I was introduced to Nina by a mutual friend but the second I stepped foot into her adorable trailer, it felt like I had known her forever! She is a kind soul, excited to talk about what led her to opening Psyche Jewelry and you get the sense that she is deeply connected to each piece of jewelry she designs, often inspired by Greek Mythology, Nordic Symbols and time travel. Read below to learn more about her jewelry making process and how the trailer came to be.
What was the inspiration behind starting Psyche Jewelry?
When I started Psyche back in 2010, I was really just experimenting with my newly acquired metalsmithing skills. I had a few ideas of things that I wanted to make that I knew hadn’t been done before. I started making these shallow boxes and recessed inside were emeralds set into the shape of the constellations. I had a few friends in Brooklyn who had stores and wanted to sell them in their shops so I had to name it. That’s when I came up with Psyche after my favorite character from Greek mythology. I never thought it would be a “thing”, at the time I was just making for the sake of creating something original for myself to wear.
Where do you draw your design inspiration from?
All of my collections have very specific stories and it most often comes from some type of mythology, folklore, or ancient culture. I will just come across something that I think is extra ordinary and valuable and then I start to research it and I become obsessed. My collections have been inspired by Nordic goddesses, Greek symbols, a tribe in South Botswana, time travel… and when you think of all of these topics it seems so random, but there is a real cohesion to my work because if the materials I use and my aesthetic style. Visually I have always been drawn to very geometric shapes, but I’ve pushed myself as a designer to play with movement and to use lines and negative space to create something that’s never been seen before. So, although I am creating representations of these very specific inspirations, they never really come out feeling separate.
What was your journey to Psyche Jewelry? Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
I always knew that I wanted to be a maker and that I wanted to make only things that I had designed, but I really thought I was going to be doing apparel. I went to school for fashion design and I was pretty glued to a sewing machine after college, When I got to New York, I pretty quickly stumbled upon the opportunity to become the apprentice of a local jewelry designer and I just went for it. Once I started to learn metalwork, I just fell in love with it. I worked in that original Brooklyn studio alongside my mentor for the next 4 years as I grew the line and my skills. I still kind of always thought that at some point people would lose interest in what I’m making and I’d move on to apparel but they just never did and now 6 years later we’ve come to Austin to open up our first store.
Tell us a bit about your process of designing a piece from start to finish.
I’m a bit different than most designers in that I don’t draw or sketch or really come up with any specific plan. I just soak in as much inspiration as I can from my research. I constantly walk around and travel and when I do, I’m taking these mental snapshots of what I see, specifically shapes and shadows. So when I’m ready to make a new piece I just kind of sit down at my soldering table and let my imagination and my hands go free and see what comes out, pulling from this mental file I’ve made. This is definitely not efficient because I end up with about 75% things that get trashed, BUT I think it allows me the freedom to let things evolve and change so that in the end, I’ve made something really unique. I solder these brass parts together and see what takes shape, and once I have a final piece, I make a silicone mold of it. From this mold I am able to inject any metal and reproduce the piece over and over exactly. Once I pull the casting from the mold, I do the finishing by hand, which is what also gives my pieces a bit of my signature style. Hand finishing gives the jewelry a handmade quality that you just can’t get any other way, and even though my pieces are big and full of sharp geometric angles, it gives a softness to the pieces that I think people really love.
What moved you to decide to open up the trailer in Austin?
I knew that I wanted to open up a store here in Austin, firstly because of the growth but also because I felt that there was a gap in the fashion jewelry market for something like what I make, and I thought that it was something women here were looking for. So I looked around a bit for a brick and mortar location but I couldn’t really find anything I liked and I realized that jewelry is so small, I didn’t really need much space. That’s when the Airstream store idea popped in. I searched on Craigslist and found a beat up 1959 Bambi up in Gruene, TX. In about 2 months we had refinished it into a store and I’m pretty proud of it.
Walk us through a typical Saturday or Sunday. Favorite places? Favorite place to grab a cup of coffee?
Let’s fantasize for a moment that I have a Saturday or Sunday off 🙂 I’d take my dog Sunshine for a walk and stop all along the way taking pics for my Instagram story to show my followers what gets me inspired and the way I view the world, then grab some coffee at Medici on Lamar and a chocolate croissant. I like to walk everywhere so if the weather is good, I will walk all day. I try to see as much local art as I can so I’d probably try to see what SHDW Studios has going on (I recently caught Volvamos by Hallie Brewer there, which was a treat) or Dimension Gallery is another favorite to stop into. Maybe cruise by East Side Succulents and grab some plants for my house or store and then meet up with my girls for dinner and dancing. I love Justine’s or Vinaigrette for dinner and then C-Boys is my favorite spot to dance.
Describe your style in 3 words.
Worldly, Edgy, Eclectic
I love Feather’s Vintage and Cove on Congress. I also adore Byron and Blue who has a great little gallery space attached to the shop with rotating artists on view. Now, I will spill the real juicy secret here, which is that you can find me sometimes spending hours at Saver’s. I love to thrift and I will spend a whole day rolling though those racks. I’ve found some real gems there!
What’s next for Psyche Jewelry?
The biggest thing up next is that Psyche Jewelry is about to go through a major rebranding. When I started the line I really didn’t have any idea how big it would get and I wanted to keep my name for something more serious later, but as Psyche grew, it’s really evolved and I think outgrown the name. After thinking about it for about a year, I’ve decided to put the line under Nina Berenato Jewelry in this next year. I’m proud of what I’ve made and I feel like it’s time for me to finally come forward as the designer and make it more personal. The designs won’t change, the aesthetic will stay the same, but the overall feel of the brand with be more representative of where we are now and me as a designer.