The Tools Responsible for Anna Sheffield’s Amazing Line
As the Bing Bang designer sees it, getting to play with the hammers and torches is the fun part.
“I sit down and build things from scratch,” jewelry designer Anna Sheffield says. “I always have—that’s how my mind works.” A metalsmith at heart, Anna creates almost everything for her line Bing Bang in-house and a lot of it by hand—even ten years in as her company has grown to include a team, comprised of a small crew of talented and invested girls (and the rare, but occasional boy). Get a glimpse at the tools she uses when crafting each piece. —alisha prakash
Now’s your chance to scoop up the teeny-tiny skull bracelet Anna made just for us. Head right this way…
“I often sit down and work directly in the materials…you can’t really sketch it—you have to see and feel how things hang and look together—what should be heavier and lighter, how long something should be and style of the chain. This is our work bench where we do all of the fabricating and assembly, from measuring and cutting chains to sawing out and building models. We do tons of hand-finishing, which means the patinas are all done here as well—surfaces are oxidized, brushed, and polished until they are perfectly Bing Bang—which is to say you can’t always tell if it was a relic unearthed in a faraway place or made just today in New York City. At least that’s the idea!”
“Anvils and hammers are for forging and forming. I use the hammers to add texture to original models, and we also do a lot of hammering on production pieces in both Bing Bang and my namesake line. Since I was a blacksmith before a jeweler, it’s an integral part of my process and aesthetic.”
“The soldering station is essentially an area for building prototypes by assembly with the torch. It’s the same as welder’s set-up, only tiny. I make most of the original models by hand and this is where it happens.”
“I assemble most of the models by hand, which requires using the metal stock I keep in the studio in either gold, silver, brass, or copper. I saw, bend, hammer, and otherwise tweak pieces to the appropriate shapes. Then, I assemble, using pliers and cutters on the big work table.”
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How Anna Sheffield’s Southwestern Past Has Influenced Her Present
Bing Bang’s leading lady goes back to her roots again and again.
A couple pieces from Bing Bang Black Label.
Living on an Indian reservation in New Mexico from the time she was three weeks old, Anna Sheffield of the cultish jewelry label Bing Bang was immersed in the Southwestern culture from an early age. “My baby blanket was a Pendleton Navajo blanket. I remember when my mom took me to sand paiting rituals when I was small, and we hiked in the canyons where all of those beautiful Anasazi ruins are,” she recalls. Her upbringing has, naturally, shaped her design philosophy—especially Anna’s most recent collection, Bing Bang Black Label, the development of which led her to research Native American jewelry. Here, a tour of Anna’s history with the American Southwest. —alisha prakash
“My parents and I in northern New Mexico.”
“This is me on my dad’s back in front of the Anasazi ruins at Mesa Verde. These kinds of cliff dwellings are scattered throughout the mountains and valleys of the Four Corners area. They were inhabited by the ancient Pueblo tribes of that region. The spaces have a really magical quality to them, and the buildings are remarkably sophisticated. They are also a bit stoic and mysterious, as the people apparently vanished or moved on without leaving much behind to explain why.”
ANNA’S FAVORITE NEW MEXICO HAUNTS…
Pasqual’s: “Without fail, I always eat at Pasqual’s in Santa Fe, once if not twice. The place is super-cozy and friendly with murals on the wall and paper banners strung overhead. The food is unbelievable—you know the food is real once you see the line and how many locals are willing to stand in it. New Mexico is famous for its green chiles, which are used in just about everything. They are my favorite thing on earth to eat—well, next to cake—and are sometimes so spicy your ears ring from eating them.” (pasquals.com)
Red Rocks: “The drive up north from Santa Fe is nothing short of enchanting—there are these beautiful cross-sections of red rock formations, mountain ranges, and vistas over gorges and along the flat sides of mesas. It’s pure magic to behold, and it’s the one place where I feel truly at home. This picture was taken on the way around from the Abiquiu side of my favorite drive over to Ojo and on across to Taos.”
WHAT ANNA DISCOVERED WHEN SHE BEGAN HER RESEARCH…
“As a metalsmith, I am as inspired by the process as the end result—particularly in Native American jewelry which is also dear to my heart. I really love these brooches, and how they were such a form of personal expression.”
“The motifs were actually an amalgamation of emblems adapted from Scottish jewelry mixed with traditional native motifs like sun, moons, and wolves. Because the Northeast early-contact tribes moved further and further West, this style of metalsmithing became pervasive all over the East Coast and in the plains. Southwestern jewelry is so different, and I think because I grew up around that, I find these geometric metal pieces really fascinating.”
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Meet Bing Bang
How large-scale pieces gave way to much smaller ones.
“I didn’t really think of it as something that was going to become my life’s work—I was just doing it for fun,” designer Anna Sheffield says on Bing Bang, her now-decade-old jewelry line. While studying fine-art sculpture at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, Anna dabbled in small pieces as she focused on big ones. “I started to delve into every single process known to man—bronze-casting, plaster-mold-making, ceramics, and raku-firing,” she says. “I started working with pieces of steel and bronze that I would find in the studio—random chunks cut off from bigger pieces.”
Those little designs found buyers by word-of-mouth, and Anna decided to make the move to the Big Apple to see which took over—her fine art or Bing Bang, a collection of mixed-metal works that, as she puts it, “walk the line between sweet and edgy.” “It was really organic and amorphous—I didn’t have a business plan; I didn’t set out to start a jewelry company. But it has been a really fun ride,” she says. She did, however, put some thought into what to call this thing: “I wanted to have a company name around the concept of two hands, the sound of the hammer anvil, and the idea of the creator being involved,” Anna explains. “Bing and bang are the two concepts—it’s the hand that holds the hammer, and the hand that holds the material while you hammer it.” —alisha prakash