Not only does designer Melissa Joy Manning create gorgeous jewelry — her effort to minimize her carbon footprint makes this collection even more beautiful…
Melissa Joy Manning is a very passionate woman. At a young age finding appreciation of the magic qualities that jewelry bears, she now too strives to maintain an environmentally and socially responsible brand, creating handmade pieces from recycled materials. By producing her jewelry here in the US, the carbon imprint caused by massive international import and export is significantly reduced, and hand-making each piece eliminates any pollution potentially created by machine production.
Read on to learn more about Melissa, her business and her love for making beautiful things:
Tell us about yourself: how did you become passionate about jewelry and what brought you to start designing your own collection?
I’ve made jewelry since I was in Montessori School. It’s something I’ve always done — I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t passionate about making it! After studying traditional metal smithing in Mexico, I was lucky enough to attend San Francisco State University when they had a public arts program. I graduated with a degree in jewelry and sculpture.
I ended up starting my own collection after visiting a vocational counselor who prompted me to be self-employed. She asked me what I could do, and I answered, “make jewelry!” So, with $500 and a lot of youthful hubris (I was 26), I started knocking on doors and asking stores I liked to carry my work. Fast forward 22 years later and I’m still basically doing the same!
While starting your business, what was the best advice you received?
Take every “no” as a request for more information.
All your pieces are handmade in your California and New York studios. How many artisans currently work with you and how did you select them?
Our culture is important to us. I started my business with the intention of creating a community of artists who would earn a living working wage in our own studio. We test our jewelers for skill but are also looking for people we want to spend time with – – those who are caring, have a sense of humor and who add something to our lives. Currently we have about 20 team members across multiple skill sets.
What is your favorite piece of jewelry (that you designed) and why?
That’s a hard question — there are so many! I’m actually really excited about my newest collection which is inspired by blue seas and black sand beaches (where I wish I was!) There is a pair of earrings in there that is going to be very hard to part with.
Your jewelry is made with the purpose of being a heirloom. Is there a particular piece that has been passed down in your family and that inspired you to create similar pieces?
Many. My earliest memories of the women in my family include jewelry. My grandmother had a charm bracelet she wore every day that I would play with while sitting on her lap. My mom has a collection of jewelry boxes that still inspire awe. In particular, she had a sand dollar charm she would wear. It always reminded me of the family time we spent in Pajaro Dunes when I was young. She actually just gave it to me and I am adding it to my personal, talismanic charm necklace. It started with a tribal piece I collected years ago and has grown to encompass many important pieces that mark periods of my life. It’s my legacy in jewels.
From what geographical location have you drawn the most inspiration?
I would have to say, Micronesia and Eurasia. I love the philosophy and history of tribal jewelry. Most tribes believed that when you took an animal for sustenance, you used all parts of it — whether in dress, as a tool, etc. In fact, many believed that when making a talisman out of a bone, you were imbuing the spirit of the animal into you and carrying it forth into perpetuity, ensuring that the spirit of the animal lived on. This reverence to our natural world, and the zero waste philosophy it embodies, is a driving tenet of my own work.
Gold or Silver? Why?
Gold, gold, gold. It just resonates with me. Silver feels more disposable and is something people tend to replace. Gold is a commitment. It is an investment that just becomes more valuable over time.
Tell us your biggest joy of 2018.
My son, Cy. He delights and inspires me every day. He puts the world into perspective and his humor and spirit light up my life.
What are you most excited about for 2019?
A continued cultural commitment to responsibility in all forms — a diverse and inclusive political movement that inspires us to action. Informed consumers who will continue to make better buying choices and who will move the needle towards a cleaner, healthier planet. You know, progress.
Shop all Melissa Joy Manning Jewelry.
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