A brand new collection goes through many phases before ending up as the final product we release into the world. From a tiny seed of inspiration to a sketch to a prototype, turning a design dream into reality takes months of hard work and trial and error.
The Inti Collection has been popping up in Betsy's sketches for years now, ever since her 2014 trip to Machu Picchu. Now-familiar motifs, shapes, and concepts found their way onto her paper, waiting until the moment was right for them to emerge as fully embraced designs.
This collection is exciting for numerous reasons (isn't a new collection always exciting?), not least of which is the fact that we're using beautiful colorful stones!
We've got Kingman turquoise from Arizona and black jasper from Oregon cut specially for this collection. One of the many exciting facets (pun intended!) of these stones is the fact that they are all ethically cut and Fair Trade. What does that mean? It means every step of the stones’ creation process, from mine to market, adheres to strict protocols for environmental protection, fair labor practices, and accountability. (Learn more about why we chose to use Fair Trade stones here!)
Adding stones means a lot of extra planning: where do the stones go? How many should we use? Color, size, and shape have to be taken into account with each stone, in addition to how it's going to be secured in the metal. Not all of our makers had worked with stones before, so they were all given the training to either learn something new or brush up on previous knowledge. The team watched educational videos together and had in-house stone setting workshops. Now every Maker is equipped with a brand new skill they can carry into the future.
Betsy and her design assistant, Barrie, had many meetings to figure out the best ways to use these gorgeous stones.
This is the first collection in which we're using CAD. CAD stands for "computer-aided design" and is such an exciting part of the design process. Being able to take your design and see it visualized three-dimensionally adds a whole new level to something that was previously just in your head.
Madeleine sits down with Betsy and Barrie and shows them the drafts she's created on her computer. Together, they talk about potential problems and other things to consider as they move forward.
When the prototypes come in, everyone is excited! And why not, when this is (for many of us) our first glimpse of what the new collection could be!
The production team gathers around to see sketches and prototypes and share their thoughts. Everyone's opinions are taken into consideration, making the whole process a big team effort.
Beads, chain, and prototype focal pieces get played around with many times before a final design is decided upon. Does this look best in silver or brass? How big should this focal piece be? How long should this necklace be?
Betsy and the team talk about the intentions of the collection, and what Betsy is most excited about from her sketches. Together they play with materials and scale to see how they can make the jewelry the most beautiful, the most functional, and the strongest (visually and physically!) it can be. Besides just being pretty, every piece has to work as a sturdy, flattering piece of jewelry. What y'all like weighs heavily, too - we want to make sure our collections reflect the jewelry you love to wear and have come to expect from betsy & iya.
When the designs are close to being finalized, the production team puts the pieces through a wear test. This is when they actually wear the jewelry as it would be worn in real life. They see how it handles day-to-day life - can it stand up to everyday wear? Sometimes elements that look really beautiful in concept are not actually practical.
When the designs are even closer to being finalized, we can start to work on even more subtle details.
^ How long should the wire be on the Pacha Necklace? ^
How many pieces of sterling silver wire fringe should we add to the Illumina earrings? How long should that fringe be?
We have to make sure the stones fit perfectly, like Gabriella is doing above.
Then we can set the stones! We use epoxy to hold the stones in, as opposed to stone setting where the metal holds the stones in place. This allows us to have some really unique designs, with stones inlaid in unexpected ways.
The epoxy has to be measured, weighed, and mixed precisely. Then it's put in place where the stones will be added.
There is a short window where micro-adjustments can be made once the stones are put in, but you basically get one try when setting the stones.
Once the stones are put in and the final touches are made, the piece is ready!
This collection marks a big step forward for betsy & iya: it's our first fashion collection with stones, and our first time using inlay. We've taken a big step further in our commitment to using ethically produced materials as well. As we incorporate new materials and implement new techniques, it's so rewarding to find companies that share our values, so we can continue creating in a way we stand behind. Thanks for reading! XOXO