Founder Rebecca Mapes on inspiration, ethically sourced materials and creating something beautiful.
Rebecca Mapes is meticulous, and she knows it. Ever since she took a jewelry making class in her first year of college, she’s been hooked on the intricate processes and rigorous attention to detail that jewelry making requires.
Mapes’ jewelry line, Winden, was created in early 2013. After finishing her degree at Pratt, Mapes interned at jewelry companies Pamela Love and In God We Trust to learn the ins and outs of the jewelry trade. After gaining as much knowledge as she could on the practical side, she decided it was time to craft something of her own. It was a leap of faith, but like any young entrepreneur, one she was willing to take. “It was kind of a bold move for me,” says Mapes. “I didn't have any savings and I had only lined up a babysitting job. But I guess I felt strongly enough about wanting to do it that it didn't matter.”
“As a maker of jewelry I love the gratification of having an idea, sitting down at my bench and creating it. The best days are when I ignore everything because I have this idea I'm so excited about. I just have to get it out."
Winden is named after Mapes’ grandparents farm in Ithaca, New York. Mapes grew up across the street, but spent most of her time on the farm exploring the surrounding woods and fields, cultivating a deep love for nature—trees, stones, animals and flowers. The motifs, symbols, and shapes of these objects have significantly impacted her work. Made from solid sterling silver, 14kt gold, and stones she plucks herself from the shores of Lake Erie, her earrings are fine and delicate yet make a subtle impact. Her necklaces, like the one shown at right, range from bold, sculptural pieces to classic, thin chains. “I’m constantly inspired by nature, it’s hands down my biggest source of inspiration,” says Mapes. “Not only in the shapes and forms I see but also in physical materials—pebbles, gemstones, metal etc. I get obsessed with a particular plant or shell or even animal and I try recreating the shapes in metal and wax. The restrictive quality of wax carving and forging things out of metal greatly informs my design process. It’s the reason why I don’t make exact replicas of the things I see in nature, because the metal doesn’t allow that, so I have to find a different way to convey the gracefulness and wildness of a form.”
Considered, and refined, her pieces imbue a quiet confidence to those who wear them. Her work is never overbearing, just the type you can put on with a silk shirt, well-worn jeans and a blazer, to still look elegant.
For Mapes, a new creation begins with the seed of an idea. “For most of my pieces I start with the inspiration. For the Amalfi Ring I was inspired after finding a large antique sterling silver domed ring on a spring trip to Italy. I was also feeling really inspired by the sea, specifically shells, in addition to this large domed shape. I gathered a ton of images of shells at the New York Public Library and created some very basic ideas of the ring I wanted to design. I carved the ring out of wax, trying to merge the voluminous ridges of shells into a domed ring. After finishing the carving I took it to the diamond district to be cast. I further perfected the shape of the casting by filing and hand sanding. A mold was then made of that prototype!” This obsessive attention to detail is threaded throughout Mapes’ work.
She spends as much time working on her packaging as she does ensuring her jewelry is made from 90% recycled materials sourced in New York. Her stones are hand picked, and her barrettes are made from cellulose acetate, a material derived from plants. “My hope is that my choice to support vendors who share my values on sustainability will make it that much easier for jewelry companies to be sustainable in the future,” she says. “If we all choose to invest in businesses that are actively trying to make decisions that protect the earth, eventually those are the only businesses that will exist.”