Life of a Jewelry Designer: Storyboards

By Michelle Ecker on September 28th, 2015

Serena Van Rensselaer was originally a student of Art History and Cultural Anthropology, but while studying abroad in San Miguel D’Allende, she discovered her untapped passion and aptitude for jewelry design. She is now an inspired creator, perceptive businesswomen and shrewd gallery manager in Manhattan’s picturesque Soho neighborhood. We recently visited Serena’s gallery and spent the afternoon speaking with her about the industry.

Here is part twelve of our series, “Life of a Jewelry Designer.”

Life of a Jewelry Designer: Storyboards

What reminds you of early autumn?

For many people, pumpkin spiced coffee, oversized sweaters and a favorite pair of boots is enough to stimulate the seasonal senses. But as creative professionals constantly researching new colors and designs, it’s easy to feel underwhelmed by such typical inspirations.

Wanting to avoid stylistic cliché, these average sources of motivation therefore often aren’t enough to encourage distinctive ideas from designers.

“It’s really difficult to be inspired by the norm when the entire purpose of innovation is to create something that hasn’t been done before,” Serena explains.

In order to keep yourself feeling driven despite this truth, it’s important to encourage eccentric vision for unique projects on a consistent basis. And an easy way to do that, Serena shares, is to build and maintain an inspiration board.

“My inspiration board is like a giant, constantly changing collage of ideas and looks I pin throughout the year,” she explains. “I browse sites like or Pinterest, but then I physically print and tack looks onto a giant board kept in my studio. That way, when it comes time for me to develop a new look, I have a huge visual guide to reference for inspiration when I’m feeling creatively drained.”

Life of a Jewelry Designer: Storyboards

Your first inspiration board could be as simple as a large piece of cork and some pins kept in your studio or garage. Constructing this area will naturally put you in a watchful mindset, because quite frankly, the pinning and collecting process is exciting. Wanting to fill your board with unique designs, colors and looks, you’ll find yourself searching for new vision in the strangest of places.

Flipping through a grocery store circular one morning, maybe you’ll find yourself drawn to the colors of a featured produce item. Or maybe you’ll pin up that unique album art you’ve always admired on your favorite old CD.

“Update your board to reflect your changing tastes,” Serena continues. “Maybe something that inspired you last month bores you today. So take that pin down, and replace it with something different when a new look comes along.”

Once the board is in place and excitement is present, the subsequent design inspiration will easily follow. Maintaining this stylistic archive will soon become not only a helpful business task, but likely an enjoyable hobby and source of daily enthusiasm.

Want to learn more? The New York Institute of Art and Design offers an online jewelry design course that can teach you how to create and sell your own unique line of jewelry. Request your free course catalog today!