Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ask - Jennifer Sarkilahti of Odette New York

I'm such a big fan Jennifer Sarkilahti's line, Odette New York. Jennifer designs and hand sculpts each piece using inspirations ranging from nature to architecture.   

Additionally, the names Jennifer selects for her collections are such perfect fits for their smart-ancient-organic leanings; they are (like her jewelry) strikingly beautiful, strong and evocative. Athena Divinus, Minerva Divinus, and her most recent Eye of Ra come to mind as ready examples.  The names of the pieces themselves are no less inspired: Ojos, Eos, KronosHeraKlaia, Galatea, Fortuna, Demeter, and Arrow, to name more than a few. And of course there's the delicious Odette, itself. 

 Jennifer obviously has fantastic taste in names, and she is fortunate to be well-traveled and stocked with family gems, as well. You name lovers will definitely want to take out your pens to jot down some new favorites you've never heard before.(It almost goes without saying that the jewelry and sculpture lovers amongst us are in for a treat!) 

-What's your largest source of inspiration for your jewelry designs? 

A combination of traveling, book reading, museum going, and image viewing. For my new collection, Eye of Ra, a recent trip to Greece and Turkey was the starting point for the collection.  I took in a lot of visual inspiration from the unusual architecture and the textiles, and the rough Mediterranean terrain. After that, I spent time at museums looking at ancient tools, weapons, and artifacts.

-How/when did you begin to design your own jewelry? 

Seven years ago, I had finished my MFA in Painting and moved to New York City from Virginia. I had just moved out of one painting studio and was searching for another. I started making jewelry as a smaller scale creative outlet I could work on in my small apartment, but eventually it just sort of took over.

-Is there a favorite part of your process or a material you're partial to working with? 

I work in lost wax, an ancient casting process that has remained relatively unchanged over the centuries. What is sculpted in the wax is cast into metal. The wax comes in different forms like tubes, sheets, and wires and different consistencies from hard to soft. You can draw into it, build it up or carve it away. The wax is cast into metal exactly as it is carved, so my favorite part is that you can see every mark made by the hand in the final metal piece. 

-Is there something that always makes it's way onto your inspiration board?  How often do you change it? 

Things I pick up on my walk over to the studio; leaves, bark, seedpods, and pinecones. I try to take everything down twice a year; I just changed it last week. The new board has a lot more geometric inspiration so we’ll see how that influences the next collection. 

-Do non-visual experiences ever find themselves being translated into your work (smells, the feeling you get from a great meal, moods set by the weather?)

Yes, I’m sure they do. When I absorb inspiration, it’s always more than just the visual. I’m drawn to rough textures for example. I like a tactile quality in jewelry. I want to feel the texture etched into a piece, not just see it.

-What do you need going on around you to work? 

Music is a must! I’m a little Pandora-obsessed.

two favorite things in/about your home (other than family/pets)?

The view. Even though we live in the city, our windows look out onto trees and a park so it feels a little like an oasis. I also enjoy cooking in the kitchen when I have the time. 

-Favorite drink and snack for busy time?  

Rose wine and something a little salty…Marcona almonds?

-Favorite song to sing?  


-Your photography is really beautiful! Do you have a favorite trick/technique/tip to use? 

Natural light and depth of field.

-do you like photo editing or do you prefer to leave your photos natural?  
I prefer not to edit and keep things natural. Generally the only time I edit is for look books to emphasize atmosphere.

-The last beautiful thing you paid close attention to?

Emma Kunz drawings

-You can go anywhere in the world and can leave today -- where are you going? What must you do there? What must you bring back?

This is tough, I have a lot of places on my punch list. Today I’d like to go to Peru and hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, hopefully bringing back something colorful and woven.

-other makers/artisians past or present that you're excited about right now?

Mina Perhonen, Kiki Smith, Emma Kunz, Eva Zeisel, Victoire de Castellane, Eva Hesse.

-I love the names of your line and collections; why did you select them? 

Since what I do is primarily visual, it’s a nice to have a chance to consider the way things sound and to figure out a way to tie things together with a broad idea or concept.

-Do you feel the names to be an important part of the aesthetic of each collection? 

