Our series Secrets of Success returns with the prolific jewelry designer Anna Sheffield. Anna's unique designs, which have been featured in The New York Times, Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair and W Magazine, are inspired by her Southwestern upbringing; her non-traditional engagement pieces have become a favorite among young brides-to-be.
With three succesful product lines, and a signature scent collaboration with NOVA perfumes, it may be surprising to find that Anna actually studied fine arts instead of jewelry-making — then again, maybe that's what makes her designs so exciting. We stopped by the Soho boutique to ask Anna some questions about her inspiration, and what it's like to run her own business.
Hey, Anna! Where are you from, and how did you get your start in making jewelry?
I feel like I'm from everywhere — total hobo since childhood — and at 12 years I am pretty close to officially being a New Yorker. I started making jewelry when I lived in San Francisco, California. It was part of the curriculum for my BA in sculpture, studying at the Academy of Art. I only made jewelry for fun then, randomly, but started full on pursuing it when I came to New York.
Was it always something you were interested in?
I think innately I have always be drawn to jewelry. It's a type of decorative, personal expression, and culturally I think of jewelry as quite talismanic and storytelling. Having lived in and around the Native American cultures of the Southwest, it seems only natural I would have those leanings.
When did you know it was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
I never knew actually; it just sort of unfurled as a path in front of me. Being a designer or being some kind of professional in a field like fashion was the last thought in my mind, until it happened. And now I love it. I get to invent things for a living, and I'm surrounded by talented peers who inspire and challenge me.
What is your design process like? Where do your influences come from?
Erratic at best, over-zealous at the worst. I literally design in windfalls, and I'm a terrible editor. But what fun it is when I get to sit down and immerse myself in that process! I look at and take inspiration from just about everything: art, literature, furniture design, bridges, native cultures and symbolism... the list goes on and on.
What's the hardest part of running your own business?
Everything about it is hard, but its also exceedingly rewarding. The biggest difficulty with running my companies is that I always want to do more more more, and there are only so many hours in the day. I wish I could add one extra hour just for designing!
How did it come about that you started launching different divisions of jewelry? It must be hectic designing for your different lines.
Well I am a total overachiever... so it just sort of happened. I started with Bing Bang, and I can't let go of that one. I then launched a fine jewelry because it became interesting to me as a person, just as I was growing up and wanting to have nicer things, to design in a more serious, lasting way. But its truly rewarding. I love my clients, and I feel so blessed to get to do what I do now — which is making engagement and wedding rings for amazing people! And I just love love.
You recently launched your own line of perfume with NOVA. Can you tell us a little about that collaboration?
Working on the fragrances with Julia was incredible. To create something sensory, rather than just physical or visual was a really fascinating experience. So visceral and outside my realm of experience. I'm most inspired when I'm learning new things and that was completely new to me. Also the fragrances turned out just perfect, which I can say because it was really Julia's talent that rendered them that way. I just showed her diamonds, moonstones and rose gold and talked a lot!
What is your favorite piece in your collection currently, and why?
Oh I never pick favorites! I have a sweet spot for just about every piece in the collection. But at present I'm wearing multiple of the Champagne Diamond Pointe studs and loving them. I'm also fond of the Bea Arrow Cocktail rings, they're just so classic and pretty.
You make custom jewelry as well. Have you ever gotten any weird requests?
Absolutely! I had a client who wanted a ring that incorporated the Yin Yang symbol — that was fun. And ironic as I worked in a tattoo shop for so many years and have seen lots of those but never thought in a million years I'd make a ring out of one.
Lastly, how do you feel about mixing metals?
It's kinda my thing. Why not mix them? They compliment each other so well!