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Behind The Scenes

Peek Inside Collette Ishiyama's Jewelry Box

Collette Ishiyama likes the idea of uniforms. Her style has remained unchanged since she was seven—she admits that there was liquid eyeliner and a bowler hat involved even then. And this consistent approach to dressing may explain why she’s so drawn to eclectic jewelry. “I also like the sentimentality of it. The permanence of it is pretty awesome,” Collette explains. With these emotional ties in mind, she’s game to reminiscence about the origins of her favorite pieces, besides the ones she’s made herself. —anthonia akitunde“This I got probably around five years ago from LuLu’s Vintage in the swap meet flea market on 25th and 7th in New York. The lion is one of my favorite jewelry motifs, along with the Greek key. I may have to put this back in rotation!”“It needs to be replated because I wore the crap out of it. It’s a Burberry bangle from my best friend Seri. This one is a little dangerous, too, and it’s heavy. I could definitely cut myself. I like the danger!”“Aren’t they cool? I can’t find the other one, unfortunately. It’s just a simple construction—wire wrapped around an oval. I love chevrons. There’s something Chrysler Building about them.”“The brand is Monet. They make costume jewelry. My mom gave it to me when I was like 15. I was never a kid that didn’t want to be like my mom. My mom used to dress so awesomely when I was younger. She was always wearing thigh-high hooker boots, and, in the summer, wearing onesies and heels.”“I made a smaller version of the necklace from toys and found objects. The white bar across the top was a piece of a broken hoop earring, the knife was a toy, the locker was vintage, and I stuck one of the tigers from an animal cracker box on it. I wanted something bigger, so I made this hip-hop-sized version out of clay.” Collette’s back with an Alumni Sunday edition! You’ll wanna add this (stingray!) necklace to your jewelry box, stat. Photographs courtesy of Serichai Traipoom.
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Collette Ishiyama Makes a Brass (and Stingray!) Necklace

The tools in play.It’s a little bit of a contradiction, making an underwater animal known for its stealthy camouflage the focal point of a piece of jewelry. But Collette Ishiyama was taken with stingray leather immediately when she encountered it on a trip to Thailand a few years back. “In the markets in Bangkok, you would see a lot of stingray stuff. When I came back from that trip, I was like, ‘This is definitely a direction I’m going,’” she says. The fact that it’s been used for years—especially in Art Deco decorative pieces—adds a nostalgic element Collette strives for in her designs. Here’s how she makes it work in the (very first) awe-inspiring necklace she created just for Of a Kind. —anthonia akitunde “I make the molds myself. I make a sketch of what I’m doing, and then I transfer the sketch onto the wax.” Collette carves her sketch out of a thick green wax to create a model of what the eventual casting (in brass) will look like See: this ring featuring her (way cute) cat Ponyo.At the casters, Collette’s mold gets submerged in plaster that is then baked in a kiln, before molten metal is poured in through a cavity to form the brass piece. “It doesn’t really lose the thrill—when you make something in plastic and it comes back in metal,” she says.Back at her studio, Collette saws off the sliver of excess metal, or sprue, attached to the casting and then polishes what remains. “When the castings come out, they have a kind of coating on them,” she adds.Collette gets ready to rub steel wool on the piece to make sure everything is clean before she solders on the jump ring. “I just hate the idea of something falling apart,” she notes. [Ed: Us too.]Next step: Collette puts the casting in an old rotary tumbler her father used for polishing rocks. The tumbler has water, a little dish soap, and “tumbling media”—basically, pebble-like beads that give the casting texture. “I like things to be a little bit matte,” Collette explains. “It makes it more Egyptian-y.” Out of the tumbling machine, the pendant is ready for the stingray leather. “It’s not easy to work with, but I like the way it looks,” she says. “With regular leather, you can cut things pretty easily. With stingray, those little granulations are like beads—when you cut them, they sort of shatter.” Working the stingray into submission is, well, a challenge—but one that pays off. Like what you see? Score Collette second edition for Of a Kind: a ridiculously cool, stingray-accented necklace. Photos courtesy of Serichai Traipoom.
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