Twenty years ago, we launched the first Sundance Jewelry Catalog dedicated to the artistry and beauty of jewelry making. Showcasing artisans and their craft from all over the world, the jewelry catalog quickly attracted loyal customers who appreciate the authenticity and originality of its collection. Two decades later, as Sundance continues to celebrate the community of jewelry artists who express their individual spirit of creativity through inspired use of mix metals and gemstones, color and form, Sundance is renowned for the unique yet timeless pieces that the artists offer.
To commemorate the anniversary, we will be posting several blog posts featuring some of our favorite artists. This week, we are featuring artisan Dana Kellin. Dana Kellin transforms enchanting gemstones and precious metals into sculptural forms that exemplify style. She cites Byzantine, Victorian and Elizabethan design influences, yet her creations are infused with undeniably modern undertones. Intricate twists of fine-gauge wire in gold or silver are a signature element of her jewelry, a painstakingly delicate technique that imparts refined femininity.
Sundance: Tell us how you got started as a jewelry artist?
Dana Kellin: Prior to starting our company in 1994, I was the West Coast Fashion Editor for W Magazine and Women’s Wear Daily which meant frequent, whirlwind trips to our headquarters in midtown Manhattan. I had very little spare time but made regular trips to the bead district and started making jewelry in my hotel room at night to wind down. I made a lot of pieces for friends and word spread until a jewelry showroom owner/friend called me and asked to see some pieces. She saw them, loved them and asked to hold onto them. A few weeks later we got an order from Barney’s and that was the start of our business. Of course my actual start was at age 12 when a phone repairman came to our house and left behind a giant spool of multi-color, plastic-coated wire. I made links out of them and fashioned them into these long chains. I gave those to my friends as well!
SD: What are your favorite materials?
DK: I love materials that reflect my sensibility which is natural, modern and delicate femininity. Rough cut diamonds are at the top of my list because they have wonderful sparkle and presence without looking flashy. Plus, the small size gives me a lot of design options. We work with Labradorite a lot because it has so much luster and depth and is very versatile to work with. For that reason I also love pearls. Plus almost anything blue: sapphire, apatite, zircon, topaz, aquamarine, turquoise, etc.
DK: We do three fashion jewelry collections and two fine jewelry collections per year. I do try to pay attention to the ready to wear market and look for new color and styling trends. I want our jewelry to not only be relevant but also relatable to the fashion for the season. I try not to pay much attention to jewelry trends and primarily design what I feel like wearing.
SD: What is your inspiration? Can you show concept board or images you use?
DK: For me, inspiration can happen anywhere, at any time: something seen or spoken, a dream, a photograph, a song. More often than not however, it originates in nature. Since early childhood I’ve had a fascination with trees. I am always moved by the notion that something so strong and sturdy can also be so graceful and delicate. I find their soulful swaying captivating and the sound of the breeze filtering through their branches and leaves instantly calming. Trees also offer a bounty of shapes and motifs and I usually have an assortment of leaves, pods and acorns at the head of my design table.
When it’s time to start a new line, I always start with color. After more than two decades in business, we have amassed a treasure trove of materials. I begin by creating seasonal palettes. Next, a lot of sketching and finally, I experiment with new techniques and silhouettes.
DK: Music is a critical part of my creative process and sometimes I wonder if I could design without it. If nature is my inspiration then music is the source of my mojo. First by quieting all of the mom/wife/daughter/sister/friend voices and leaving the outside world behind. I am amazed at how much logistical and tactical details moms have to deal with on a daily basis and my brain is usually at maximum capacity every waking moment of every day! Music is meditative for me. It puts me in a creative state of mind and it shapes each collection. Along with whatever new music I’m listening to, I usually have around 20 of my “go to” albums that are in heavy rotation every time I design. Our staff is probably very sick of them but I find it very zen. A lot of designers are funny that way. Routine and sameness can be integral to new and unique ideas.
Shop all of Dana's 20th Anniversary Collection here.