Artist Holly Shannon found joy in sculpting exquisite female forms, but a new beginning awaited her in adorning real women with her own elegant jewelry designs. It was on a whim that she opted to learn more about jewelry design and fabrication. "I started by sculpting, I was working with clay initially. But I had learned of a jewelry class and wanted to give it a try.” Holly described the class as a sort of “Jewelry 101” where she learned basics such as how to cut metal, basic soldering, wire work, and how to work with metal and smaller scale. “I loved it,” she said. Over a decade later, the acclaimed artisan has collaborated with couture clothing designers and major brand names to create a signature style in sparkling accessories.
She finds the best results come from incorporating all of the many multiple mediums she enjoys, including her original roots in sculpture and dabbling in painting as a hobby. “They really do all inform one another,” Holly explained. “Sculpting kind of informed my metal work in a different way. Some of the etching techniques I've applied in the clay work as well. I just did a relief of a butterfly where I used some techniques from painting to achieve the appropriate texture and feel. I enjoy oil painting for exploring color theory. In just doing metal I don't think I’d have come this far in jewelry, so I enjoy playing in it all, it allows me to give life to my jewelry.”
Holly experiments in both silver and gold, semi-precious stones, and a revolutionary metal clay; a medium made of binder and pure metal that can be manipulated like ordinary clay, then fired to forge the art into a piece of pure metal. It’s that variety that allows her fans to favor what suits their style without compromising: from a more contemporary rough-hewn look, like hammered metal and wire work, to delicate nature-inspired pieces that are hand-sculpted for a classic aesthetic, like her light All Things Wings collection.
A big break came when she collaborated with celebrated West Coast designer Rachel Roy on her 2005 Holiday Collection. “I really enjoyed working with Rachel Roy,” she enthused. The duo has paired up twice now with impressive results. “The first time was really a fantastic experience. It was a very all-encompassing project.” The clothing designer wanted one of her halter necklines suspended by a necklace from Holly, while a dress would be belted by a looped chain she created with dangling stones in rich winter tones. “It started with this idea from a runway piece by Oscar de la Renta; she wanted to transform it for her collection. We reworked it until it was a piece that was perfect for the dress, perfect for the halter. That was a very exciting project to be a part of and it really pushed me in another direction.”
Another direction also came after a manufacturing snag surprised Holly and she improvised to deliver on the dresses’ accessories. She laughed reflecting on the unlikely circumstances."I'm really excited to do the design part,” she remembers telling Rachel, “but I can't do the manufacturing." She was assured it’d be taken care of, but something went awry and the necklaces were never produced. “They sold all of the pieces and the necklaces had not been manufactured-- about five-hundred necklaces and two-hundred belts! I literally had to transform my living room and train people to do metal and bead work, and turn them out in a four week window. Rachel was very gracious and let me put a tag on all of them that said ‘Holly Shannon for Rachel Roy".
“What a great experience to collaborate with her,” Holly said fondly. “It was good to go through the process.” They have also teamed up for trend-setting Rocawear Clothing, with designs featured on MTV, while Holly has went on to also work with cosmetics giant L’Oreal and seek out other opportunities in fashion. But more timeless creations have been on her mind for upcoming seasons. “I've been thinking about putting together a new collection for the summer, I’m feeling a bit of nostalgia. Even before “The Great Gatsby” film came out, I had something in mind with an Art Deco feel, perhaps: some up-cycling with old coins and make rings, old ID bracelets into earrings, one-of-a-kind pieces. “
Her signature pieces aren’t necessarily getting put away for the summer, though-- especially the carefully crafted scarab, from her 21st Century Cleopatra line. The ancient Egyptian inspired icon has garnered rave reviews and become one of her most sought-after creations. “I've been getting so much feedback on the scarab, I'm not sure I'm ready to be done with it just yet.” No matter what direction she chooses, art enthusiasts with a passion for fashion won’t want to miss Holly Shannon’s next collections.
To learn more about Holly Shannon, visit www.hollyshannon.com/