There’s a lot of jewelry out there. Every once in a while, though, a piece catches your eye. That’s what happened to me one day at Saffron and Genevieve in Santa Cruz. “Who makes this?” I asked. Ann Wasserman, a local designer, was the answer.
The striking texture, level of craftsmanship and distinctive design in Wasserman’s pieces are unparalleled. I’m particularly fond of her reptile scale and shark skin rings—they have a weight and toughness that effortlessly contrasts with their sleek, tactile nature. There’s something sexy about them, as they wrap around themselves. Their smell is metallic and earthy.
I attended Wasserman’s Open Studios in Santa Cruz, Calif. a couple weeks ago and was overwhelmed with her array of gorgeous creations and impressed by her genuine nature and ability to explain how she creates each piece. Each of her pieces is made using a claylike form of pure silver called Precious Metal Clay. This revolutionary material contains atomized pure silver mixed with a small amount of binder to make it pliable. After the designs are formed, the pieces are placed in a kiln, where the binder is burned out. What remains is .999 percent fine silver. To wear a Wasserman piece of jewelry is to truly wear an investment.
It was my pleasure to go behind the scenes with Wasserman and learn more about her and her designs.
How did you get into jewelry making?
I have always felt compelled to do something with my hands. For the last 15 years that “something “ has been jewelry making. I started by making my own glass beads and then I wanted to make my own silver to go with my glass. Working with precious metal has been so exciting that I veered off in that direction.
What inspires your designs?
I love repetitive patterns in nature, in math and in everyday industrial items, so I am inspired by things like manhole covers, reptile scales and the Fibonacci sequence. I love to transfer simple elegant patterns into simple elegant jewelry.
What makes your jewelry and designs different?
I’m not sure because I’m not trying to be different and I’m not trying to be alike. I just make what I am thinking about in my mind. Perhaps because I don’t look at other jewelry for my design ideas, my pieces have a different feel. I use unique patterns and make my own texture plates and I like to add small finishing details that to me make the pieces feel more special. I also use a unique patina that gives my pieces a warm color that is between silver and gold.
What is most important to you when you’re creating a piece? What are you looking for as an outcome?
When I’m working on a piece there are a lot of elements that are important to me. Of course I want it to look beautiful and I also want it to feel great. I want the person who wears it to love everything about it. I want it to be properly engineered so it works well. The links need to lie properly, the clasp needs to be easy to use but secure, and I want the weight to feel right. Bracelets should be a little heavy. Earrings need to be light both for comfort and movement. I like my pendants to be something that you feel like touching and playing with while you’re wearing them. As an outcome I want a unique and functional piece of jewelry.
Where would you like to see your business in five years? Ten years?
I’m pretty happy with where my business is right now. I get to make what I want to make when I want to make it and it mostly all sells. I can’t imagine getting bored with it but who knows what the future will bring.
Are you able to make a living doing this? Do you want to?
My jewelry sells really well but I would have to ramp it up if I needed to pay for two kids in college, mortgage, etc., all by myself. If I wanted or needed to take things to another level I definitely think I could. I have had some very interesting offers but do I want to? No. Not really. I’m as busy as I want to be. I prefer at this point to keep things as they are. I think I would lose something important to me if my passion became my job.
How do you feel about the role of handmade goods in our current marketplace?
The current marketplace is in many senses a global market now and the word “handmade” is sometimes just a selling catchphrase like “gluten-free” or “vintage." However, I think people will always seek out beautiful handmade goods and so there will always be an appreciative market.
About the Designer
What’s your favorite brand of denim?
What’s your favorite skin care item?
What style tip would you give to someone for the upcoming season?
Buy a pair of my earrings.
What is the most unusual or surprising beauty product in your arsenal?
I was in Mexico last year and there was an apothecary in this little town that sold handmade creams and soaps. I bought some tomato shampoo, which I like a lot, and some donkey milk soap that I haven’t tried yet.
You’re traveling, and can only bring one bag: what favorite beauty/fashion items stay home, and what must come with?
Jeans, cute dresses and lots of shoes come. The rest stays home.
Mani or pedi?
No question, a pedi. A mani lasts about three hours on someone who makes jewelry with their hands!
Lip gloss or lip balm?
Heels or flats?
See more of Wasserman’s designs at annwasserman.fineartstudioonline.com/. Custom orders available.