Graciela Fuentes experimented with just about every kind of visual art imaginable before settling into jewelry-making, from sculpture and carving to photography and video for her MFA at NYU. "In a way, I went full circle," Fuentes says of her transition to jewelry design. "The way I think about jewelry is very similar to the way I would conceive of a sculpture."
Her collection, Tirana Jewelry (which translates to "female tyrant" in her native Spanish) boasts a romantic industrial vibe, prominently featuring old gears and tech parts soldered together in wearable works of art.
"I have a penchant for old, obsolete machines," says Fuentes, whose work has a distinctly Victorian feel. "When I was a child in the '80s, the main steel foundry went bankrupt after operating since 1900. The foundry was right in the middle of the city and has since become a park with beautiful rusty machinery and mills scattered around -- I've always been drawn to the melancholic feeling that these kind of archaeological industrial sites exude."
No surprise, then, that Fuentes feels right at home today in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with its abandoned factory spaces and rusty storehouses.
Indeed, her entire design process requires her to be elbow-deep in rusty, discarded parts. "I'm always on the lookout for antique shops and markets, and I spend hours and hours scavenging through dusty bins to find pieces and parts that I can re-purpose in my jewelry," she explains.
As for the romantic sentiments she attaches to her stylish sprockets, Fuentes explains that the "finished pieces are frozen mechanisms, or fictional machines that hint at movement but are suspended in time." Just goes to show that even the most mechanical of accessories can still have heart.