An Interview With Layers of Earth

The first time I saw Layers of Earth jewelry, I knew it had a home at Be Clean. Not only did the maker, Joanna Otten, describe her line as "vegan jewelry," her delicate work evoked passion and free thought through metal and fiber. To me, Be Clean stands for more than just skincare. It stands for self care, and the ability to indulge in a moment of wellness that brings happiness and contentment. I think Layers of Earth Jewelry deepens these moments, and I'm thrilled to share more about Joanna and this wonderful line with you. 

Describe your process. How do you get from conception to people wearing your jewelry?

My process has become pretty organic over the past year. I took a step back over the summer and made a conscious decision to not follow too closely to the fashion trends but instead share what makes my heart go pitter-patter when I make it. I think the joy in creating that way really comes through in the final piece.

I really go through my days with an eye for shapes. I have a sketch book and my phone camera and ideas can be sparked anywhere from shadows to shapes found in an abstract painting (the Rye necklace was actually inspired by a shape in a painting I saw on Modern Family!).

I almost always move from sketches to the computer and then make a couple prototypes. It's often in that process where new ideas are born too. I'll make a mistake and have an ah-ha moment or after I cut a shape out, the scrap metal has this awesome shape that is calling to be made into something too!

I start from flat sheets of metal, so a lot of love goes in to each piece of jewelry. I hand-cut, file, sand, hammer for texture, patina, tumble and wax each item. Then many are combined with cotton, nettle or linen cord. I've always agreed with the saying about a maker's spirit being incorporated into handmade items. It's because so much compassion and time are poured into each and every one.

Why plant-based jewelry? Did you have a defining moment that brought you to make jewelry with this mission?

I've been a vegetarian since about 2004 and while I don't say I'm a vegan, I've really been called to incorporate the plant-based lifestyle into other areas of my life, such as clothing and shoes. Many people associate animal cruelty with just the food industry but I think many would be surprised and saddened by how the fashion industry contributes to those atrocities.
When I wanted to purchase jewelry for myself I found it was hard to find fashionable vegan items (especially in the bohemian style) or to even know if pieces contained animal products. Even some natural dyes come from insects.
I started making jewelry around the time I moved to vegetarianism and it just felt strange to use leather, bone or other animals products in what I was making. So I started to research, experiment and learn about plant based materials, fibers, dyes and waxes. Using these materials just seemed a natural extension of my heart, lifestyle and business mission.
What's your favorite material to work with?

Oooohhh, that's such a hard question! Like picking a favorite child :)
I love metal. Brass, copper, silver. They have these amazing properties that allow them to change color and shape and consistency when worked in certain ways and mixed with other compounds. But lately I've been mixing hand-dyed fibers with the metal and playing with clay a bit. My undergrad degree is in science, so I think I just love the earthy nature of these materials and the chemistry geek in me comes out when I get to mix things and watch them change magically before my eyes!

How do you think your jewelry fits in with a natural lifestyle? Are skincare and jewelry connected?

Skincare and jewelry are totally connected. So many folks have skin sensitivities and the cotton/linen braided rope necklaces are a great alternative for those allergic to certain metals. And all are made with natural dyes, chemical free soaps and waxes.
I truly feel that what we wear on our skin and so close to our heart center, seeps deep into our soul. I strive for all of the Layers Of Earth items to be as natural and chemical free as possible. 

Leave a comment