When I called jewelry and handbag designer Marla Wallerstein, it was fun to be able to say, “Hi Marla! It’s Marla!” But mostly I was excited to chat with the woman whose edgy rock ‘n roll designs lure me every time I pass her collection in Assembly Creators Marketplace. I’ve succumbed to her silver crescent moon necklace for myself and a brass evil eye pendant for my daughter, and now have my eye on a zingy black leather and metallic bag.
Marla always looks supercool in an ever-present black leather moto, glossy short hair and wreaths of her own silver and brass chains. (I want to feature her in my IG feed!) Here’s our edited conversation with @marlastudio, where she reveals her deep connection with everything she designs.
@rebellewithmarla: One of the things that strikes me about your jewelry is that it’s both of-the-moment and timeless. What’s your vision when you design?
Marla Wallerstein: Jewelry can be completely decorative or have deep meaning. I like to have it be both, some sort of meaning as well as an impact visually. By that I mean to be something akin to armor. I feel like everything we put on top of our skin to cover ourselves is essentially a protective layer as well as an expressive layer. I want it to feel like some element of expression and some element of personal elevation and even protection. That could simply mean going out of your space into public space feeling good about yourself.”
@rebellewithmarla: I love wearing your crescent moon necklace. What’s the meaning behind it?
Marla W: The moon is a fascinating accessory in the sky. It changes all the time. It’s a night light source. I’m the kind of person who likes everything being open 24 hours, and the moon is like that for me. The moon is that kind of companion for me. Cultures base their calendars on the moon. It pulls the tide. That crescent shape hanging in the sky is so incredibly elegant. I have gratitude towards the moon.
@rebellewithmarla: So, you like to stay up late?
Marla Wallerstein: If left to my own devices, I could be on a schedule where I’m up till 3 a.m. and sleep until 10. In that frame of reference, I’m not sleeping late, I’m sleeping different. The rest of the world doesn’t work that way, so I don’t get to do that very often.
@rebellewwithmarla: How did you become a jewelry designer?
Marla W.: From an early age, I have always been involved in art making in a lot of different forms. As a kid, I was always drawing. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Washington University and a Master of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. I was a fine artist and print maker. I ended up being a high-school art teacher, and, in that capacity, I had to teach all different disciplines. The one I had never taught or studied was metalsmithing. At some point, I realized I wanted my own business and to be a producer of art. I felt naturally drawn to metal. I wanted to make jewelry, and instead of things people would stand at a distance from and be on a wall, I wanted to make things people would have an intimate connection to and wear on their body.
@rebellewithmarla: What new directions are you going in your designs?
Marla Wallerstein: I’ve added leather in past two years. I got an industrial sewing machine. I really like sewing the bags together. Purses and handbags are essentially functional. You have to consider what people carry and how they use a purse in addition to how it looks. Jewelry makes a statement and so does your bag. Often, when you are wearing a jacket, the only thing people see is your outerwear and your bag. Purses are very personal -- you carry your life around in them. You want to put them on and feel somewhat invincible and good about yourself.
@rebellewithmarla: What would surprise us about you?
Marla W. : I’m a bit of geek. I can spend a lot of time reading articles about outer space on the internet and I like to read Popular Mechanics and Science Digest. If I weren’t an artist, I would be attracted to science.