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 three of our series, “Life of a Jewelry Designer.”
It’s no secret that countless accessory designers radiate qualities of individualism, uniqueness, and unapologetic eccentricity. In fact- it’s likely the manifestation of said qualities that catalyzes their success in such an inherently expressive field of work.
Considering professionalism’s apparent clash with unconventional creativity, the mindset of a jewelry design visionary is one that would likely feel controlled in many other occupations. Serena understands this avoidance of restriction. “I just want to make things that drive me,” she explains. “Any idea that speaks to me, I want to dedicate time to it, and create it.”
Established jewelry designers such as Serena are free to express themselves by making physical things- assuredly something very few others can say of their work. However, the often unavoidable intersection of jewelry design and business enterprise is one that can often leave stylists feeling inhibited by commercial direction and consumer requests. We asked Serena to share some advice with our students on how to cope with the occasionally awkward relationship between individuality and industry demand.
“Acknowledging and upholding the business aspect of your jewelry design career is unescapably essential to your success,” she explains. “I have to think about it all the time, even though I don’t want to. I understand how aspiring design students feel- you guys don’t want the business side of things to take over- and I get that.”
However, it’s reasonable to assume that designers who disregard the business aspect of their careers will likely meet a plateau in their attempted climb to success. “If you want to make a consistent living selling your pieces, you’re going to need to find balance,” Serena continues. “You’ll need to prepare yourself for the possibility that clients might not be interested in purchasing the accessories that you personally find meaningful.”
Does this mean you should stop creating the jewelry that resonates with you on a profound individual level? Of course not. “Sometimes I feel like I make two separate collections of work- the jewelry I know my clients are currently interested in, and the symbolic stuff that I personally love. I make both, and I sell both. The balance helps me keep my creativity while still satisfying the market, and my buyers.”
Want to learn more? The New York Institute of Art and Design offers an online jewelry making course that can teach you how to create and sell your own unique line of jewelry. Request your free course catalog today!