Q&A: Jewelry Designer Jessica Barensfeld

The NYC jewelry designer makes hoarding look cool

Pow Wow // Samantha Negrin // 04/09/12
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Samantha Negrin
Seaweed Wrap Bracelets
Caspian Collection Rings

Collectors have gotten a bad rep. After all, not every hoarder lives in a home filled to the window sills with unicorn statues and stray cats. Take Jessica of Jessica Barensfeld Adornment for example—the jewelry designer's love of collecting led her from a career in metal-smithing to create a line of delicate, colorful jewelry inspired by the shells she's picked up on the beach. We caught up with New York City-based surfer to talk modern day hoarding and her jewelry's refreshingly honest purpose: "Adorning oneself with color...will brighten your day, instill confidence, attract mates (hopefully of the same species) and make you feel like having fun."

How did you decide to begin designing jewelry?
I was trained metal-smithing at RISD but thought I was going to be a graphic designer, photographer, painter, architect... really anything other than a jewelry designer. But after taking a few side classes I fell in love with it and changed my major.

Many of your pieces are inspired by the sea. What are your favorite beach spots to escape to in NYC?
I think I was a fish in a past life. Beach 67—Rockaways and Ditch.

Do you prefer empty beaches or beaches full of locals?
Locals scare me, even if I am one. It can get very “Local Shop for Local People” to use a The League of Gentlemen quote. So I think I’m gonna go with empty.

What do you do to relax away from the hustle of NYC?
Yogurt and surfing!

So what do you collect?
Three years ago it was old quirky locks, which now I don’t know what to do with as I don’t really have anything to lock up besides my bike. Two years ago it was driftwood. I amassed so many beautiful pieces that I ran out of space to store it all. I had this grand idea of making a 20-foot long catalog-esque sculpture of all the different pieces displayed from large to small—kind of like a big wood xylophone if you get my drift. Alas, I ended up using all of the smaller pieces in our houseplants to keep the cats from peeing in them.

And now?
Tiny thin pink shells that are slightly iridescent and so feminine. I have boxes and boxes of them. The plan with them is to make wind chimes, maybe one day I’ll get to it.

Which is your favorite piece to wear everyday?
Funny thing, I don’t really wear jewelry! I love it on other people I plan to deck out in massive amounts when I hit 60.

What is your favorite way to style the colorful, beaded statement necklaces in the Rousseau Bouquet collection?
I feel the only way to wear these guys is with an old pair of jeans and a white tee. The necklace can’t handle much more… unless you’re 60 of course.

What is your favorite part about creating jewelry?
The idea that it’s still art but people wear it around. They are carefully-made of little pieces of sculpture traveling around on all these different people.

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