Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Detailers: Kirsten Muenster from agency twofifteen on Vimeo.

In October of last year I was contacted by film makers Michael Jacobs and Barry Jenkins of SF based Strike Anywhere Films and asked to participate in their series of short documentaries for Olivari Olive Oil for their "One Year of Little" campaign. Each film is a celebration of creating better things through obsessing over the details. It is Olivari's belief that "making olive oil, or making anything well, has always been about a series of choices. A celebration of little things. Small and seemingly inconsequential by themselves, but amazingly powerful when added up together." This series of documentaries is called “The Detailers” and is focused on artists/makers from the Bay Area who obsess over their craft and believe in carrying on a tradition of detail and care.

The first two films of the series feature master boat builder Robert Darr and glass blower David Patchen. I'm so excited to share my film - it was an honor to have been invited to share my jewelry story! There are still more maker profiles to come, so look out for them later in the year on the Olivari Facebook page.

Here is a little more background regarding the conversations we had during the day of filming. I found it challenging to talk and work at the same time in front of the camera! The entire team from Strike Anywhere Films was incredible to work with and they captured some gorgeous naturally lit shots in the studio. It was such a memorable day - thanks guys! They distilled 8 hours of film into two minutes, so here is an expanded version of the questions and answers from the shoot.

Spools of wire, cut links, metal dowels and finished bracelet and necklace

How long have you been working at your craft? When did you first know you wanted to work in this field?
I've always had a love of jewelry. I collected vintage jewelry when I was really young and had a real appreciation for it. My mother was an antiques dealer, so she instilled in me a curiosity about the history, craftsmanship and story behind each piece. I was also a collector of things - shells, rocks, seeds, pods, little beautiful things, and I would always put these objects on top of my hand or wrist and say, "I want to wear this, why can't I wear this?!" One day I think my dad finally got tired of me saying that, and he said “Let's go make something!” So I made my first ring when I was about 14 in my dad's garage. He had a workshop down there with a lot of tools... he isn't a jeweler, just the kind of person who can make or fix anything. We looked around the shop, found some metal, a copper pipe (a makeshift ring mandrel), put it in a vice and with a rubber mallet I hammered my first ring. Growing up, he really encouraged me to use the tools around me to execute my ideas, and not be afraid of them or be afraid of getting dirty. The experience of having an abstract idea and being able to make with my own hands a tangible thing that I could wear - well, that was it, I was completely hooked and I knew I was going to be a jeweler.

Hand spinning wire into a coil

Where do you find your inspiration? What is it that you love about your craft?
Nature, unusual materials, ancient artifacts and crafting techniques inspire my work and process. I like to work with materials that have a story behind them - dendritic quartz, fossilized coral, dinosaur bone, sustainably harvested betel nut - as well as vintage components. I feel an amazing connection to the materials that I work with so it's important for me to know where my materials come from and whose lives they impact. We’re all connected. Handcrafted objects tell a story, carry on a tradition and remind us of the connection between every set of hands involved in the process or supply chain. I love the materials, my tools, my process. It's sounds kind of crazy but I enjoy doing repetitive work where I'm sawing or filing or making links for an hour (or five). The process can be meditative, rhythmic. But it's really all about that feeling I get from translating a conceptual idea in my head, into a tangible object with my hands - that's the best part.

Photograph of my Grandmother, her vintage glass buttons, dendritic & druzy quartz, Montana agate

What makes your craft unique?
It's amazing to work with your hands, to form, mold, shape and push the materials. You can see my process in the final piece — the bezel setting, the handmade chain, the selection of stones - each piece carries the mark of the artist. Every detail is carefully considered, whether it's hand carved in wax and then cast, or hand fabricated from sheets and spools of metal and raw stones.

Soldering a ring

Do you feel a connection to craftspersons of the past who do what you do? What don’t people know or appreciate about your craft?
Jewelry is an ancient craft. We still use a lot of the same techniques and tools that people making jewelry at the beginning used. Many of my pieces take significant time to create. In a world of fast fashion, mass production and disposability there is a great value & integrity in well made, beautifully designed pieces. My clients know and value the fact that I take great care in all the small details of my work, from the handmade clasp to the hand-scribed signature.

