Friday, June 6, 2014

Studio Visit : Odette New York / Jennifer Sarkilahti

Founded in 2006 and based out of The Dobbin Mews Studios in Green Point, Brooklyn, Jennifer Sarkilahti is the master craftswoman who creates the stunning jewelry line, Odette New York Her designs are inspired by organic and industrial shapes, natural specimens, artifacts and primitive forms; made using ancient and modern wax carving techniques and hand fabrication. Each piece is a small scale sculpture in various materials such as recycled sterling silver, brass, bronze, diamonds and 14K gold.

Being a new mother, she was so awesome to take time out of her schedule to share her process, inspiration and studio photos. Also included, are sneak peeks of her Pre-Fall Collection, Portal Moon available in shops at the end of this month. (!)

Jennifer's journey into jewelry began as a hobby of sorts . . .

As a recent Fine Arts graduate, I moved to New York City and set up a painting studio. After a year, I struggled with whether or not I really wanted to continue painting and I decided to give up the studio. I began making jewelry as a side project out of my small city apartment to keep my hands busy. I found that it was something I really enjoyed so I kept at it. Eventually, one thing led to another and years later, I’m still at it. I really fell in love with the wax carving process itself.

What is your creative process from inspiration to realization?

I usually carry a sketchbook around with me and jot down ideas whenever they come to me or when I’m feeling inspired. When it’s time to design, I use several of these as a point of inspiration and start working with the materials. Sometimes I’ll work directly from a sketch and sometimes I’ll just start working in the wax. After the model has been created in wax, a mold is made to create an exact duplicate of the design in metal.

How was the transition from 2-D to 3-D? Are there parallels in your process between painting and creating jewelry?

There are definitely parallels. It’s very natural for me to work intuitively with the materials as it's something I do in both. When designing jewelry, I may have a rough idea to begin with, but a piece often takes several different forms before it’s completed.

from the Odette Look Books: Torne Valley, Voyager, Eye of Ra

And your Look Books – they are all so breath-taking! I love the photography and the feeling of each series.

One of my favorite parts of what I do is working on the process of a collection from the initial design ideas all the way through to the photo shoot concept. Once we’ve finalized each collection, we come up with a theme for the collection and a mood board for the photo shoot. The look book is really the synthesis of everything coming together.

Portal Moon Collection

For our newest collection Portal Moon, I asked my friend Re Jin Lee of Bailey Doesn’t Bark to style the photo shoot. I’ve always admired the styling she does of her own ceramic work and I was interested in seeing it applied to jewelry.  We decided to construct a mandala out of the pieces using a chalk grid on the concrete floor of her studio.

preview of some of the pieces from The Portal Moon Collection

Is it unusual for you to have a midseason collection?

When I started working with a showroom last year, we added two small midseason collections to the calendar. It’s been nice to create these smaller capsule collections. They’ve allowed me to be a little more experimental without the pressure of creating a large collection.

For your upcoming Fall 2014 collection, could you give any hints to what that will feel like?

FW14 really started from this idea of sentimental jewelry that’s worn in a more modern, slightly subversive way. In the collection, we have stacking signet rings, a neck cuff, hair pin and double finger knot rings.

What are cherished pieces of jewelry that you personally own?

I have some pieces from my late grandmother than are not valuable but are highly sentimental to me. One is a bracelet constructed of Australian coins from the 1950s.

Every artist's work progresses. How do you feel Odette has grown?

Since I’ve been making jewelry under the Odette label since 2006, you can imagine how much it’s changed! I’ve really tried to hone my craft and at the same time be super experimental at times.

What was your very first piece of jewelry you made?

One of the first pieces I made was a necklace in the shape of large jellyfish. It was pretty crude and the edges were a little too sharp but there is definitely something nostalgic about it and how far I’ve come since that design.

Photo from this sweet post by Half Hitched Goods with Jennifer, Anne McClaine of MCMC Fragrances and their babes.

The transition from pregnancy to motherhood is a major one. How has your working life has changed now with Luca. 

I didn’t design while I was out for maternity leave and took a little break. Now that I’m back in the studio, I have a renewed energy and I’m excited to start working on the next collection.

Behind the scenes of Jennifer teaching Brass Jewelry Making from Lena Corwin's book, "Made by Hand" - photo by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes // video here by Ryan Shimala 

Could you tell me about the community at The Dobbin Mews?

The Dobbin Mews is an incredibly creative and nurturing place. I couldn’t ask for a better work environment. Since Anne (and her sister Katie) and I share a studio, we are constantly bouncing ideas off each other and collaborating on things along with our other studio mate Emily of Talon NYC.

Often jewelry is representative of a feeling and embodies a mood. Are you drawn to certain  iconography or symbols?

Very often I’m drawn to those things but lately I also like the challenge of creating more simplified forms.

Like most people, I am inspired both by influences of-the-moment and a cumulation of past experiences that shape who I am. Could you speak to that a bit?

Creatively, I have to constantly be making new work.  I generally feel compelled to make things that leave my personal mark, which is one reason I love the wax carving process so much. In the final cast piece, you can see every mark that was made in the wax. I would love for people to look at a piece of my jewelry and know that I made it.

Thanks you so very much Jennifer! 

As much as I wish I could be out there in Brooklyn to visit, studio photos were taken by Jennifer and Re Jin.


  1. jennifer is such an incredible person and designer - i can't wait for this new collection! great interview and feature!

    1. Rita - Thank you so very much! It's a huge compliment coming from you. I've only just discovered your site, love it and what you do to support designers :) LMK when you come to LA next!