Interview with Colleen Russell of Russell Concept House
Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing, and whether or not that’s been an influence in your particular esthetic choices?
I would say my upbringing has been pretty diverse. I was born in Chile, and lived there until I was 7, before my family moved back to the US. Being from two very different cultures has opened me up to a wider perspective of life and generated an intrigue in learning about them. This directly affects my work as I am constantly investigating techniques and styles of jewelry pertaining to civilizations which are quite foreign to me.
I've also always felt like a bit of a hybrid—I've never been able to fully identify with American culture or Chilean culture. I can see this duality in my work as well. My love for ancient and traditional craft as well as for contemporary jewelry, seem to be contradictions that I bring to life through my designs, and maybe it's what gives me a signature style.
How do you conceptualize a new collection and what’s your creative process?
My creative process usually begins with an idea, this can be anything from being inspired by a certain culture, a technique, or a type of jewelry. I then work mostly intuitively and experimentally. Having said that, I always learn a technique well before attempting to use it. But after that I allow my idea to be loose enough to change once I start working at my bench. I have found that the best improvisations happen this way and the piece sort of creates itself. It is also a bit more time consuming and can be less efficient, but It adds an element of surprise and satisfaction that keeps my creativity alive.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
As a solo show, I run all aspects of my brand. A typical day starts in the morning around 8am with a giant cup of coffee while I check emails. I usually like to make a to-do list the night before or at the start of a new week with the small details that I may easily overlook. Anything from quoting someone for a custom piece, to checking the price of gold that day, to making sure I ship out orders on time. I have yet to develop a good social media strategy, but this is my next goal. During this time, I also send out invoices and take note of any orders that have come in and need to be made.
What has been the most important jewelry-making skill that you’ve learned and why?
I know sustainability is a very important part of Mon Pilar. Does that present any challenges in your work?
The challenges I have come across so far involve sourcing colored gemstones and making my packaging sustainable. I have found a few sources that are ethical and more sustainable for buying gemstones but these come with a higher price point, so for now I mostly order them for custom pieces when a client wants a particular stone and is willing to invest in it. As for my packaging I am still in search of a company that makes beautiful packaging that is recycled and still affordable. I think there's always going to be challenges, but I'm fully invested in growing my brand ethically and responsibly.
I saw on your website that you do custom jewelry. What’s your favorite part about the collaborative process of making a custom piece?
If we ran into you on the street, what jewelry would you be wearing? (casual vs night out)
I would have to say the Roma Necklace with the Orbis Hoops. These two have been my go to’s for a while now. I love the weight and look of the Roma. I love how unique it is, and that it looks great with a pair of jeans or a black dress. As for the hoops, they are sooo comfy! The charms are made from diamond slices with small diamonds embedded rustically into the metal to add some sparkle. They're removable so I sometimes wear the hoops solo for a more minimal look. Both pieces I wear day and night!
What do you hope the future looks like for Mon Pilar?