is hammered and texturized to create wide cuffs and, most recently, chain links that are new to our fall 2012 collection."
"Our wide brass cuffs have been a big hit. I designed them to be worn in a pair, one on each wrist, for a Diana Vreeland-meets-Wonder Woman look. What’s great about the hammered brass is that it’s really lightweight, allowing for a lot of flexibility in designing. And this piece, the Chevron Brass Cuff, is one of my favorites."
"The aluminum is cast by that same workshop in Tigoni, also from recycled scrap metal, often old pots and pans and junked car parts. The advantage of aluminum is that it’s really lightweight, so I can design bigger pieces like cuffs out of it. "
"Our Tri Wrap Aluminum Lily Cuff is a great example of our aluminum use. What I particularly love about this cuff is the contrast between the aluminum and brass. It seemed to be a bit of a taboo, mixing silver and gold, but I decided to chuck that aside because they really are so beautiful together. "
"The glass is hand-fired—it’s all made from broken, recycled glass shards. The glass is best for smaller shapes, like beads, so we started with amorphous, tear-like shapes and moved into more geometric shapes. One thing we’ve just begun experimenting with is color. I love the light aqua, natural color of glass, but it’s always good to be ever-evolving."
"With the Aztec Tetra Necklace, we were shooting for a high-impact statement necklace, and I love the contrast between the translucence of the glass and the rawness and solidity of the brass."
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How Shana Tabor Made Her Of a Kind Cuff
Saw? Check. Torch? Check. Mallet? Check.
Shana Tabor, the totally rad designer behind the super-stylish line In God We Trust, first came up with the design for bracelet she made us as a token of appreciation for a friend, fittingly dubbing it the “thanks” cuff. What makes our version extra special? Red Swarovski crystals—boo-ya. Below, Shana talks us through the steps involved in making one of these bad boys at her Greenpoint, Brooklyn, studio, as Becca Mapes, IGWT’s very talented jewelry product manager, demonstrates. —alisha prakash
“Saw a 12-inch brass rod in half. Each rod makes two cuffs.”
“Next, the brass is annealed using an acetylene torch. This allows the molecules in the metal to separate, making the metal softer and more malleable. The oxidation (a.k.a. blackness) made by annealing the metal is removed from the brass with something known as a pickle solution. The rods are then lightly sanded to remove any discoloration or dirt. The ends are filed and sanded until they are smooth enough to slide on and off the wrist.”
“Then we hand-forge the rods around a bracelet mandrel by hammering them repeatedly with a rawhide mallet.”
“The cuff begins to take shape after a lot of hard work.”
“More perfecting of the shape!”
“Once the cuff is shaped, it is hammered on a steel block to give it a textured finish.”
“These awesome opaque red stones—Swarovski crystals, made in Austria—are then set into the ends of the cuff.”
“After some final finishing and polishing, voila!”
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Meet Metalepsis Projects
A friendship fueled a line…which now helps the pals KIT.
“We actually didn’t hit it off at first at the office,” says Astrid Chaskta (left) of her relationship with Victoria Cho, a coworker during her time at an NYC architecture firm. “I thought she was intimidating because she was always dressed so nicely and mostly spoke in Spanish at the office. I oddly remember this one day when she had a bag of Twizzlers on her desk, and I really wanted one but was too afraid to ask her.” The discovery of a mutual friend broke the ice, and now the two are not only buds but also collaborators: Their line Metalepsis Projects features bronze pendant necklaces as structurally elegant as the buildings they worked on back in the day and, er, the candy that once kept them apart.
“I had never imagined doing anything but architecture for the longest time! I’m so glad to be exploring something else now. Astrid and I both love making things, and we saw jewelry as another way too apply our design skills and process,” Victoria explains. The undertaking also became a good way for them to keep in touch after Victoria headed west to L.A. and the duo had to abandon its de facto office, the restaurant Diner in Williamsburg. Though living on opposites sides of the country has its obvious complications, their pen-pal output—an archive of graphic jewelry—sure beats out a stash of letters. —zoila sylvester
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Erin Considine Attacks Metal (Ever So Gently)
The designer demonstrates the value of having an anvil half your size.
Having shown us her skills on the dyeing and weaving fronts, Erin Considine’s upping the ante and breaking out the saws and anvils: The tremendously talented jewelry designer dreams up and models each of the ornate brass pieces that she uses to add a bit of toughness to her soft, fibrous pieces. This is how she developed the geometric component that features prominently on the very awesome necklace she made just for us.
Want to check out the finished product? Click here to see—and buy—the soft-but-structural edition Erin created exclusively for Of a Kind.
“When I made this element, I was going through a bunch of art-deco architecture books and came up with this shape. From there, I drew it out and glued it to a piece of metal—brass with a low copper component. Then I sawed it out and filed the edges. I like rounded edges that are a little distressed looking—not too precise. I guess I’m kind of an unconventional jeweler in that way.”
“I’ve carried this anvil to eight different apartments—this 55-pound anvil. To get this moonscape texture, I hammered out the brass piece on the crappiest part. The curved shape just naturally happens when you’re hammering it on one side.”
“I wanted it to be a little thicker, so I added a layer of wax to it. Then I sent it to my caster in the city to create a mold for me and make 20 pieces. I use recycled brass. I love the color of brass—it’s really warm—and sustainably sourced materials are a huge part of my line.”