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Bold Upcycled Jewelry From Scandinazn

Jul 1, 2019

by Sharon Steel handmade and vintage goods

In our weekly Featured Shop series, we shine a light on a standout shop from Etsy’s talented seller community, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at their process and story.

Jamie Carlson has always been a maximalist. When she was still in design school, the Vancouver-based creative regularly decked herself out in bold, statement-making clothing. Then, seven years ago, Jamie launched Scandinazn, her distinctive line of recycled leather jewelry featuring vivid color combinations and striking geometric shapes—and as she began incorporating more of her pieces into her personal outfit rotation, Jamie’s approach to attire slowly shifted. “These days, I like to keep my wardrobe as minimal as possible and use my jewelry as a way to express creativity and individuality,” she explains. 

Explore the Scandinazn collection

Whether you’re the type to own a neutrals-heavy capsule wardrobe that serves as a blank canvas for bright, adventurous jewelry or prefer to dial up the fun by pairing already-daring outfits with more-is-more accessories, Scandinazn’s eye-catching pieces add a prismatic pop of personality to any look. Jamie encourages customers to get creative, playfully mixing and matching rainbow-patterned statement earrings, bib necklaces, and on-trend hair accessories with all their favorite styles. “The more I experiment, the more comfortable I get—and the more I push the envelope, the more I find my customers do, too,” Jamie says. “Try some big earrings, and you might get hooked!”

Read on to discover what inspires Jamie’s designs and the role sustainability plays in her work, and shop the Scandinazn collection.

Scandinazn proprietor Jamie Carlson sits at her workstation in her Vancouver studio

How did you get started designing and selling jewelry?

My background is in apparel design, but I started experimenting with jewelry during a project at school where I worked with repurposed materials. I discovered that by cutting leather, I could make some really nice fringe, and from there I moved on to making earrings. My jewelry-making process is self-taught, but it’s guided by what I was taught about design and construction. 

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Fun, quirky, bold, and pattern-driven. I like to make designs in multiple color options—the brighter the better! I want my pieces to be eye-catching. I’m also part Scandinavian and part Japanese, so a lot of my design influence comes from those two cultures. The name of my shop is a mashup of my heritage. 

Three pairs of long recycled leather earrings from Scandinazn
Statement earrings from Scandinazn, $36
Jamie Carlson at her workbench in her sunny Vancouver studio
Colorful statement necklace and coordinated earrings from Scandinazn
Geometric necklace from Scandinazn, $44; statement earrings from Scandinazn, $36
Finished earrings and necklaces hang off hooks and peg boards in Jamie's studio
Colorful earrings hang on a peg board in Jamie's studio
Assorted statement earrings from Scandinazn, from $24

Can you walk us through your creative process? 

I get a lot of ideas directly from my customers; I take all their feedback very seriously, because that’s who I’m designing for. I always consider the materials first because I use only recycled leather sourced from secondhand garments and scraps. During the prototyping stage, I’ll lay everything out and see how the colors are working together. And I’ll also share bits and pieces of the design process over social media. 

Where do you turn for inspiration?

Sometimes I’ll get an old leather jacket that just really speaks to me, or come across a collection of scraps that are just the right thickness to make a certain piece. I’m keenly aware of colors that inspire me. Whether I’m out and about in nature, looking at art, or surfing the internet, I try to keep a record of good color combinations. I think color is what makes my work stand out. 

Jamie's colorful sketchbook featuring designs-in-progress
A pink patterned statement necklace from Scandinazn
Patterned statement necklace from Scandinazn, $52
A colorful shelf in Jamie's studio holds assorted supplies and signage
Jamie models a pair of flower stud earrings from her collection
Flower stud earrings from Scandinazn, $24
Jamie adds a silver chain to a pink floral statement necklace

Why did you decide to work with recycled leather specifically?

There’s so much textile waste in the world, so I want to make the most of materials that are already out there. When people hear that my pieces are made from repurposed leather, they want to know more about the process and it changes people’s perception of what sustainable fashion can look like. I first started paying attention to upcycled fashion in high school, and I think it’s come a long way since then. I’ve seen a lot of designers take recycled materials and elevate them to the point where you’d never think their work was made out of something you’d throw away. 

Do any of your designs have a special personal meaning for you?

The Confetti collection is a significant one for me. It started because I was trying to creatively utilize all of my scraps, even pieces that seemed too tiny to do anything with, and I ended up cutting them into confetti and making a few rainbow teardrop earrings for a local market. They all sold out, so I ran with the idea, and it’s been my best-selling collection ever since!

Today, I make the confetti from pieces of recycled leather that I’ve painted using a special paint that’s waterproof, flexible, and comes in all kinds of cool colors, including metallics. It puts a smile on people’s faces seeing all that color together in one place. I launched the collection five years after starting Scandinazn, so it’s also a celebration for my business. Every time I hammer those holes and add arrange those colorful dots, I think about how far I’ve come.

Jamie creates leather confetti for her Confetti collection
A pair of colorful dangle confetti earrings from Scandinazn
Rainbow confetti earrings from Scandinazn, $38
Paints and painting supplies in Jamie's studio
Jamie models a pair of rainbow confetti earrings
Rainbow confetti earrings from Scandinazn, $44
Jamie walking in front of a colorful Vancouver mural

Would you say earrings in particular are the core of your brand?

Absolutely. I think they’re the first thing you notice on a person! I love the way earrings move when you move, so I like to put shapes together that are going to jiggle a little bit. My jewelry is also very lightweight, which is especially important with statement earrings. And you can match them with just about anything in your wardrobe, from jeans and a white T-shirt to a cute summer dress.

What does the future hold for you and your business?

I’ll be putting out new designs periodically throughout the summer that I’m excited to share, including some limited-edition pieces. I also recently started a new Instagram project, where I’m sharing more of my behind-the-scenes process with my followers. 

My job keeps me engaged in many ways, whether it’s designing, shooting pictures, photo editing, managing my shop, or creating graphics. I like to wear many creative hats, and Scandinazn lets me wear all of them. It’s a dream job. 

Follow Scandinazn on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Photographs by Jeremy Jude Lee.

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