I'm the fourth generation of metal workers in my family - so I guess it's in my blood. My Great-Great-Grandfather, Ferdinand Muenster was a coppersmith in Mannersdorf, Austria. His son, my Great-Grandfather Rudolph Muenster, made boilers, copper stills, distilling equipment and brewery vats. My Grandfather Alexander was a coppersmith and stainless steel worker, designing and constructing industrial kitchen equipment. He was extremely active and the oldest living member of the sheet metalworker’s union in NJ and when he died at age 96 1/2, I was moved by the number of union members that attended his funeral. One of the guys pulled me aside and with tears in his eyes said that my Grandfather was not just a gifted metalworker, but a true artist. I still use some of his tools in my studio today and think about him and the craft that we share.

Photograph of my Great-Grandfather Rudolph standing next to a boiler that he made

Where do you see this kind of craft going in the future? As a craftsperson, how do you view your role in society?
I am an avid supporter of the green movement and feel it is my social, environmental and moral obligation to produce beautiful products in a way that does not destroy the earth's resources or its people. In the jewelry industry, most of the materials we use come from the earth. The production of 1 gold ring can produce up to 5 tons of environmental waste, so I believe that recycling metals is crucial. My precious metals come from Hoover & Strong and are 100% recycled. They do not buy mined metals. Over half of their metal supply comes entirely from scrap metal purchased from jewelers. The remainder comes from other refineries that also recycle scrap metal.

Studio jewelers and metalsmiths definitely have the power to influence the various mining industries. So I try to lead by example, source responsibly, and use my voice to aid mining reform efforts. It's crucial to generate industry demand for responsibly sourced metals and stones and to encourage others to get involved.

Drawing in the sun filled livingroom

Kirsten Muenster Jewelry is on Instagram! I hope you'll follow my latest adventures in and around the studio, the beautiful city of San Francisco and abroad. xo


Monday, August 20, 2012

Style, Women, Summer, Flora/Fungi, Nature/Art/Sculpture/Installations/Photography/Design/Typography, Leather, Wood, Jewelry/My Work, Metal, Stone, Fiber, Clay, Horn/Bone, Glass, Home/Spaces...

Kirsten Muenster Jewelry is on Pinterest! I hope you follow me to see my latest finds. This is a wonderful place to collect and share. Look, dream, plan, get motivated, get inspired. xo

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Two weekends ago I attended "Shop. Talk. Stitch" - A gathering at Heath's Sausalito factory/store with Catherine Bailey and Natalie Chanin. They shared stories about their individual businesses, friendship and the lovely tableware collaboration they completed at the end of last year, Alabama Chanin Collection for Heath.

It's always cool to hear about the process and "behind the scenes" of a collaboration - especially when the designer's mediums are so different. Natalie and Cathy shared some great stories about how they translated their ideas - from the beginning design stages, patterns & color palette, to the inevitable production obstacles & creative problem solving. I was amazed to learn that the traditional embroidery patterns are each hand drawn, mark by mark, on each piece, by one women in the factory! I applaud her patience, steady hand and excellent graphic eye. Similar to the action of hand-stitching on a garment - this pattern is hand-etched in clay. Inspiration for the color palette came from the mineral rich, red soil of Natalie's home state and the French blue colored dishes she grew up using with her family.

It was a gorgeous day and after the talk we all gathered in the sunny courtyard to sew tea towels, drink wine, savor delicious biscuits and fresh veggies (and talk some more). My tea towel is coming along beautifully and will be sent off to mom this week. A perfect Mother's Day gift, no?

I think this collection really celebrates the esthetic, creativity and intention of each designer.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ahhhh, longer, light-filled days! That makes me and my plants so happy.

I'm looking forward to more time spent outside, hiking in the canyon (seen in the background), bbq-ing on the deck with friends, enjoying a glass of wine while the sun goes down...

Some new additions to the deck garden.

Happy (almost) Spring everyone!

