Designer Spotlight: Brandy Thomason McNair (Bella Vita)
A brief story of what you do and why you do it:
I create artisan jewelry with an eye for design and a love for all things vintage. For me, Bella Vita is about an appreciation for style and craft. It lets me work with my hands, curate and blend objects and elements, and create a way for people to express their natural style. For my customers, it’s about making that thoughtful statement – sharing their story with the pieces they wear.
It could be the story of their people or places, as they take a bit of their loved ones, or their home state – with them wherever they go. Or maybe they just love that the piece already has a story. I often go “treasure hunting” around the country, searching for natural and vintage elements to use in my work. Old lockets, gemstones, chains – materials with meaning continually inspire my designs and give Bella Vita creations that authentic feel, like a patina.
How I curate these elements and design and craft what they become is a story I like to share, as well. Raw materials, unfinished pieces, snapshots into my studio and bits of inspiration – are just glimpses into my artisan approach. It's a bit like seeing the kind of details you're most drawn to, being “written” along the way. So whether small and simple,or a statement piece, a little bit of Bella Vita – helps you tell your story, too.
How did you get into jewelry design?
I started dabbling in jewelry around age 10. Highly influenced by both of my Grandmother's and their collections of natural stones and vintage jewelry. I made friendship bracelets and simple charm earrings then quickly escalated to macrame and stringing beaded designs. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for all of the materials I use. I am a designer, and a collector and am highly inspired by vintage baubles, natural stones, and my hand made/hand stamped pendants.
What makes your collection unique?
My collection is unique because of the materials I use and the way that I compose them into a design. I feel like designing and constructing the jewelry is my biggest strength. I am also a stickler for craftsmanship and I think that sets my brand apart from others too.
What are your inspirations?
If I don't immediately have plans for a new design… I am most inspired by a pile of vintage brooches, beads, pendants, buttons, etc. I often approach my designs by making piles of materials, whether it is natural stones or vintage items. I work best when I can just see it all together and start pulling the pieces for each design.
If this doesn't work, and it usually does, I will take a break and go for a walk to clear my head and then try to re approach the situation. I also keep a sketch book, journal, and take a gazillion photos when I am out and about.
How are you making a difference in your life?
After 6 years of being in business, I am full-time self employed jewelry designer. I feel like this is my biggest accomplishment and pretty much makes my life right now. I absolutely love what I do and can't really imagine doing anything else.
What's something unusual about you that makes you “you”?
I pay attention to detail. Every little detail. I take what I do seriously but have a lot of fun with it. If I tell you I am going to do something I always follow through. I don't give false hopes or broken promises. I am always on time, if I am late, something bad is wrong. I am extremely honest and am a firm believer in KARMA.
What's the biggest struggle in running your jewelry business like a business? OR What is your biggest success in running your business like a business?
My biggest struggle is balancing personal and work life. Running my small business takes a lot of energy and time.
My biggest success to date is the opening of my small retail store in my studio. I have wanted to open a shop for several years now and it finally panned out last November. I really love having a permanent place for my clients to find me and my goods.
Brandy received her BA in Interior Design from the U of A in Fayetteville, Arkansas. After a year of desk jobs in the design world Brandy launched her jewelry business, Bella Vita Jewelry.
She is known for her jewelry made from personalized, hand stamped charms, natural stones, hand cast bronze pendants, and up cycled vintage baubles. Bella Vita Jewelry is often made in “small batches” and “one of a kind” runs.