Browsing one of Oakland’s boutiques, I stumbled upon a necklace and fell in love. The following day I saw it again, this time in a store in Berkeley. I knew I had to learn more about its designer, Alex Steele. Turns out, Alex doesn’t just make stunning jewelry but is a multidisciplinary artist who makes jewelry, apparel, and home goods. Today she’s sharing what unites her work and where she finds inspiration.
How did you get started as a maker and how has your work evolved to include so many different disciplines?
I started out painting shirts with bleach as a fun craft that quickly grew into a production of painting designs in multiples. Each shirt is still painted free-hand for the unique variation to consider each one a piece of art. I focused my background in fine art towards creating art that you can wear because it was important to me to make art a daily expression. I believe dressing yourself to feel like you are actually wearing a piece of art promotes confidence.
From painting apparel, I expanded my wearable art into making jewelry to incorporate my interest in sculpture. Working with bleach lead me to experimenting with the different outcomes black dyes can give you (from rust orange, to pale yellow, to purple), which inspired me to braid the fabric into bands for necklaces to achieve a textured look that pairs with the PVC beads I transform to look like stone. What I love about my jewelry is the combination of soft and hard materials — I feel that contrast is what gives the necklaces their tough, statement piece appeal.
An underlying inspiration that lead me to creating my necklaces was my work as a museum preparator, where I continued my practice in taxidermy and learned how to create the artificial elements in natural science dioramas. During that time, I was constantly inspired by all the materials and processes used to make the elements look as life-like as possible.
Read more and see Alex’s work in the slideshow!