Jeannie Vianney traces her love of jewelry making to a middle school art class, where she constructed her first necklace with copper wire. Many years and a degree in computer science later, she launched an eponymous line of elegant jewelry with an edge. Named Texas’ Next Top Designer in 2011, Vianney uses a variety of materials, including sterling silver and freshwater pearls. Her signature collection, however, is an array of lace cast jewelry, inspired by new and vintage laces that she has been collecting over the years. With an eye for both femininity and modernity, Vianney creates pieces that range from graceful floral drop earrings to her statement Chelsea Cuff. For next spring, the designer is working on a collection of lace pieces featuring spikes and striking stones. “I wanted to mix the delicateness of the lace with some modernism and edge,” she says. “Even though the lace looks delicate, it will last forever.” Jeannie Vianney Jewelry is available online at jeannievianney.com.
As a student at the University of Texas, Cristen Guest passed the Renaissance Art Market on Guadalupe every day. Drawn to its artisan photographs, paintings and jewelry, Guest soon began to apprentice under vendor and jewelry maker Wayne Bonham, sparking a lifelong passion for her craft. Though she describes her aesthetic as “earthy-organic, with vibrant colors and hints of edge,” Guest’s line has evolved continuously since it first launched in 2001. What began as a tribal-inspired selection of pieces has since transformed into a Bohemian-chic collection, complete with bold feathers and lace pressed in glass teardrop pendants. Recently, Guest has begun work on a collection informed by the architecture she has observed on her travels—next year, look for pieces shaped by the skyline and starlit sky of Morocco. René Guest Jewelry is available at Estilo, Fawn + Raven, Luxe Apothetique, Maya Star, Tiny Taiga and Touch of Sass, as well as through the René Guest Jewelry Facebook page.
Driven by a dialectic between technology and art, designer Melissa Borrell seeks to challenge preconceived notions about the limitations of jewelry making. In 2006, she captured the attention of the art world with her “Pop-Out” collection, featuring metal pieces the wearer herself transforms into jewelry. By popping the design from a metal card and hanging it on the enclosed chain however she desires, the wearer becomes part of the process, and the divide between creator and consumer begins to blur. Borrell has since developed a rich and dynamic body of work, including necklaces inspired by topography and rings that, when unworn, double as sculptural objects. Recently, as she prepares for an upcoming show in London, Borrell has begun using 3D printing to create intricate, three-dimensional forms, bringing revolutionary technology into the realm of jewelry making. “There are so many layers and meanings,” Borrell remarks. “It’s conceptual art.” Melissa Borrell Design is available online at melissaborrell.com.
For Rebekah Vinyard, the jewelry making process begins with a blank canvas of sorts: sheet metal. Though she had previously tried her hand at beading and charm jewelry, it was only when she started working with metal that she knew she had found her medium. “It’s like a sheet of paper,” she says. “I can cut out anything I want from it—it’s very liberating.” Vinyard sketches her designs with an architectural sensibility, creating pieces with clean, geometric lines, like her Aztec-inspired necklace or her Wonder Woman Cuff. Whether she hammers, buffs or brushes her material, Vinyard imparts a unique texture to her jewelry, which can be both feminine and fearless. “I’ve seen my pieces paired with very floral dresses as well as a rocker tee and shredded cutoffs,” she observes. “Most of my stuff is big and bold, and the woman who wears it is willing to be a little daring.” Rebekah Vinyard Jewelry is available online and at Gallery Black Lagoon and Parts and Labour. For a complete list of vendors, visit rebekahvinyard.com.