I never used to name pieces, I’d just call them what they were, like Fox Necklace, Circle Earrings, etc. When my styles became more abstract and less literal, I had to think of names to distinguish them. Now I’m kind of enjoying giving them an identity.

-Are there any names that stand out from your travels -- people you've met or places you've loved?  
So many, I love the names Anais, Mena, Celine, Simrin, Naxos, Mirabai, Ines, Katrin, Petra, Orlean, Ingrid, and Annika.

-Any other names out there you love right now?

I am a Jennifer from an era of so many Jennifers, so I am always happy to hear something a little more unusual. I love my mother’s name Leni, and my grandmother’s name Minerva. Her middle name was Theone.

My last name is very Finnish. My dad recently sent some family history and I fell in love some of the names found in my family tree: Evert, Juho, Amalia, Seyard, Henrika, Signe, and Heikki.

My friend Lena has a lovely throwback name. I feel the same way about Agatha, Beatrice and Frances. My friend Natalie’s last name is Wyeth, which I’ve always thought would make the coolest first name for a little dude. I also like the names Sanna, Lula, and Samuel.

-Name Game: please help us create a name by answering the following:
1.  For the first name, what is the name of a beloved material for jewelry making that you also find to be a pretty word)?

Mandrel. The tool I use to measure and shape rings.

2.  For the middle name, what is a favorite name from mythology not yet used in your collections?

A tie between Circe and Persephone.


Readers, any new favorites here for you? Isn't it neat to hear about Jennifer's process with wax; it brings a new appreciation doesn't it? 

Anything you're excited to check out now? I can't wait to really dig into those Ema Kunz drawings, which are completely new and inspiring to me (one of the things I love most about Jennifer's blog is that I always find new and interesting bits like this there).

I'm pretty blown away by the beauty of all of these names! 
  This was such an inspiring chat. Thank you for talking to us today, Jennifer, and congratulations on such a beautiful collection! 

images: from Eye of Ra look book by Jennifer Sarkilahti.


  1. What a great post!!

  2. This is a wonderful interview, and her jewelry is amazing. I so relate to being one in a sea of other girls with the same name...Hello I'm Heather #2564985404. I also love vintage names, that's why I named my daughter, and then my business, "Audrey." I love all the names she's chosen, they evoke a different time and a different place. Very lovely!

    1. love Audrey, Heather. And Heather really is a lovely nature name, despite it's being popular amongst our generation! thanks for commenting... I use "amazing" sparingly, but yep, Jennifer's jewelry definitely is!

  3. oh, the photography and her jewellery designs are gorgeous. i am especially taken with her 'eye of ra' collection - particularly the ojos ring...
    it's interesting also, to hear that her inspiration for this collection began from travelling in greece and turkey...and then it was bestowed with a name from egyptian mythology.

    i adore all the names she mentions.

    off now to peruse her blog...

    1. thanks, wwwyk. I couldn't pick a favorite collection, but this one is really close to being it for me, too. I love the story of the inner workings and inspiration sources ... makes such sense when you look at the jewelry. what a beautiful interpretation of one's travels, right!

  4. I've just discovered your blog through Jennifer's link to this interview and I find it truly inspiring!
    I'm a big Odette New York fan and I loved getting to know more about Jennifer and her method of work. I'll surely keep following your interviews :)

  5. A great interview! I love Jennifer's work and blog, and the questions you asked her were as interesting as her responses! As for cool names, how about Penelope? My brand-new (born yesterday!) niece has been christened Penelope Sue (Sue in memory of my lovely mother). Penny Sue, a very old-fashioned yet cool name :)

    1. Thank you, Jennifer! Penny Sue is just absolutely adorable (and the beautiful Penelope always stops my heart a bit). I so love that your mother was honored (I plan to do the same for my mother's memory should we be blessed with another little girl in the future). Congratulations to you and your family, Auntie!

  6. the jewelry was very cool, loved it.

    I found Theone to be new to me, and I love Greek girl names so I'm all over this. Also, I love Henrik but haven't given a lot of thought to Henrika, but I like it! And Penelope Sue "Penny Sue", very sweet for sure. So nice to give your child a fabulous name but still connect her to meaningful people in your life.