Jewelry designer Anna Sheffield‘s contrasting influences probably has roots in her diverse background. Though she now calls New York home, she spent the better part of her life in northern New Mexico and various parts of California, with stints down South as well. The element of contrast is evident throughout her life and collections: beauty and refinement meets the unexpected and edgy. Even the combination of her girly, sweet nature and her striking tattoos deliver the same message.
Sheffield never intended to be a designer, and instead focused on her fine arts background. She began creating jewelry for fun by translating welding and blacksmithing techniques with smaller materials. Slowly but surely, demand grew and a business was born. Her label Bing Bang consists of playful, trend driven pieces with punk rock elements, for example the ‘tattoo’ rings that feature flattened symbols like peace signs and can be worn anywhere on the finger. A desire to work with finer elements and gemstones led to her launch a namesake range of bespoke, handcrafted pieces that now also include a bridal/commitment range.
With multiple ranges and a list of collaborations that range from Marc Jacobs to Target, Sheffield shows no signs of slowing down. She showed us around her spacious Lafayette showroom, before settling in with a cup of tea to tell us how she does it.
What were you doing prior to launching your first jewelry label?
Anna Sheffield: I studied sculpture at the Academy of Arts, so I was doing that for a while. Fine art was the direction I intended taking. I had studied jewelry making to learn the techniques, but I was translating that information into sculptural objects. I was also doing blacksmithing and welding- a lot of architectural stuff and furniture here and there. I created a lot of installations.
How did you end up starting your first jewelry label, Bing Bang?
It was pretty random. I was making pieces just for fun. I would periodically find something in my studio that inspired me, like a shape or an end piece from a steel plate, or a beautiful copper piece. I would make little one-offs and wear them or give them away. There is this super cute boutique called Behind the Post Office in the Upper Haight of San Francisco where I was living at the time, and I would go in a lot and knew all the girls who worked there. They started asking about my jewelry and if I would sell any. So I made extra pieces for fun and dropped them off. They kept selling, so I kept making more. From there, more stores were asking, so I kept going. It was so much easier than art. Showing your art and writing grant proposals and exhibiting. Meeting people in a gallery is like being naked. It’s so personal and intense.
Why and when did you relocate to New York?
I relocated ten years ago. It was kind of to see which took over: art or jewelry. It’s sort of like moving to New York to fulfill my dreams, find my line of destiny. It was kind of like the rabbit and the hare. I felt more attraction to fine art and was way more involved in the art world, but somehow the jewelry thing just happened. At the time I had about ten stockists around the country.
Did you have an ‘I’ve made it’ moment?
There were a few of those moments. People would call stuff for a movie or celebrity, and I would see it be shot, which was cool. I remember when Kirsten Dunst bought my necklace, and I was like ‘Oh, holy shit!” Drew Barrymore wore a piece in Vogue, which was huge. I had sent her a necklace just cause I think she is a baddass, and she ended up wearing it in the shoot. You can’t pay for that placement. I also did runway for Marc Jacobs, which was huge. I didn’t even have PR at that time.