Son of a Sailor
Jessica Tata and William Knopp began designing jewelry on a whim, fascinated by a friend’s pair of button earrings. “Neither of us has been schooled in jewelry,” Tata admits, “but it caught our attention and developed into a whole slew of ideas.” A graphic designer by trade, Knopp spent four years in the Navy, lending the duo its nautical-inspired name. While you might find plenty of brass and graphic patterns reminiscent of nautical flags, Knopp and Tata are careful not to take their maritime influence too literally. Intrigued by the intersection of natural materials and careful design, the duo offers subtle splashes of color, from vibrant leather bracelets to delicate brass pendants. “It’s something fun you can add to your wardrobe without breaking the bank,” Tata notes. To that effect, the duo seeks out stunning but affordable materials, like vintage glass beads, to adorn their work. “We like making things that have a story,” Tata remarks. Son of a Sailor is available at Schatzelein and online at sonofasailorjewelry.com
Part workshop and part design studio, MAKEatx is the brainchild of founders Kristen von Minden and Eve Trester-Wilson, who sought to bring laser cutting technology to Austin’s artisan scene almost a year ago. MAKEatx has since become a community space for local architects, graphic designers and artists, offering a variety of classes and membership-based access to an Epilog laser cutter. Though formally trained in architecture, von Minden and Trester-Wilson have also begun making jewelry, creating intricate patterns on woods like mahogany and birch. Inspired by their everyday surroundings, the duo will often forgo sketching designs on paper in favor of prototyping and refining their work with the laser cutter itself, which offers unparalleled precision and room for experimentation. “Sometimes,” von Minden notes, “I work myself into a place I could never have imagined when I started.” For more information about MAKEatx’s custom services, workshops and available resources, visit makeatx.com.
Childhood friends Nicole Martinez and Jayne Malasko founded Briolette Jewelry in 2009 after dabbling in jewelry making for several years. “We looked at each other’s designs and thought, ‘We’re great friends. We share a common interest. Why don’t we just go into business together?’” Malasko laughs. Despite their distinct styles—Martinez prefers clean, modern designs, while Malasko creates asymmetrical, ornamental pieces—the designers take cues from one another as they shape their line of colorful, feminine jewelry. The result is a collection of whimsical necklaces and earrings, dripping with natural stones and set in 14-karat gold and sterling silver. For Martinez and Malasko, jewelry making thus offers the perfect creative outlet and an opportunity to give back to the community. “Working with each other is great,” Malasko says. “We get to set off on these artistic adventures together.” Briolette Jewelry is available at Plain Ivey Jayne, Mana Culture, Salon Aura and Viva Day Spa. For more information, visit mybriolette.com
A landscape architect by trade, Maggie Goen found that jewelry design held a similar allure: “I like using my hands, bringing things together and making them work,” she observes. In college, Goen began venturing into bead shops and vintage stores, looking for eye-catching pieces to create the jewelry she wasn’t able to find on the market. She continues to use a variety of colors and textures today, often pairing vintage Chanel chains with brightly-colored stones she finds across Texas and her native Georgia. Her inspirations are equally diverse, from vintage fabric to the walls at Snack Bar on South Congress, infusing each piece with its own, unique charm. “I see jewelry as wearable art,” Goen says. “It should be an expression of your style.” At the same time, Goen crafts her jewelry with attention to comfort, so “you can throw it on every day but still make a statement.” Maggie Goen Jewelry is available at Eliza Page. For more information about the collection, visit maggiegoen.com.
As a young girl, Haley Lebeuf had always tinkered with jewelry making—she still recalls the exquisite beads her grandparents once brought back from a trip to Africa. “It was a lifelong hobby,” she says. “It just really got under my skin.” Today, Lebeuf handcrafts her own line of daring jewelry, balancing the clean lines of her largely sterling silver settings with the rawness of highly textured druzy stones. “I’ve got a magpie thing,” Lebeuf admits. “I focus on stones that will give you sparkle and something special.” In fact, it’s the gem itself that drives the designer’s one-of-a-kind pieces, as she searches for “that one special stone” to be the focal point of her work. Ultimately, whether an elegant hoop earring or one of her signature, two-finger rings, Lebeuf designs her pieces to be unforgettable. “The woman who wears my jewelry has confidence,” she says. “She’s not a wallflower.” Haley Lebeuf Jewelry is available at Schatzelein and online at haleylebeuf.com.
For designer Margot Wolf, the art of jewelry making is irresistible. “There’s so much incredible craftsmanship that has been passed down from generation to generation,” she says. Wolf continues to explore that legacy, experimenting with techniques as old as mokume gane, a Japanese sword making style that produces a pattern evocative of wood grain. At the same time, Wolf seeks to create fresh, modern pieces, whether she’s casting a tree pod into sterling silver or developing enamel jewelry the wearer can flip and stack. Underlying each of her pieces is a love for the stories that jewelry can tell, and Wolf speaks of her medium with reverence, from the tarnish on weathered silver to the “deep soul” of black diamonds. The woman who wears her pieces, Wolf notes, is one who similarly recognizes jewelry’s ability to transform: “She likes looking good because it makes her feel good—there’s power to that.” Margot Wolf Jewelry is available at By George on South Congress. For more information, visit margotwolf.com.