Jewelry designer Anna Sheffield has a signature look—vintage. Her unique styles have an old-world feel but with the new-age charm, coveted especially by brides and women looking for something a little less traditional with a little more character. Inspired largely by art and fashion, the designer’s creative process has evolved from handcrafting metalwork without sketches, to now working in reverse.
Recently, Sheffield partnered with HAYWARD and HOPPER to create two one-of-a-kind bags and three stunning jewelry pieces from the late Dennis Hopper’s personal collection. The designer also founded with The Future Heritage Project—an organization aimed at preserving Native American artisanship and craft.
To hear more about this evolution, her first piece, and how design gives her hope for humanity, Whitewall spoke with Sheffield.
WHITEWALL: Can you tell us a bit about where your creative process starts?
ANNA SHEFFIELD: I often start with quite a scientific approach, researching my subject matter through imagery but also books, poems, artist references. I love coming at designing with a concept in mind before the work of pure creativity begins. Then later, it is always followed by the design and engineering part of the process, which means measuring and specking all of the materials, and building samples to make sure the pieces are wearable and purely reflective of the original idea.
WW: Tell us a bit about your very first creation.
AS: I studied jewelry making in art school where I studied Sculpture and Fine Art, broadly. I think my first jewelry project was at sort of Art Nouveau influenced hair comb, with copper spoons that snaked around it. These were removable, as the project directive was to make something you would bring into another world to show what we are as a creative culture. I have always collected spoons as I think they are a wonderful invention and have a beautiful marriage of form and function.
WW: What is the biggest way your practice has changed?
AS: I started by making everything by hand, and I never drew anything in detail before I started. I worked directly in the metal then, but now it’s the reverse. I do all of my drawings by hand, to scale, and as enlarged details. Then I work with specialized artisans to render the pieces in metal and set them with stones.
WW: Tell us a bit about your recent collaboration with Hayward + Hopper.
ANNA SHEFFIELD: I met Marin, the founder of the HAYWARD and HOPPER brands, through friends and we connected immediately on our love of (and our childhood history that is tied to) New Mexico. When she learned about what I am working to do with Future Heritage Fund, she suggested we do some kind of collaboration, like my reimagined vintage southwestern jewelry pieces but using a small number of pieces belonging to her father, Dennis Hopper.
We ended up working with this beautiful and quite rare concho belt. We took the conchos, butterflies, and the one buckle and worked them into a capsule collection of two bags and three jewelry pieces. I added gold and diamonds to each piece to elevate them, as I do with all of the vintage pieces in the Future Heritage Project. Proceeds of the sales go toward the projects I fund, including work done with Amigos Bravos in the Taos area.
WW: Can you elaborate a bit on your interest in art and fashion, and how it has influenced your design and personal style?
AS: I am art obsessed! I also spend a lot of time scouring the world and the internet for both emerging and lesser known artists, and I put equal attention on the area of design. I think in many ways they perform the same function—or at least are a cross pollination of two distinct objectives for creating. I love how avenue of creativity is to explore meaning, embodying the spirit of a thing. And then we have this idea of aesthetics and function, being merged in a design or piece of art. I love that interplay and how so many ideas can exist! I mean…so many ways of seeing. Here we are feeling unique among the multitudes of humans, of stars, of galaxies, and we can make a tremendous amount of variation using limited materials and methods of expression. That to me is staggering and fills me with hope for humanity.
I certainly love fashion, for the aforementioned reasons—melding aesthetics and functionality with meaning. And as a mode of personal expression. I’ve pretty much been theme dressing for as long as I can remember—starting as a kid wanting to be pirate one day and then a princess the next. And now, it’s quite the same; there are times when I dress up for an evening soirée and feel totally magical and transformed. And then, based on my vibe, I might dress for work as a boss lady in something that seems like my version of sophisticated and grown up, while on other days I’m channeling my punk rock youth in a leopard print coat and a Misfits tee.
It’s all about personal style. The pieces that stay most similar for me are jewelry. I usually wear certain pieces for long stretches on the daily, total creature of habit. But sometimes I break out the fancy pieces when I play dress up!