December 12, 2011


handmade copper scissors by Tajika Haruo Ironworks

bronze bowl by Alma Allen

copper chazustu tea canister by Sゝゝ (ES)

cast iron kettle by ironware craftsman Rikuchou Ogasawara

brass chopstick rests by Masanori Oji in collaboration with Futagami


carved and painted recycled skateboard sculpture by George Peterson

locally harvested turned wood bowls by George Peterson

hourglass claro walnut stool by Alma Allen

locally harvested turned cherry and oak wood stools by George Peterson


vintage Moroccan rugs from VandM


hand cut knotted leather belt by Rilleau

handmade woven leather clutch titled "Spun" by Nutsa Modebadze

naturally died leather bag by Christian Peau

long d-ring belt by Gary Graham

green leather clutch by Clare Vivier


hand carved and polished water buffalo horn spoons by Babaghuri

geometric marble bangles by Chen Chen

hand carved and polished water buffalo horn spoon by Babaghuri

turquoise matrix and Belgian marble sculptures by Alma Allen

cow horn bangle by Adele Dejak

December 8, 2011

The new Chain Collection will be featured at one final event before the holidays - D&H Sustainable Jewelers! I couldn't think of a better place to be - as they represent three of my favorite things... sustainability, ethical jewelry and local wine!


I feel really honored to be a part of their selective list of luxury, artisan jewelers whose core values of style and sustainability mesh with my own. Their commitment to local and ethically sourced jewelry is refreshing.

"We do not want to reduce the viability of luxury products by selling things that hurt our environment today. The resources and technology exist today to allow customers to have a green choice. By creating transparency in our "traditional" industry, we can all feel good about what we are buying and selling. We believe that sustainability must take into account all of these aspects: social, environmental, cultural, and economic. You have to do this on a local level."  Shawn Higgins and Lindsay Daunell, owners of D&H.

Friday, December 9
from 5-8pm

D&H Sustainable Jewelers
2323 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

They are the first and only retail jewelry store in the United States with a fully licensed wine bar. All wines are local, organic & sustainably produced.

If you're in San Francisco please stop in, experience ethical luxury jewelry and enjoy a glass of wine with me!

November 16, 2011


Those of you who know me have seen me wearing this bracelet for a while now... I love it and feel pretty much naked without it. It's bold, elegant and commanding. I love the way it rolls up and down my arm as I go about my day and then always settles nicely around my wrist - it just feels good.

If you feel like this scale is a bit intimidating for your frame, don't worry, I make it in two sizes (this is the larger version). The smaller one features the same bold pattern in a thinner gauge wire and smaller links. They are both available in either oxidized brass or bronze (sterling silver and gold are available for custom order). Whichever you choose, it will be the most striking bracelet you own.

November 9, 2011

Here's a sneak peek of a necklace for the upcoming trunk show. The color palette for the new One of a Kind collection is sand, rose and blue.

The materials in this piece are turquoise, druzy quartz, fossilized coral branch, recycled sterling silver, brass and vintage chain. I "mined" the fossil coral myself a few years ago at the Aurora Fossil Museum while visiting family in North Carolina. I never pass up a good fossil museum... big or small - and this one was a little gem. I spent the day digging in the dirt pile (an unlimited source of Miocene age fossils) in front of the museum. The soil is donated by the local phosphate mine and replenished often. In these fossil rich soils, one may find the remains of ancient sharks, whales, bony fish, corals, shells and other invertebrates. I found a handful of shark teeth, bits of fossil coral and even a fossilized clam shell. What beautiful pieces of history!

I was waiting for the right piece to include one of these little treasures - and here it is.

Check back to see more new work within the week... and if you're in SF, I'd love to see you at the show November 18-19!

October 30, 2011

it starts with a raw spool of wire
the wire is hand spun into a coil
the coil is hand cut into individual links
the links are "woven" into chain, one by one

I've been busy... and I'm thrilled to finally share a sneak peek of the new Chain Collection. It's strong, sexy, and feels incredible on the body. The piece shown is made of oxidized bronze. It has a subtle brown/gray color with a hint of rose coming through. The collection features earrings, necklaces and unisex bracelets, in both brass and bronze. Sterling silver and gold are available for custom order.

The Chain Collection will debut at MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing) on November 18-19. There will also be a new selection of One of a Kind pieces featuring stunning stones, fossils and more handmade chain. Check back soon to see additional images from the new look book.

Chain Collection Debut at MAC Trunk Show

MAC - Modern Appealing Clothing
Yellow Building

1003 Minnesota St.

San Francisco, CA 94107

Opening Night: Friday, November 18, 5 to 8pm

Saturday, 11 to 4pm

Meet the designer, view the new Chain Collection, enjoy wine and small bites.

If you're in San Francisco I hope you can come by and say hello!

xo Kirsten

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