Interview with Jewelry Artist Kaelen Van Cura
Kaelen Van Cura is the artist behind Darling Marcelle, a line of eclectic jewelry. She believes art and artists make the world a better, more beautiful and happier place, and art inspires her statement-making designs.
Darling Marcelle “makes bold, weird jewelry for creative people who love to express themselves through fashion,” Kaelen said. Each piece is imagined, designed and made in Richmond, Calif. and comes to life when it becomes part of someone’s outfit. Learn more about Kaelen’s journey from making jewelry to suit her personal style to business owner.
Artisan Joy: How did you get started with your craft??
Kaelen Van Cura: I originally went to art school for painting. While I was there, besides making art, I always spent a lot of time developing my personal style and I really loved incorporating my artistic ideas into my look. I eventually started making accessories and jewelry when I realized that the art-inspired jewelry I was looking for didn’t exist yet.
I initially I started making accessories and jewelry right around the time I got married. While I was looking for cool pieces to wear with my wedding dress, I realized my dream accessories didn’t exist yet. So, I figured out how to make them myself.
When I started wearing my newly created jewelry around town, I would get stopped all the time by strangers asking me where I got my pieces. Those compliments gave me the courage to start selling my jewelry.
AJ: When did you realize that you could turn your craft into a business?
KVC: I had been working a particularly unfulfilling job while making and selling my jewelry on the side when I went to a visual effects conference in Germany with my husband as his plus-one. We attended a conference cocktail party where I was approached by a very enthusiastic British fan of my jewelry who recognized me from Instagram. I was absolutely shocked that I was recognized in a completely different country for my work. It was then I thought that I might just be able to make a living from Darling Marcelle.
AJ: Where do you find inspiration?
KVC: Most of my inspiration comes from art—both the kind found in museums, such as the dripping paint of an abstract painting or the drawings of animals in old manuscripts, but also the kind seen living in a city—like the curved lines of a scribble of graffiti on an underpass or from noticing the pattern made by a broken window.
AJ: What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
KVC: Despite a lifelong aversion to math, I once worked as a financial accountant for a local newspaper.
AJ: As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism?
KVC: One technique I’ve found that helps me control perfectionism is to announce my new design to the public, which puts pressure on me to finish and stop noodling because our customers are impatient to get their hands on new releases.
AJ: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in putting their art out into the world but feels vulnerable about it?
KVC: It’s okay to be scared, but put your work out there anyway. Chances are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how encouraging your friends, family and even strangers will be about your art. Most people wish they were more creative and are often in awe of artists and makers.
AJ: What’s something that surprised you about running a creative business?
KVC: I was surprised how little time I have to actually do the creative part of designing new pieces. There are so many boring tasks that have to be done, from website maintenance to bookkeeping, marketing to packing orders and a million other little things. Even if you have help and don’t need to personally do each task, you still need to make sure everything is being done.
AJ: Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?
KVC: I think that having gone to art school gives me an advantage in regards to criticism because as a student, I had to undergo weekly group critiques of my artwork. I quickly learned to accept constructive criticism with gratitude and to dismiss anything else. On social media people can be rude, so when I get a mean comment, I usually respond with a lighthearted joke. No one’s art appeals to everyone, so it’s important to just focus on the people that get it and ignore the people that don’t.
AJ: What’s a cause you are passionate about and why?
KVC: I feel it’s really important to give back to the community that I live and work in, which is Richmond, Calif. A portion of all of Darling Marcelle proceeds goes to Richmond’s RYSE Center, which is a space for Richmond’s youth to experience healing, personal development, to play, to express themselves, to learn, make art and to become community leaders
AJ: And, of course, we have to ask you this: What brings you joy?
KVC: I absolutely love meeting my customers and seeing them incorporate Darling Marcelle jewelry into their personal style. It means so much to me to make things that other people love to wear.
Editor’s Notes: This interview was edited slightly for length and clarity. Title revised and subtitle added on 8/2/22.