The release of the Inti Collection marks an exciting step forward for betsy & iya. There was a lot of learning and implementing of new skills, so I sat down with designer & founder Betsy Cross to discuss the inspiration behind the collection and how she feels on the eve of a new collection release.
Read on to learn about the thoughts behind the Inti Collection.
What was the inspiration behind this collection?
Will & I went to Peru in 2014. My brother-in-law is from Lima, so we went to visit his family and then travel around a bit on our own.
The culture, the colors, the vibrancy, the people, the depth of the place: that has been inspiring what I've been creating since then. And I think that was the ultimate thing that inspired this collection, though it kind of sprung off from that into something else that is its own thing.
The condor inspiration comes from a story of us standing on the edge of this temple in Machu Picchu. The Incans built this ledge for the condors to fly into and take the spirits of the dead back up to heaven. And so that place, standing on that ledge, was very powerful for me and I think that has been at the core of my inspiration for the past several years.
A lot of the drawings I did for this specific collection started out huge! And usually I take those and we pick certain ones to work with, but this one really morphed into something different. At first, I was fighting it and I felt like this is not what I thought it was going be. But at some point, I just had to say this wants to be something else. And maybe it's because it's more about that inner spirit that is being carried.
Do you feel like this is a step into a new realm for betsy & iya?
Oh, definitely. We’re doing inlay, we’ve got stones cut just for us - which has caused delays, and it’s been a little stressful. It’s funny because I really love to push the boundaries: I love to do that with the company, I love to do that with designs, but sometimes it can be really stressful and slow things down. I don’t like knowing that I'm doing that to all of us, but I feel really proud of the collection. And I still feel nervous - I feel nervous every time a new collection comes out. I think it’s going to feel really different and I hope it feels like us still and that people can connect to it. But I have a feeling that they will.
Do you have a way you want people to feel when wearing these pieces?
I always want people to feel beautiful. I mean, obviously - what’s the alternative? But I do truly mean that. I think that the way we dress ourselves and the things that we choose to wear help to create our identities and individuality and I think that’s just a wonderful thing. I think that these types of choices can make one feel really confident. I know personally, I can go from just having a t-shirt and jeans on and feeling “eh” and put on earrings and feel like I’ve snapped into it.
A lot of these themes - how I want people to feel, I really want people to feel confidence - will always carry through and be the same in my work. Confidence helps life to feel better. It's one of those elusive, magic feelings. When it's there, we feel that flow, that connectedness, that beautiful click of life's fragments in their right place. Feeling good about yourself is so important; I want that for myself, my friends, my family, for everyone.
Tell me about the rings in this collection.
Yes! We made stackable rings, 3 rings that are meant to fit together if somebody chooses and you can stack them in all different ways. I’m all about that; puzzles, I guess! It’s a small thing, but I like that people can individualize within a framework. I just love that one person could wear one thing one way and another person could wear it in such a different way by adding another piece or changing their clothing. That stuff is really cool to me.
I love that, and I love that it fits in with the Fine Collection.
So with the stones, what were the new skills or training you and the team had to learn for this collection?
We had to learn inlay. Inlay is different than how we’ve previously set stones because inlay involves using a jeweler-grade epoxy, as opposed to the metal of the setting holding the stone in. It can involve having to grind down the already-cut stones a little and polish them - just minor lapidary work. Another thing we’re doing that I think is pretty unique is that in several of the pieces the stones will be visible from both sides so we’re basically just setting it with metal around the center.
Is this the most CAD (computer-aided design) you’ve used in a collection?
This is actually our first collection to use CAD. We’ve been using it with fine and custom jewelry, but this is the first fashion collection to use it, and we utilized a lot of it. It was challenging, we messed up and learned a lot, but I think that it’s liberating, in a way, to be able to quickly make it so multi-dimensional. I’m really pleased with the quality of the pieces.
I think I’ve had a fear of that in the past, that it would take away from the handcrafted look, but the reality is that even if you use a computer, everything still goes through our hands and we still put our touch onto it. That’s why it’s so liberating - we’re still doing the same processes, but we start with this really spectacular piece. It’s been fun!
What are you most excited for with this collection?
I’m really excited by this element of structure paired with a little flair. The little fringe, it’s so subtle, but it adds something fun. I’m always obsessed with this idea of contrast. It could just be this piece here, but why not turn it into something more? What takes it to the next level?
And stones! We’ve had color in our jewelry before, but never stones. For a long time, I just wasn't into it. Probably a little bit out of fear - it’s a lot to figure out - but also I just wanted to do it right. I’ve been obsessed with a really simple profile for a long time, and I still am and I think that simplicity still carries through, but this collection is just different and I think people will be excited about it.
Plus I’ve always been obsessed with turquoise, and there’s something to that, I think. The black stone is Oregon Jasper, so it’s an Oregon stone, which I think is so cool, and the turquoise is from Arizona. And I feel really good about the company that’s cutting the stones too - they’re very ethically focused.
What was the most challenging part?
Multiple stone issues - cuts that weren’t the right size, waiting for this element that was outside our control. It’s tough! When you add on a whole new element, there are whole new processes you have to consider and that involves new training methods which involve a LOT of organization.
I can only imagine what must be added to production’s to-do list. Did they all have to learn inlay?
Yes, and everyone’s been really excited about working with stones. It’s fun to see that and to hear that from them. It’s my goal to continue to have an environment that’s awesome to work in. For everyone here, whether you’re in production or not, I think it’s cool to expand your toolbox, and I think people are even more excited than I realized they would be.
Is there a piece you’re most proud of?
I’m really proud of the Pacha necklace, the multi-stone pendant. I think it’s really unusual-looking but still definitely fits in our aesthetic. It’s complex to set all those stones and I like how smooth it is, with the chain running through it in a really elegant way. I just think it’s a powerful little piece that packs a big punch.
Did you have any other collections or pieces in mind when designing this collection?
I don’t ever say “Is this going to pair well with other collections?” - I probably should! But I think that’s a natural thing that happens just based on what I like and feedback I get. I think that makes everything come together in a way that feels new and different and exciting but still like us.
Has it been fun working with the production team and playing around with designs and prototypes?
Yes. You know, if you had asked me this question years ago, I wouldn’t have known how to answer that. It can feel really vulnerable to be in that space, but I’ve really opened up to it and I absolutely love getting people’s opinions, having people play with things, and that part of the design experience here that involves others. And I love that it makes everyone be a part of it. It gets people excited, gives them ownership, and I just think it’s cool to have people part of the design process. It originates in me, but then spreads out, and then it’s us. It’s betsy & iya.
Thanks, Betsy! XOXO