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Jewelry Artist Anna Sheffield Featured in W Magazine

Anna Sheffield began her education at the Academy of Art University with the intention of becoming a fine artist, focusing her studies on sculpture, blacksmithing, and metalsmithing. Along the way, she accidentally started a jewelry business, and that business brought the attention of Mark Jacobs, Barney's New York, and the New York fashion scene.

Anna Shelffield's Jewelery from her Big Bang Jewelery website

In a recent feature in W Magazine, she explained how it wasn't originally her intention to start a jewelry business. "I was in the process of trying to launch my fine-art career," she told W, "and I thought, well, it couldn't hurt to make a little jewelry and see if people like it." Within a week, her hammered bronze, silver and steel pieces had sold out.

Anna Shelffield's Jewelery from her Big Bang Jewelery website In the coming years, Sheffield graduated from the Academy and moved to New York. Her jewelry has since become the talk of the town. When Mark Jacobs needed accessories for his Spring 2006 line, he looked at what his fit model Shelly Zander was wearing and knew it was right for his collection. Beyond that, both of Sheffield's jewelry collections, BingBang and 88, are available for sale at Barney's New York and other trendy boutiques.

It's the beginning of an exciting career for Anna, and the right time to chat with her about her business, her art, and her time at the Academy:

When did you start making jewelry?

Well, I originally was a Fashion major at the Academy and I meant to make jewelry for costuming purposes. I took Charlene Modena's jewelry class after taking a millinery class and that was my first foray into the sculpture wing of the Fine Art department. I just loved it and decided to stay there, so I switched majors.

I really didn't make a lot of jewelry then; I was more into fine art uses for the techniques. I started pursuing a career as artist, showing my small metal and mixed media sculptures. I curated a few shows, entered some contests, and sold a few pieces to collectors. Jewelry sales developed as an aside to that.

How did you begin your jewelry business?

Quite accidentally. I had a friend who owned a boutique in Upper Haight. I worked there at the time. I often wore some of the pieces I'd created, and one day my friend asked me if she could sell some of my pieces in the store. The business just developed from there — slowly and with lots and lots of hard work and, above all, luck.

I've had the great fortune of always working with amazing people, and I've received tons of encouragement from my friends and my family. However, I really started the business on a whim, with no real business experience but a lot of love in my heart and with great determination. I never even applied for a loan or anything. I just sort of winged it, and I still do!

Anna Shelffield's Jewelery from her Big Bang Jewelery website

How would you describe your work, and can you discuss the breadth of pieces that you sell?

Simple. Rough around the edges but elegant handmade pieces. They're very personal in style. I use a lot of vintage-inspired charms and elements of design that are mostly Victorian. I also love chain and layering.

Mainly, I love to show my workmanship, so I emphasize hammered surfaces and hand-forged shapes. I like to idea of seeing the hand of the maker in the end product.

Can you speak a bit about your time at the Academy?

Charlene Modena and Peter Schifrin were really my mentors at the Academy. I also had an amazing teacher from the Liberal Arts department named John Dobson. Their support and encouragement definitely helped in preparing me for the world.

The Academy's Fine Art – Sculpture program is very strong. The facilities and the teaching staff were superior to other art schools that I looked at, and I feel that I received a really strong technical foundation.

What advice would you give to an up-and-coming jewelry designer who is looking to start her/his own studio?

Just go for it. Do what you love to do, and don't ever take "No." for an answer.

What are your plans for the future?

As for myself, I'd love to get to the point where I have the space and the time to work on fine art again... maybe more photography or ceramics. As for my business, I want to keep expanding the brand to include other types of accessories and maybe eventually a clothing line. I'd love to see this company become a staple like Gucci or Chanel. I'd also like to involve other designers. I love doing collaborations and it would be wonderful to add another person's aesthetic to the BingBang style.

Anna Shelffield's Jewelery from her Big Bang Jewelery website

For More Information on Fine Art Programs, including Sculpture, please check our Fine Art School pages.

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