Sept. 2 2014 03:32 PM

One-time interior-design student's become an accomplished silversmith and jewelry maker

Turquoise bracelet
Turquoise bracelet

It's not every day you go to your hair salon and leave without gray hair and with a fabulous pair of earrings. That is, unless your salon is Disconnected in North Park. I'd been eyeing the jewelry display for months but didn't bother to take a real look—it was always in the corner, on the far end of the front desk—until I saw my stylist wearing a huge silver-and-turquoise statement necklace that I needed to know more about. 

Now I'm totally hooked on Stoneywear Designs, the handmade jewelry line by Heather Barnes, whose skills in silversmithing and spotting the next big trend make her a go-to for great jewelry. Barnes has a knack for simple yet striking designs that are feminine and edgy, sophisticated and romantic. Her jewelry is the signature piece to any outfit, whether you're rocking a blazer to the office or throwing on your fave Sunday T-shirt. The best part? You'll go home with something for less than $20. You can find her jewelry at Disconnected Salon, Low Gallery and Hunt & Gather (all in North Park) and La Loupe Vintage in University Heights. I chatted her up:

You said one of your biggest motivators for starting Stoneywear in 2002 was seeing simple yet unaffordable statement pieces in fashion magazines. You're doing the exact opposite—affordable yet striking statement pieces—with great success. But you didn't really get going full-time until 2012. Why?

Stoneywear became a full-time decision when I finally was fed up with working so hard for others. One day, I was thinking how busy Stoneywear was getting and made a plan to get out of my current job and do Stoneywear full-time. I took a year of savings and a lot of help from family and friends and took the dive.

Quartz necklace

How did you get into silversmithing? You mentioned that someone in your college days steered you in that direction and away from interior design, which is what you had actually gone to school for.

I got into silversmithing because I had one more elective to take at SDSU. I was an interior-design major and needed one more workshop class to graduate. I was always obsessing over very large turquoise rings and knew that I had to learn how to make them, so silversmithing seemed the obvious next step. After taking that class, I knew I wasted the last three years in the interior-design program. My teacher in the smithing class never graded me on my horrible craftsmanship, but instead guided me to find my style and encouraged me to pursue metalsmithing, even after I graduated. 

You call yourself a "mood designer" who makes pieces based on how you feel at any given moment. How does that manifest itself in your work? 

I often look at other jewelry designers or even other artists, and I see they all have a very distinct look or style. It's either Native American influence, minimalist or they use the same material or design. My thing is that I like almost all trends, even classic designs. I want to make all of it or try. For instance, I see geo-shaped jewelry and I get inspired and make my own version of it. Or, one day, I can't even stand the idea of wiring a piece of jewelry so I will smith something, or vice versa. 

Your pieces are so striking and always seem to embody the latest trends. How do you do it?

I feel like I have always had an eye for unique style and fashion. Before Pinterest and Facebook and all social media, I loved fashion and design magazines and would get most of my inspiration from that. But today, a lot of my work is researching blogs, Tumblr, Pinterest. I love people-watching, especially at festivals like Burning Man, and traveling keeps my mind filled with new ideas and upcoming trends.

What kind of metal / stones / media do you like the best?

I never tire of turquoise—there are just so many variations. Brass and silver are my favorite metals. As for stones, whatever looks beautiful at the moment.

Got tips on local retail? Write to or follow her on Twitter at @polinjun.


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