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The Craft of Design: Annie Costello Brown

The Craft of Design: Annie Costello Brown

The Craft of Design: Annie Costello Brown

December/January 2013 issue of American Craft magazine
Mediums Jewelry
Annie Costello Brown

Annie Costello Brown. Photo: Douglas Kirkland

Annie Costello Brown makes statement jewelry anyone can wear: edgy yet timeless, youthful yet sophisticated, in imaginative yet affordable materials. No wonder two fashion industry giants – Yves Saint Laurent and Urban Outfitters – tapped her to design collections. 

When people talk of “slow fashion,” they have in mind designer-craftspeople like Brown. Each of her pieces is made at her home studio in Los Angeles, where she and a small team of women weave leather, string beads, assemble chains, and finish metal parts cast at a foundry from molds she designs.

In a way, it’s work Brown was destined to do, having grown up on a houseboat in Sausalito, California, with a mother who knitted, made quilts, sewed clothing, and crafted silver jewelry. She furthered her own jewelry education working for several design businesses. At 25 she enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute. “After graduation, I was religiously dedicated to painting,” she says. “But when it came to survival, it was my jewelry skills that got me through.”

Jewelry enables Brown to combine her interests in art, craft, adornment, and fashion. “I think I nervously thrive in [fashion’s] fast-paced exchange of ideas,” she reflects. “But it’s conflicting, because I wouldn’t enjoy what I do without the making part of the process, the discovery that happens when working with materials in your hands.” The rub is that, to make a living, she must share and delegate the making – which leaves her ambivalent. “That’s where I get stuck,” she says. “There’s a point where you decide to become a brand, or you kind of just stay small or fade away.”

Her creative direction, though, is sure. “It’s about integrity, ongoing exploration, and refinement, the uncluttering of ideas, and coming to what I really want to see.”

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Joyce Lovelace is American Craft's contributing editor.