Collette Ishiyama is perhaps my first favorite jewelry designer. I love her art deco inspiration and simple use of brass and black stingray skin. Her designs have a minimal look, but have a vintage vibe - these two things aren’t easy to combine. She does it flawlessly.
Funny enough, a former co-worker’s friend is good friends with Collette and she encouraged me to reach out. Because of that connection I am able to bring you this interview on the eve of Collette’s new collection launch.
Although Collette has been making jewelry for as long as she can remember (she has a Jazzy Jewelry kit - anyone else remember those?), 2008 is when she began to get interested in metal working and wax-carving. She began by re-working vintage pieces, which she really just used as an excuse to shop at flea markets (I do this very same thing!). Eventually she wanted to start making things from scratch - she took some classes then got an internship with Jill Planter, where she worked for a bit before launching her collection.
The process: “There are piles of sketchbooks in my studio and at my apartment, and I always have one in my bag. I normally do quick thumbnail sketches of whatever shaped are haunting me. From there I’ll decide which ones make the most sense in a collection, and then refine those sketches. Then, I’ll either carve the design in wax, fabricate it in metal, or a combination of both. A lot of times, especially with weird-shaped earrings or things that are mechanical like clasps, I’ll make a quick prototype in metal to make sure they function/ aren’t too heavy/ are comfortable to wear.”
The inspiration: “The recurrent themes seem to be Samurai armor, Art Deco architecture and ancient Egyptian artifacts. I really like the intersection of hard edges and graceful curves.”
Collette’s very favorite piece is the Emerald City Necklace - it was one of the first pieces she finished for her first collection. It took her a year of tweaking before it was complete. She started making it while visiting her best friend in LA, so she associates it with the trip and time with her friend.
Favorite artists: “I love Egon Schiele- I’ve always liked the dark spindly-ness of his work. I really like Guy Bourdin also; his photographs feel so intimate even though they’re glossy and often selling something. I also love Giorgio De Chirico’s paintings.”
Designer-wise, Collette is a fan of my very favorite designer, the lovely Polly Wales. Collette says, “In some ways she’s a ‘designer’s designer’ because you sort of have to be a geek about the process to get what she’s doing, but the end result is also really beautiful and can be appreciated on its own.”
More than just jewels: Collette likes all of the things I do - traveling, vintage, crafting dates with friends, visiting museums, movies, exploring the city and hanging at home with her pets and boyfriend.
Currently she as been listening to Fever Ray, which to her feels like the right kind of sinister for the approaching winter.
What’s next for the jewelry line? She just finished a mini collection called Alterare which launches tomorrow! It’s a few of her favorite pieces from previous collections with gems and pears in place of the stingray leather she typically uses.
“It was really fun to work on; I’ve been wanting to experiment with pearls and labradorite for a while, and it was interesting to go back and rework things I made years ago I’m also working on a collection of fine jewelry which I’m super excited about. I love the challenge of working in a smaller scale and simplifying in a way that retains the overall feel of the bigger pieces.”
Choosing photos for this post was difficult because I love all of her designs so, so much, I wanted to share them all - so, go to her website and check out all of the pieces I didn’t have room to include.