There's a preciseness to Selin Kent's designs, a defining characteristic that makes the fledgling jewelry-maker's work immediately recognizable. Kent, a self-described "former academic" who found herself drawn to a more hands-on line of work, produces pieces that display a new side of fine jewelry, as she utilizes materials like champagne diamonds and black gold to express her ultra-modern aesthetic. In advance of her trunk show this Saturday, March 8 at Goldyn, the New York-based designer spoke with Westword about her creation process and where she gets the inspiration for her futuristic, wearable art.
Westword: How did you begin designing jewelry?
Selin Kent: I sort of fell into jewelry designing a little later on -- I was initially more of an academic. I went to Tufts University to study history and international relations. After graduating, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. I fell into a market-research job -- it was a lot of dealing with clients and long days and I had this reaction to sitting in front of a computer all day. I just wanted to be doing something with my hands, honestly. It could have been pottery, it could have been sculpture, but I was really curious about metal and the way it was worked with. I just enrolled in a jewelry-making class and I fell in love with it. I took classes in jewelry fabrication for two years while I was at my old job. That's sort of how I came into the jewelry world.
While in school for jewelry-making, I was honing my craft skills. Now, I don't actually make the pieces that I sell, but I think it is so important to have that background. In order to design properly, you have to really know a lot about the materials that you're working with. That's the short back story.
Are all of your pieces machine-made or do you still use metal-smithing?
All of the models for the final pieces I make using 3D modeling software. So it's not machine-made, but it is created through programs like CAD and Rhino -- I made the models using a computer in 3D and I have them printed in wax. From the wax I have them cast, then I have them fabricated -- so they are either polished or the stones are set, things like that. So there is definitely a lot of handwork involved, all of which takes place in New York. The creation of the models is the computerized part, but there is a handmade aspect as well.
You use very clean, precise lines when you start with an initial design -- do you sketch out your ideas first?
I usually sketch it out first, yes, before jumping to 3D. Then it evolves over time before I'm 100 percent happy with the model, and each design goes through many iterations before. The 3D modeling also saves a lot of time because traditionally, the 3D modeling is done through carving and wax, which is a very time-consuming process. The thing is, yes, my aesthetic is really precise and very geometric, so this method really lends itself well to my aesthetic because it allows me to be so precise.
Sometimes it would take three or four hours to carve something in wax, but I can do that on the computer in maybe a half an hour and be able to see how it looks once it's printed. Then I can go back and refine it -- that's my process. Once I have the model finalized, I have a mold made. From there, the production process is much easier. What inspires your work?
This is a very basic answer, but I am inspired by clean design. Scandinavian design inspires me a lot -- the interplay of different lines and forms. Certain 2st century art movements like Bauhaus. My pieces also tend to be quite architectural, so architecture plays a pretty big role.
You work with some interesting materials, like black diamonds and various kinds of gold. How do you chose what goes into your pieces?
The materials are pretty traditional in that I work with white diamonds, black diamonds, champagne diamonds and 14-carat gold. But the black pieces that you see, those are quite striking -- they are made with black rhodium-plated white gold. I just think it adds a dramatic touch to the pieces that have black diamonds in them. Black diamonds are something that the fine jewelry industry hasn't fully embraced, but I think they are wonderful. They have a glam look that I like, so that's why I incorporate them.
This is the first line of your collection. What are you working on for the future
I launched the collection around October/November of last year, so it hasn't been around that long. Jewelry is a little bit less seasonal than more fashion-based costume and clothing lines, obviously because of the time involved. But I have been working on the next steps. I'm originally from Turkey and when I was home in Istanbul, I had these pieces of lapis, onyx and white agate cut for me in long geometric pieces. So I'm looking to expand into the precious stone arena -- I'm going to start experimenting with those materials soon.
I'm also into Turkish carpet motifs -- I think they carry a lot of cool symbolism. For a long time I've wanted to do a collection based on those motifs. So those are the two things I have in the works, though I don't know which one I'm going to work on next. I'll see which one I embrace more -- I'm a go-with-the-flow type of person, so I just need to get started and see how they develop! Meet Selin Kent and check out her work at her trunk show this Saturday, March 8 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Goldyn. For more information on the event, check out Goldyn's website; for a look at Kent's full line of jewelry, see the designer's website.