Photos: Kat Slootsky
Bing Bang x Me & You Photos: Petra Collins
Text and Interview: Monica Uszerowicz
Bing Bang, the costume jewelry line by Anna Sheffield, is lighthearted and sweet but as tough and multifaceted as Sheffield herself–see their collaboration with Me & You and the babes they boast as muses, and it’s clear Sheffield is part of a larger movement to turn fashion on its head. Not so surprising, really–she did that long ago with her line of engagement rings, designed for brides-to-be who didn’t want to feel so traditional. The common thread throughout all her lines: an almost-hylozoic energy infusing each piece. An object’s personal history, and the ways in which it intertwines with its wearer’s own, renders jewelry-making a kind of magical process for Sheffield. We spoke with her about this guiding belief, as well as her background and current collaboration with Me & You, below.
Did you like to make objects or art as a child? And can you share an early memory of feeling creative or the desire to create?
Absolutely. I started with making miniatures—no surprise there! I have always felt like whatever I wanted but couldn’t find, I could just make. My mom was always really encouraging of that and was also really frugal with gifts. So I had the dolls, but not all the clothes or the dollhouse furniture. So I made those things and, later, my clothes and eventually my furniture and my jewelry.
You have a background in Fine Arts, which is very obvious in your work. How did you move from this discipline into what you’re doing now?
It was quite accidental, really. I just dabbled in jewelry, though I knew some of the techniques. But it was mostly a way of keeping busy in the studio as I was working out an idea in my mind, or if it was a big project that was too tiring to work on all day. I would just take a break and make something tiny–sometimes it was a small metal sculpture and other times jewelry.
Bing Bang’s Black Label pieces are handmade. I know you started doing this for fun, but it’s clearly evolved into something amazing. Can you tell me about your background in craftsmanship?
Adding that tier to the collection was almost more like bringing it full circle. In the beginning, I made every single B.B. piece by hand, later with the help of others. Eventually we moved some to workshops and small factories. The level of craftsmanship is important even with that product. But with the Black Label, we really follow a more elaborate design process, also incorporating bezel set gemstones. I think this shows the maker in the piece overall. That was always the goal.
On your website, it’s stated that for you, jewelry is “talismanic,” full of history. Can you say more about the importance of personal meaning in your items?
I feel it must have started from my childhood. In New Mexico, everyone wears jewelry–and all of the patterns, forms, materials, and designs are coming from a sacred place. I always felt there was energy in these pieces, made with such care from start to finish, by the hands of these sort of magic makers. I went on to wear all kinds of jewelry, and to travel and see historical pieces from other cultures–like in the British Museum when I was young, and now everywhere I travel. I have truly always felt there is magic in not just the symbols but the things–and of course, the gemstones.
As an addendum to that, how have your own travels and history inspired your work? You grew up in New Mexico, lived on the west coast as well as in Saudi Arabia, and now you’re in New York. It’s an interesting combination of places and undoubtedly you picked up stories and influences from every experience.
It’s been such great fortune and a privilege. Such a mixed cultural and rich visual cache was stirred into my identity–and my visual vocabulary–as a result. I think the bliss is in finding the commonalities. For example, the Squash Blossom in Native Pueblo Indian jewelry is an adaptation of the Spanish ornament depicting a pomegranate which ties to the Moorish crescent moon–all related to fertility and from three totally distinct cultures. I feel like that exemplifies the transcendent nature of art among humans and hence, our talismans.
Bing Bang seems to me to be the most playful of your lines. Can you tell me about creating it and what inspired it? I love the small symbols in all the jewelry.
It is so much fun! It’s very lighthearted, and it fulfills something different for me creatively–it’s much more relevant and young and of-the-moment. We also get a bit cheeky at times, and tough, but I like that all mixed with an intelligent sweetness. Some parts of it have remained the same, at the root, but it really has evolved, and it continues to with the amazing team there–my brand director and the girls who make the jewelry. It’s a team effort, and definitely more than the sum of its parts!
You have three different lines. How does working with each of these allow you the freedom to express different parts of your own style and self?
They each fit a certain part of my personality–I wear a mixture of all, and a lot of people I know do, including my mom! Essentially because they are a full range, from tiny and very affordable little studs to the ring you will be married with and wear for your whole life. That wasn’t always part of my plan, but the way it came together is some kind of magical.
The Bing Bang x Me and You collaboration is so fun, empowering, and awesome. How did you team up with them?
My brother actually showed me their line; he’s partners in a creative agency (Allday). So I showed their Instagram to Karie and we were both just filled with ideas. These girls are so inspiring, so powerful, and taking such an unprecedented approach to feminism. It was somehow just meant to be.
What are some of your own treasures at home that are precious to you?
Well, I have quite a lot of jewelry, and I obsessively collect objects of all kinds. Let’s see–I love my new ceramic leopard, my Hopi Crow Mother Kachina, my crystal ball–a birthday gift from Douglas Little)–my monkey teapot…and this dollhouse candelabra that’s 2″ tall which I have been meaning to use in a photo with one of my diamond rings, just for fun.