As the taste for mass-produced goods wanes, the handcrafted design scene is banding together to support the artisan design movement. EcoSalon favorite, Jeweler Kirsten Muenster, joins a growing roster of independent artisans whose goods are now featured at Heath Ceramics stores.
Simplicity. Handmade. Designed to last. These are the principles of the Californian artisan design movement that hopes to revitalize and transform the way we live our lives. As one of the scene’s leading figures, Kirsten Muenster creates unique heirloom jewelry pieces made from sustainable materials that exemplify this vision. Muenster’s take on this season’s trend for bold metal linked chains is characteristically holistic. “I really put the entire focus on the chain itself, it’s front and center. I explored the links themselves, experimenting with construction, scale, weight, layering and the way they hang on the body, “ she said.
The resulting line of eye-catching and beautifully crafted chains was featured as part of the seasonal collection from Heath Ceramics, the Sausalito-based pottery company founded in 1948 by Edith Heath. Designed to complement the bright blues and dipped hues of Heath’s Summer seasonal collection, it may seem an unlikely home for Muenster’s statement jewelry with its solid style credentials. With its impressive new retail space in the mission district of San Francisco serving as a gallery, coffee shop and gathering spot for events, Heath is quickly becoming the design world’s Chez Panisse.
I caught up with Muenster recently to discuss the collection and her thoughts on the latest developments, here’s what she had to say:
Rowena Ritchie: Your work is currently featured as part of Heath Ceramic’s Summer Seasonal Collection – can you tell us how that came about?
Kirsten Muenster: I produced some posters for each of my jewelry lines last year, Cathy Bailey owner and creative director of Heath saw the chain collection and liked the work. They started carrying the pieces in the San Francisco store before the holidays and recently added it to the Sausalito and Ferry Building locations, as well as online. There was an amazing response to the chain pieces, the Heath stores have been doing really well with jewelry in general. It seemed like a natural progression for them to include jewelry in their collections. This season’s palette is gorgeous – deep to pale blue, light green and a little hint of orange and brass. I’m thrilled to have two of my large half Persian chain bracelets in the collection – they pair beautifully with the two necklaces from Julia Turner and the bronze bowl by Alma Allen. By including jewelry, it’s like they’ve added another layer to the experience. You picture the dinnerware making up a stunning table setting at a party with friends – and now you have something special, a statement piece to wear as well.
RR: Your line of hand-made chains is reinvigorating interest in your work. Can you describe the process of creating them and what they mean to your artistic journey?
KM: Each piece is made by my hands, every link and every clasp. They are all one-of a-kind. The process is important, but in the end, it’s all about how the pieces look and feel. I’ve modernized ancient chain weaves into bold, strong statement pieces that feel amazing on the body and are substantial without being heavy.
RR: What do you think it is in their design people are responding to?
KM: Collectors respond to the versatility of the pieces – they can either read ‘tough’ or ‘elegant.’ They look amazing with a gown, or jeans and a t-shirt, and pair beautifully with silver, gold, or both. The chain starts with a raw spool of wire. The wire is hand spun into a coil, then hand cut into individual links. The links are then “woven” into chain, one by one. I work with brass and bronze; sterling silver can be special ordered. The finish is either oxidized or brushed. The patina changes and evolves over time. Changes in coloration occur with time, environment and also in response to the touch of the wearer. This process highlights the inherent beauty of the material and gives the chain a unique depth, which I think is what people are really interested in finding these days.
RR: How does Heath’s aesthetic reflect your own views on design and sustainability?
KM: We share a similar aesthetic; clean, minimalist, modern design. But more importantly, we share similar values: handmade, fine craftsmanship, environmental integrity, heirloom quality and timeless design. I really connect to how they describe themselves on their website, “We thoughtfully make, gather, and sell enduring objects that enhance the way people eat, live, and connect.”
RR: What’s next for your line?
KM: I’m really excited to push the work to another level now. In the next series of pieces I will combine all of my skills – hand fabricated chain, stone work and even some cast elements as well. My next pieces will be about balance and the interplay between the elements. The chain will still be an extremely important component of the work, but the main focal point may be a large piece of fossil coral, dinosaur bone or walrus tusk.
Top Image: Heath Ceramics