becoming a jewelry designer
Let me take you back, back to an empty beach in Jersey, sometime in the middle of fall, the year was 2014.
where it started
It was a Saturday afternoon, the air was crisp and smelled like salt, I could actually taste it. Which was a pleasant change since the only air I tasted in NYC was that of wet garbage. I dug my toes into the sand and closed my eyes. I saw myself swimming with whales.
I couldn't stop thinking about how badly our oceans needed to be saved, and there I was, in the heart of the fashion industry, doing everything except saving the whales. That thought drove me mad. At the time, I was going to school for fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. My lifelong dream up until then had been to be a fashion designer, I was living my childhood dream. Well, until I wasn’t. I became really passionate about saving our oceans. I joined Greenpeace and started participating in protests against big companies who were cutting down the rainforest for pamphlets. I knew I had to do something more than stand outside of grocery stores with a sign that said “I speak for the trees!”. Although I like to think my efforts changed at least a couple of minds, I wanted to do more. So I decided to combine my two passions: creating and the ocean.
(left: protesting with Greenpeace in NYC 2015)
the early days
I began making beaded bracelets with shells I found on the beach. Then I would donate a portion of the proceeds to different ocean conservation organizations. From Isla provided an outlet for me to fuel my creativity while also contributing to a cause I deeply cared for.A lot was changing...my parents had recently divorced, the relationship I was in at the time had turned toxic, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be in the fashion industry anymore. Among everything going on around me, From Isla had become a calm place for me to come back to. I would go into a meditative state when I was creating; it was peaceful.
(collage: center image is an anklet from my "vegan leather and wire wrapped stones" era, top right are some of the first gold filled necklaces I ever made, top left are the first rings I ever soldered, bottom left, my first photoshoot with agate neckalce designs)
evolving to fine jewelry
Not long after moving back home to a small town in PA, I decided to move out west. I felt a calling, like something was energetically pulling me towards it. So, I went for it. I packed my things, kissed my old room goodbye, and set out for a new adventure.Three days, one horrible cold, and 2,000 miles later, I arrived in LA. I started using gold filled chains to make delicate necklaces and hammered wire to make simple stacking rings. Eventually I was selling at markets and showrooms in Venice Beach, all the while donating to ocean conservation. I think living so close to the beach unlocked something in me. From Isla began to look more cohesive, people started asking for custom pieces, and my skills started to grow.
(below: photo of me in my studio using wax to create a ring by Anita Zamini)
For a long time, I taught myself everything about making jewelry. After working a full time job during the day, I would come home and search youtube for how-to videos, read books on stone setting, and study photos of jewelry to see if I could reverse engineer it. Eventually I decided it was time to ask for help. One of the best decisions I’ve made with From Isla, was enrolling in jewelry making classes. When I learned how to sculpt wax to create jewelry, it was like a whole new world had opened up in front of me. The first time I used a sculpting tool to carve back layers of wax, I knew I had discovered something truly magical. I especially loved using a hot wax pick to drip melted wax and create organic textures. Granted, I had my breakdowns in the beginning, but as I practiced, I got better, and I began to envision all of the beautiful things I could create.
Navigating a life-changing pandemic really opened my eyes. I started to feel a stronger sense of connection to From Isla. She was my side hustle, a steady creative outlet, and a way for me to contribute to ocean conservation. I knew big changes were going to happen this year, it was only a matter of time. The decision to create a fine jewelry line came to me in one of those cliche “aha!” moments. I think I was in the shower, where most of my best ideas are thought up. I realized I've always had a love for weddings, clearly, I went to school for bridal design and I worked in the wedding industry for a while. There is something romantic about being the center of your own fairytale. I knew then that I wanted to create jewelry for those magical moments in your life.
the turning point
Do you ever get that feeling, that little nagging feeling, that tells you to do something but you just aren't quite sure what you’re supposed to do? For months I would get really strong feelings telling me to dedicate more time into growing From Isla. So I did. After putting in a full day's work at my fashion industry job, I would come home and try to cram in as much From Isla time as I could. It didn’t take long before I started to feel burnt out. I was tired all the time, my creativity was dwindling, I felt stressed out and depleted. Then, almost all at once, it hit me. “I’m ready”, said a voice in my head. I knew it was my voice but it sounded stronger and more confident. “I’m ready” I repeated out loud, just to see how it felt. I knew what I was ready for.
So I jumped, armed with confidence and the knowledge that the universe would catch me. I took a leap of faith and I quit my job. Wow, I dreamed of the moment I would write those words down as my own. This is very surreal. So, I am writing tell you my story, but just the beginning, as it is still being written.
(left: one of my displays at Unique Markets from 2022)