Today I’m thrilled to share the first of what I hope will be many interviews with talented, creative businesswomen–and we’re definitely kicking off the series on a high note. I was introduced to Justina Soto’s jewelry line, Citizen Jane, earlier this year, and was excited when she told me she recently expanded her collection to include earring, bracelets and necklaces (her Gate cuff and Moonburst necklace are my favorites). Justina, pictured above, crafts all of her pieces using a centuries-old technique called sand casting; I asked her to tell me more about it, as well as her creative process and where she hopes to see Citizen Jane in five years. I hope you enjoy!
How did you first discover your love for making jewelry?
I studied ceramics and sculpting in college and quickly became enamored with working with my hands. After college, I worked at few jewelry companies in New York City and learned everything from general jewelry engineering to soldering, casting and polishing. I reached a point where I wanted to create a brand for myself, and found that it was gratifying to branch out and build something for myself.
What was the first piece you ever made, and why was it meaningful to you?
The first serious piece I ever made using traditional metalworking was a silver oxidized ring. I made it while working for a small company in Brooklyn, and although it was for their line, it gave me confidence in metalwork and the push to pursue other forms of casting on my own.
How does sand casting work and what made you choose that technique?
Sand casting involves pressing your wax mold in between your flask pieces with the intention of creating an identical ring. The idea is to make a pathway in the flask so that once you remove the wax ring, you have a space to pour the molten metal. Nine times out of 10 you’ll have a replica of your original piece. I use this method because the rings all end up having a super organic surface that I find really beautiful. Sand casting is also ideal when you’re working in an urban environment where your surroundings can be limiting. With a minimal set-up, you’re able to create interesting pieces—despite those limitations.
You’ve recently expanded your line to earrings and necklaces, in addition to rings. Can you tell us a little about the new collection?
The new pieces are made entirely of recycled brass and cast bronze, and represent the inspiration I find in aged, antique jewelry; more specifically vintage Mexican necklaces, as they are often statement pieces yet remain timeless. Several of the collars, for example, are minimalist approaches to those inspirations and aim to be an accessible and modern way to dress up everyday looks. The line is a contemporary take on typically tribal and archaic textures and colors, and because I love the fact that jewelry-wearing is such an old and long-lasting tradition, the pieces definitely aim to pay homage to that.
You’re a musician as well as a jewelry designer, and you’ve got a sculpting background–what does a typical day look like for you?
My responsibilities change depending on the day and time of year, but around the holidays I’ll split my time between preparing for holiday performances, getting my pieces out to trunk shows and reaching out to taste makers. So basically a lot of learning new songs, making pieces and emails! In between all of that, I hang out with my cat and partner, and also drink lots of coffee!
What’s your goal for Citizen Jane Jewelry–where do you see it in five years?
Although I love the idea of creating collections, I’m also interested in eventually moving into the world of custom wedding rings using fair-mined fine metals and conflict-free diamonds. I’d love to bring the skills that I’ve obtained in this specialized field and create interesting, contemporary, high-end pieces, all while valuing sustainability. So in five years, I’m interested in seeing the most growth in that field!
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to someone just starting out?
The only way to get better is to think big and to constantly learn new things about your craft. If you’ve mastered one thing, move on to the next and learn as much as possible about it, because that will be your greatest resource. There will always be things that seem intimidating, but the worst that will happen is that you’ll fail—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s definitely a reason people say that failing can be a positive, as you are guaranteed to learn at least one important lesson.
Thank you so much, Justina!