How 3 Designers Are Elevating Accessories Into Art

The colorful work of these creative women is completely irresistible.

Yellow Portrait
Photography by Meghan McNeer

Here's how three female designers are turning jewelry and accessory design into an artform.

Bead Time

It seems like New York-based designer Susan Alexandra was made to work in color—her beaded bags and enamel pieces match an exuberant personality. Finding her style was an unconventional process. After realizing her talent in fine metalwork was lacking, Alexandra began enameling the items, painting over wonky seams and soldering errors.

“Not knowing the proper jewelry ‘rules’ sometimes enables me to create weirder—i.e., cooler—things,” the designer explains. Coveted by ladies with a weakness for the '90s, the collection (which is akin to “mini ocular vacations,” according to Alexandra) draws inspiration from everyday discoveries: “bowls of fruit, details from paintings, a perfect velvet bow.”

Blue and Red Vignette
White Product Silo
Ash Bag by Susan Alexandra, $245. 

Next up is a line of textiles and pillows woven in Oaxaca, Mexico, that are based on Alexandra’s watercolors: “I love that every item is made by wonderful women who just want to bring beauty into the world.”

Black and White Portrait
Photography by Meghan McNeer

Narrative Thread

Designing jewelry was a chance for Nepal-born, New York–based Arpana Rayamajhi to reconnect with her homeland and have an outlet other than art school. The Cooper Union alum started making one-of-a-kind beaded pieces three years ago and has since branched out to work with silk thread and tassels, metal, coins, and—for her most recent collection—fair-trade diamonds in floral-inspired shapes. The one constant: color.

Hand Holding a Precious Diamond I by Diamonds With a Story x Arpana Rayamajhi, $7,559.

“Color for me is somewhat like what sugar is for children—very stimulating,” says Rayamajhi, whose rainbow-hued outfits—head-to-toe citron madras and hot pink kimonos—have made her a street-style favorite. “I’m never concerned about what’s ‘in,’ because I feel like that can be limiting,” she says of her process. “For me, jewelry is a way to show one’s personality. My work is an attempt to unify people from all walks of life by giving them a new way to look at ornamentation and value.” 

Purple Portrait
Photography by Julia Stotz

Glam Rock

A financier–turned–jewelry designer, Jessica Winzelberg transformed her side passion into a noteworthy business, creating candy-colored stone earrings in modern geometric shapes and delicate gold signet rings and necklaces. Playing with hundreds of combinations in her Los Angeles studio—including a rainbow of gems like milky opal, brilliant lapis, and tiger-stripe agate—is a favorite part of the job.

The minimalist settings, which keep the earrings surprisingly light, come from a technique Winzelberg developed over almost a decade of metalsmithing, allowing the raw beauty of the stone to really shine.

Blue and Taupe and Yellow Studio
Orange Vignette

“I love that each one is inherently unique. They have a texture and translucency you’ll never get with man-made materials,” says Winzelberg, who describes her work as “daily talismans.” With plans to offer customizable pieces and expand her enamel line later this year, the collection’s magic powers are officially starting to take hold.

Published on April 29, 2018 - 5:00am EDT

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