Chelsey Kantor is a jewelry designer and maker based in Topanga Canyon. Chelsey’s distinctive pieces are inspired organic shapes found in the wild, from forest to sea. She specializes in classic jewelry-making techniques like wax carving, hand sculpting, and mold casting to create truly exceptional art pieces.

ON HER GENESIS

I started with jewelry when I was much younger. There was a jewelry-making after school program that I did. I mostly think that I liked really sparkly things and fire and hammers! Later in my life after college when I started really thinking about what I wanted to do, I was assisted to the realization by my husband and close friends that you only have one life so you should try to do the things that are most exciting to you. So I said, “Heck! I’ll try it.”

So I apprenticed with a woman in Vermont who was just teaching in her barn. She’s a fantastic artist. Then we moved to Santa Fe and that’s when I took it a little more seriously and apprenticed with a master goldsmith.

ON INSPIRATION

When I need inspiration I just open a window. My inspiration is being outside and walking around in nature. Anywhere there’s not a computer.

My parents always had a huge wood pile. It’s a motif I see all the time. I like the repetition of it. The idea of growth and time. I’ve always been drawn to that shape [of tree rings] and that pattern. A big source of inspiration in transferring that to an art piece was from an artist named Bryan Nash Gill who does these amazing tree prints. When I saw that in the two-dimensional form, then it occurred to me make a three-dimensional version.

ON HER PROCESS

Right now, I’m working mostly in wax so I start with a lot of sketching first to come up with a basic idea. Then, I’ll just start from a hard piece of wax and carve out the piece I want or I’ll start with softer wax and sculpt it like clay. The structured pieces are carved from hard wax, and the wavier pieces are from soft wax.

ON THE FUTURE

My vision for the line is just to be able to keep creating it and to expand it and have it grow. I want my pieces to be part of people’s collections. It’s really exciting to see how other people respond to the line. I love taking their suggestions as to what they would wear, sizes, shapes. I’m really open to that from customers.

Above: A set of metal stamps. A beloved family heirloom from Chelsey's great-grandfather, a furniture maker.