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Welcome to Open Studio, a Racked feature where we explore the workspaces and showrooms of some of the city's most talented, up-and-coming designers.
On a quiet, tree-lined street in the northernmost corner of Williamsburg—or the southernmost reaches of Greenpoint, depending on who you ask—jewelry designer Venessa Arizaga is dreaming of a beach in Puerto Rico.
"We have this beautiful, simple house that overlooks the ocean, so we open up all the doors and get this beautiful breeze," she says. "You don't hear the honking of the cars outside, you're just surrounded by blue skies and greenery."
For the past four years, Venessa has been whipping up designs that reflect her background as a child of the tropics (her father was born in Puerto Rico) and as a New York fashion industry veteran—after graduating from Parsons in 2003, she went on to design for Carolina Herrera, Zac Posen and others, before quitting her job in 2010. "I just needed to do something that was more of my identity," she says.
That identity can be felt in Venessa's pieces, which range from braided friendship bracelets with cheeky phrases to intricate gold-plated necklaces like the "Supernova," which takes over two hours to complete.
Venessa crafts her jewelry in the studio, but ceramic charms are made with vendors in Mexico and Peru. Her career in fashion, which gave her the knowledge to sew but not necessarily to solder, also influenced her jewelry-making style: "My background is not in jewelry. I just had threads and threads because I just sewed all the time. I would experiment by taking a string of thread and adding a charm to it and seeing what would happen. And that's how I evolved, just by adding string and string and string."
The designer is already thinking about taking her label to the next level—she introduced small fabric clutches for spring 2015, which could evolve into a Venessa Arizaga clothing line someday. She also recently debuted an accessories collection for men—the designs aren't as loud as her women's pieces, but, she explains, "I feel like they'd be boyfriend and girlfriend."
For now, Venessa's still being driven by the same philosophy that inspired her to take up jewelry-making in the first place—the desire to bring something fresh to the marketplace. "This sort of expresses the way I see things and my sense of humor," she says. "There's too much serious jewelry out there."
- 'Let It Rain' necklace, $315
- 'Supernova' bracelet, $125; “My favorite pieces are the friendship bracelets. These are like, my youth and my identity and growing up and making friendship bracelets."
- 'Eclipse' necklace, $575
- “My jewelry is very different from what’s out there. I make some things from wax, and we hand-carve it and then make a mold of it. But then I also have vendors that I work with really closely in Peru and Mexico to make my own little charms that are hand-p
- 'Supernova' bracelet, $125
- “I’ve been donating a lot; my mother goes to this church and they have Sunday school class and I give them all my leftovers. They LOVE it. They make the craziest stuff.”
- 'Supernova' necklace, $295
- 'Mix Tape' bracelet, $55
- 'Third Eye' necklace, $150; 'Acid Heart' necklace, $150
- 'Corny' bracelet, $55; 'Honey Bunny' bracelet, $55
- 'Bombshell' bracelet, $55; 'I'm a Nut' bracelet, $55
- “Thank god for art class, because I’d be a different person.”
- “This (top center) is a beautiful Victorian piece that I just love. I have this book I got at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Those (top right) are milagros from Latin America. They’re little tiny charms that can be legs, or hands or ears. So if
- 'Rainbow Family' necklace, $185
- "These are either going to be individual pearls or long dangly earrings. We hand-painted them, then we put heavy resin on them which dries flat. It’s a three-week process. Every production is a nightmare—in a good way.”
· All Open Studio posts [Racked NY]
· Meet the 50 Racked Young Guns Semi-Finalists for 2013 [Racked NY]