The CultureMap Interview
Award-winning Austin jewelry designer Jeannie Vianney makes her Academy Awards debut
Jeannie Vianney has had quite the ride. She went from studying computer science at the University of Texas to working at IBM to starting her own jewelry line. Then, in 2011, her delicate, lace-casted jewelry earned her the title of Texas' Next Top Designer.
When we met her at this year's event, Vianney modestly sat back as her boyfriend bragged about her online collection and told us that pieces from the line will be worn in the upcoming season of True Blood on HBO. Then we learned that Vianney's designs would be in the GBK Luxury Gift Lounge at the 2013 Academy Awards, so we had to touch base with the Austin resident before she gets too famous.
CultureMap: Is there something in your life that foreshadowed your future as a jewelry designer?
Jeannie Vianney: When I was younger, I loved making things. I would have craft-night sleepovers with friends, where we would make hair clips and beaded things. I remember going to a local bead store and carefully selecting five or 10 glass beads to work with. My first jewelry piece was a necklace made of copper wire that I formed into small flower connectors and beads. I enjoyed the creative process and feeling that I was able to make something with just my hands and simple materials.
My mother was also artistic and owned her own business. There were paintings all over the house that she had painted of family members. There was always a strong sense of entrepreneurial spirit in her and a sense that anything was possible if you worked hard at it. Both my parents moved to the United States without much but were able get advanced educations, own businesses and raise their family.
CM: How did you come up with lace-cast jewelry?
JV: I started collecting different pieces of lace with patterns and designs I was drawn to. I was amazed with all the intricacies and the texture that a little piece of fabric could have and wanted to use this in a unique way. I loved that lace could make you feel a certain way. For me, it reminds me of something classic, treasured or passed down from one generation to the next. It has an heirloom quality.
CM: What's the design process like?
JV: I create the initial designs and prototypes, but I do have help with larger production runs. My studio is in my home, but I am looking to expand and would love to have my own store one day. I use lost wax casting, which is an ancient jewelry process going back many thousands of years.
First, I make the lace pieces into wax models. These models then get cast into metal castings. From these, I make molds from the metal castings so I can make multiples of the same lace design. For the actual design of the piece, I use a hands-on approach. I will put different materials and stones together and see how they will look or sketch out my ideas on paper.
CM: What is the most essential piece of jewelry?
JV: A jewelry piece should be wearable with a simple dress or top and be able to transform its look; it should also complement a great outfit. I tend to gravitate toward necklaces as my go-to pieces. Most days I wear a really simple outfit like jeans and a tee and throw on a necklace and heels to dress it up for an evening out. The most important part of wearing jewelry is that it makes you feel great wearing it.
CM: How were you approached about having your designs in the gift lounge at the Academy Awards?
JV: Costume designers from True Blood, the HBO show, selected one of my pieces to be featured in an episode for the upcoming season. The people that help scout for the show selected me to join a group of artists and designers doing the gift lounge for the Academy Awards. I thought this would be a great opportunity for exposure to a market that I haven’t fully explored.
I’m honored to be chosen to have my jewelry showcased in front of a high-profile new audience. This is my first celebrity showcase and product gifting, so I’m excited to see what the results are!
CM: What does the future hold for Jeannie Vianney?
JV: I will be releasing a new collection in the coming weeks. There are more statement pieces and more of an edge to them. There are strong colors of blue and emerald green in the stones used to complement the lace.