santana bellas | meet the artist

Working across a range of disciplines, Oakland-based creative Santana Bellas embraces the natural world to make handmade silver pieces inspired by everything from antiques to silver itself. This passion for jewellery is a relatively new discovery for Bellas; the past several years have seen him working as a photographer and designer, landing projects with names like Gap, Apple and Levi’s. 

However, in the last year, the artist took a break from photography, using the time to reignite his artistic passion. He released his first capsule, repurposing antique metal to form sterling silver incense holders inspired by skipping stones. In the time since, Bellas has been developing quarterly capsules, showcasing a love for nature and the medium of silver clay. Schön! spoke to the artist about his process and the most recent capsule.

You’ve worked in many different mediums. How did you come to start working with jewellery?

In October of 2018, I got a really intense case of food poisoning, which lasted about a week. Afterwards, I ended up getting reactive arthritis, which is caused by the type of food poisoning that I had. It mainly impacted the left side of my body. I experienced swelling in my feet, knees, shoulders, and neck. During that time I was very limited in my mobility, and was even bedridden at one point. Having so much time alone and isolated from the outside world gave me time to reflect and discover new ways to express myself. 

I started researching repurposing metals and metal clay. I ended up coming across several videos of a person taking old metals and turning them into rings and keychains. This sparked an interest. I’ve always been into vintage clothing, furniture, and jewellery and thought about thrifting old antique silverware and turning them into rings. This was a great starting point for me to have a better understanding of metals, creating metal objects, and jewellery. As I develop and learn more skills and direction, I’m able to explore and guide myself in different directions with jewellery and metal object making.

How do you think your history in photography influences your jewellery and metal design?

I would say my history with photography plays more of an influence with the look books that I direct and less with the design of the actual products. A lot of my designs play more off of my personal likings and day-to-day routines.

Of those personal likings and day-to-day routines, what were some of your inspirations for this capsule?

I pulled a lot of inspiration from nature, from the earth tone colours to the rocks that we see at the lake. This latest capsule, I decided to explore a bit more with my incense holders that are inspired by skipping stones and rocks. I’m also introducing a palo santo dish that is inspired by leaves. 

How does Oakland, where you are currently based, impact your work?

The entire Bay Area influenced this capsule. The Bay is full of beaches, lakes, nature preserves and more which really sparks inspiration for me, specifically with my metal object pieces. 

What were some of your motivations for the set design of this shoot?

I told myself that I wanted to have fun with this shoot and dive in a new direction. I wanted to step away from using linen sheets since that was a common theme for myself. Earlier this year I worked on a personal painting that included single brush strokes of various earth tone colours. I was pleased with what I created and told myself to use that painting as backdrop inspo for the future. The inspiration happened to come in handy for this shoot here.  

After taking a break from photography for a year, how do you find your approach to shoots differs?

Taking a break from photography helped me focus a lot more on different aspects of photoshoots. It really allowed me to think more about the concept of the overall shoot and how I would want to execute the shot. It gave me time to focus more on direction and specific details. Spending time away from the camera also allowed me to dive into set design and understand that side as well.

When planning a shoot like this, what is your process like? Is there one singular idea, story, etc.?

I always start off with a mood board before I plan any shoot. I explored old Japanese magazines, artists’ studios from across the globe, various studio spaces, and lighting, then collected all of that content and created a mood board. From there, I moved into creating a concept deck that included keywords that represented the shoot, shot list, lighting examples, props, colours to use and a few more sections. Once that was all completed I got into the studio and started to explore various earth tones and ways to paint the backdrop. 

What can we look forward to in the future?

In the future, I’m looking towards creating more silver jewellery that emphasises textures and decor pieces made from metal clay. 


Follow Santana Bellas on Instagram or explore his other capsules on his website

jewellery + metal objects. Santana Bellas

photography. Nico Chavez
creative direction + set design. Santana Bellas
words. Braden Bjella

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