Featured in Blackberry Magazine
Blackberry Farm's proprietor, Mary Celeste Beall, interviews Irene Neuwirth for their publication's Volume 003 - The Radiate issue:
First, let me say that I have a heart necklace from you that I wear almost every single day along with a tiny diamond cross I’ve had for years. My Irene heart brings me joy and reminds me to be compassionate and loving to others and myself. It is one of few pieces of jewelry that I have bought for myself – I have to admit, it was strangely empowering, but I am not gonna lie, I like getting jewelry better as gifts! I love that you have created a line that women feel confident buying for themselves – tell us more.
I know you have some favorites, but how do you choose what pieces to wear each day?
That is the greatest compliment, first of all. I’m so happy it brings you joy! Is it embarrassing to admit that I wear the same two pieces every day? I have for years. I guess I am slightly superstitious. It’s a giant opal heart with a strand of opal beads.
What attracted you to the world of jewelry?
It started with color, I’ve just always been in love with it. My Mom is a painter and I used to go to her studio after school as a kid, she had an easel set up for me and I’d just paint and draw for hours. I always had a sketchbook and bag of colored pencils with me. To this day I love working with natural stones, and mixing unusual colors together. I just felt like there was something missing, it felt like fine jewelry had to be so formal and intimidating, almost uninviting. My jewelry is the opposite, its whimsical and feminine but my materials are ultrafine.
How did you get started in designing jewelry? Did it evolve from childhood or did your interest spark as you grew up?
I’ve always made jewelry as a creative outlet. So after college when I realized my life as a horse trainer wasn’t taking off, I sent some of my beaded pieces to Barneys with a note in magic marker. They became my first account and it grew organically from there. I never wanted to be “everywhere,” it’s so special to discover the jewelry, that’s part of the magic I think.
Your pieces are fun, playful and, of course, beautiful. How did you discover and embrace your unique design style?
I think that is something deep within me. If you look at pictures of me as a little girl when I started dressing myself, it’s pretty similar to how I put patterns and colors together now. I truly love my work, I could design all day every day and pushing the limits is how I have the most fun with it. Its evolved of course but core elements have remained the same.
What led you to want to explore your signature whimsical, nontraditional approach to luxury jewelry?
I just wasn’t interested in making something too serious. I wanted young women to dream of having my pieces one day. I wanted the jewelry to feel approachable and exciting and different from anything else I had seen out there in the world. I never wanted it to feel fussy or forced.
Where do you draw inspiration from when you’re designing pieces?
I’m always inspired by the women who collect my pieces. I like to imagine what they would wear next. What’s missing in their “jewelry wardrobe.” What will they never take off, what will they wear only on the most special of occasions, all of that. Jewelry is such an emotional purchase, I love watching women find a piece they will have in their lives forever and pass down, it’s such an honor to be part of celebrations like that.
What do you look for when you’re seeking out gemstones? What catches your eye?
It’s an instinct, but color, color, color! And unusual shapes. I’m always attracted to the imperfections, that’s what makes a stone beautiful to me.
What do you want your pieces of jewelry to say or emanate to the world? (And certainly, to the people who wear them!)
I want woman to feel empowered wearing my jewelry, which becomes their jewelry. I love that I have women collecting my pieces on their own. I want them to feel beautiful and bold. You said it perfectly, it should bring joy to everyday life.
You have so many incredible pieces. But is there any piece or collection that holds a particularly sentimental space in your heart?
My opal heart.
You exude a beautiful and vivacious energy. What keeps you in a positive mindset?
Thank you! That is an enormous compliment. It’s really important for me to be creative, to surround myself with strong, interesting, curious, creative friends in all areas of my life, in art, travel, food, . This all adds to the flow of creativity. I live with an incredible, multi-talented artist (Phil). My store is filled with gorgeous artwork, as is my house. I try to make life extra colorful. I seriously can’t help it.
I know you ride horses and have adorable dogs. What are those things outside of work that keep you balanced?
You said it! Riding is my saving grace. But I also just got a third puppy, Ernesto. The three of them are pretty dreamy.
Are there other creatives that you’re excited about? In the jewelry realm or beyond!
I’m always so inspired by the work of the artists at Creative Growth up in Oakland. Everyone’s resilience right now is inspiring to me, it’s been so hard to be out of the studio, have the store closed, not travel and connect with each other the way we are used to. I’ve been so isolated which is rare for me, I’m inspired to go see the world again.