Today we’d like to introduce you to Anna Danilova.
Anna, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in Moscow and started making jewelry in my early teens. My step grandfather was a jeweler and during my childhood, I was surrounded by exquisite jewelry and collectible lapidary sculptures made from gems and minerals from all over the world. At some point, my grandmother introduced me to the magic of sharing a passion for art with others. On a snowy winter day when I was thirteen, she took me to an art fair by the Moscow River to sell my first pieces made out of honey-colored glass and raw amber. I was already entranced by art and deeply fascinated by the paintings of Claude Monet—her friends nicknamed me “Monet” because of my artistic inclination. This experience reinforced my passion to see more, try more, experience more—all as inspiration for making my own jewelry. My art studies were closely tied to my travels around the world. At 21, I was studying Hospitality Industry at Moscow University. One summer, I flew into New York and spent a week falling in love with everything about the city – it wet my appetite to see more of the States.
When I got the chance to travel to California for the summer and had to make a big decision – Los Angeles or San Francisco? Growing up, I had heard about California, about the Summer of Love, the 60s and 70s and the role cultural movements of those times played in shaping the city and charging its energy. So, San Francisco it was, and I haven’t regretted my decision for one moment. I remember walking through the city for days and weeks, taking in the city’s ornate architecture and surreal cityscape.
I couldn’t believe the city could be so beautiful and inspiring. My first job was teaching Kundalini yoga in the Castro district, but I was so inspired by the colors and landscape of the Bay Area that I had to figure out a way to capture it artistically. So, I returned to making jewelry and began working with metal. I wanted to honor the land that was so inspiring to me and began my exploration of natural materials and dyes, learning how organic matter can transfer lasting color. At that time, I was studying fashion merchandising at San Francisco State University and learning how wasteful and polluting fashion industry really is. I knew back then that if I were to create my own accessories it had to be different. I was attracted to natural dyes as a natural, more sustainable alternative to polluting dyes often used in fashion manufacturing.
I first learned to use Indigo dye, make a reduction to take out the oxygen and introduce it back to achieve stunning shades of blue. The more I played with it, the more ideas for textures came to mind. I often find inspiration in my dreams and one night shortly after I began experimenting with the cotton rope dyeing, I had a prophetic dream. I was dreamt about using different materials – fur and horsehair. I woke up and went on the Internet and found an amazing Native American merchant who was selling hair ethically collected from horses by artisans from the Caddo Nation.
I immediately started playing with it, and of course dipping it in the dye was a natural thing for me to do. It’s a mixture of coarse and silky, a soft texture with a little bit of a shine. While developing this new technique, I was working as a stylist at a tech startup in San Francisco and constantly collaborated with many local photographers in the area. I brought my first Indigo dyed horsehair piece to a collaboration shoot I had with a local vintage shop the same weekend I made my first prototype. The earrings were incredibly well received and added a powerful, distinctive touch to the looks we created. I knew I was onto something and I just kept going…and the rest is history.
Has it been a smooth road?
My journey wasn’t by any means a smooth one and to this day, it often isn’t. It’s challenging to start a company from scratch. Truth is leading a business is hard. I wear many hats on a daily basis. Juggling multitude of tasks ranging from researching, prototyping, designing, production time at my bench all while managing operational side of the business and marketing like shooting content and interacting with my community on social media. This work never stops!
It is worth mentioning the initial challenge of learning the skills involved, becoming proficient with materials, tools and techniques. It took me years of honing my craft to get to the aptitude level sufficient for my vision.
When all is said and done, seeing this work excite so many people energized and motivated me to persevere doing what I love. Being a part of a larger community of fellow artists and makers and sharing a bigger dream where we elevate each other is imperative to success. Constant support and encouragement of family and friends has also been crucial.
For me, the central message behind the work is sustainability and that is an essential aspect of how it came to be. That being said, it always takes extra work and effort to ensure that each raw ingredient in my work is sourced mindfully with respect to the Earth and awareness of an effect it creates in the community. It’s not easy but always worth it.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Anna Monet Jewelry story. Tell us more about the business.
I am a studio artist and I work with metal, ethically sourced horsehair and natural dyes. I like the idea of collaborating with nature, a two-way process of listening and transforming. My passion is being able to find unexpected combinations of existing natural materials, to design with purpose and provoke thoughtful conversations about sustainability and design.
I specialize in contemporary statement jewelry incorporating horsehair and natural dyes along with unique stones and mineral specimens. I am known for my inspired use of color. Whether achieved with natural dyes or ages-old methods of patina and vitreous enamel in my hand colors and textures weave into ancient stories to empower the wearer.
I am proud to have my work available for purchase in arrange of beautiful museum shops across the country. Institutions like Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in NYC and PAMM in Miami are definitely top of my list as destinations and key supporters of my work.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The global fashion industry is still enormously energy-consuming, wasteful and polluting. Though some small progress is visible, the industry hasn’t yet taken its environmental responsibilities seriously enough. With that said, I anticipate fashion and jewelry industry moving towards more sustainable methods of design and manufacturing. I believe we’ll produce less and do so intentionally. Sustainability will become the new standard of procedures for those who want to stay in business.
We’ll continuously move towards greater appreciation for craftsmanship and human touch in our fashion and accessory purchases. Clever use of natural materials and reuse of waste from other businesses will excite and energize the industry’s effort to create sustainably. In the tumultuous world, we live in jewelry and fashion will continuously be a source of empowerment, joy and inspiration.
- Website: www.annamonetjewelry.com
Photo with juice and jewelry & flowers and photo with a feather by Lindsay Graviet; Model photos by Vera Fedorova; Rest of the jewelry photos by me; portrait photo is by Nicole Morrison