Introduce yourself and tell us about your handmade business
My name is Darrien and I create sterling silver and 14k gold wildcrafted jewelry. Wildcrafting is the act of gathering plants to use in the making of food and medicines. I collect natural objects I find in the woods and gardens of Rhode Island, and the beaches of Southwest Florida where some of my family live. I first started casting natural things while studying jewelry and metalsmithing at RISD. I took a lost wax casting class that was for non-jewelry majors where I carved shapes in wax and then cast them. The next semester I wanted to make a piece of jewelry with the actual mangrove pods that I had brought back from Florida but the pods were too fragile to work with. I cast them in bronze and patinate them to look brown like the actual pods. It took another few years for me to develop my line of wildcrafted jewelry but this necklace is where it all started.
What’s your studio like?
I used to share a studio space in the Rumford Baking Soda Building (where the little red can of Rumford Baking Soda used to be made) in East Providence, along with three other jewelers and former classmates. I enjoyed sharing inspiration and creativity with others, but when the building was converted into condominiums I moved my studio into the dining room of my apartment. It's a cozy space and the windows look out into my neighbor's beautiful and colorful garden, where at least one of my four cats can be found watching the birds and squirrels.
Do you have a favorite tool or piece of equipment in the studio?
My favorite tool is a pair of pliers that was handed down to me from a teacher who received them from someone else. I would love to know the stories they could tell. They are small and fit perfectly in my hand, and I don't think I go a day in studio without using them at least once. The pliers are in the tattoo on my wrist.
What's your creative process, how do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration all around me. A walk in the woods with friends will inevitably find me lagging behind as I take pictures of tree bark or pick up little treasures that have dropped from above. Eating dinner out one night led to a whole collection of lobster antenna jewelry, from rings to bangles. I'm always noticing things that have texture, and trying to figure out how they will look and feel once they have been converted into metal. I make a mold of something that can withstand the process or burn out the actual object with the lost wax casting method. Once I have an element in metal, I mold that and cast a few dozen pieces, and then use them to figure how they will hang or link together.
Anything you'd like to add about the importance of buying handmade?
I think it is important to buy handmade because it supports artists and enables them to create fun, beautiful, and unique things that enrich everyone's lives. I feel happy when I look around my apartment and see all the handmade things I have acquired over the years. Handmade items remind me of the creator, the person I was with when I bought them, or the person who gave me a gift. My home is like an interactive journal of memories.
Little known fact about you?
I lived on a boat until I was ten, sailing around the South Pacific, Mediterranean, and the Caribbean with my parents. The first question everyone asks me is if I was born on the boat--but I was actually born in a hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. I have visited 30 US states, lived and studied in Europe, visited China, and traveled to the Caribbean many times, but I have not had the chance to go back to Hawaii.