In Studio With Sierra Otto Of Sierra Winter Jewelry

I love the laid back, boho vibe of Sierra Winter Jewelry. So I was excited to have a chance to learn more about what makes designer Sierra Otto tick.

In this month’s In Studio feature, Sierra gives us a glimpse into her work space in Kansas City, Missouri and tells us about her creative process. She also shares a little about her upcoming projects and the women that have inspired her over the years. (It’s a pretty fabulous group!) Here’s Sierra.

– Alicia

How do you describe the work that you do?
“I design and craft jewelry for my brand, Sierra Winter Jewelry. All my designs are hand drawn by yours truly. I do to scale rendering of my designs along with front, side, and mapped views to help communicate with my suppliers. Once I receive castings back from my suppliers, then I assemble the jewelry in my studio in Kansas City, Missouri.”

How long have you been creating?
“I’ve been making jewelry for over 15 years. Some of that was making beaded earrings in high school, my jewelry degree at KU, working in a bead shop in college, designing jewelry for Silpada Designs, and now owning, designing, and running the show at Sierra Winter Jewelry.”

What’s your first memory of creating something?
“Well, when I was like 10 I wanted to be a fashion designer when I grew up. My aunt, who is an artist herself, drew up a female figure template for me and made hundreds of copies. My mom put them in a binder and I got to work designing clothes for my model.

I was really into the Spice Girls at this time and my designs were heavily influenced by them. So, I’m sure they are just beautiful, 90’s inspired, works of art.”

Who or what has influenced your work?
“I would say most of my designs have been inspired by the collection of jewelry my Great Aunt Gevene had. She had beautiful southwest pieces and diamonds. She lived outside of Las Vegas and would play the slots at her favorite casino, The Sahara Casino. With her winnings, she would buy herself jewelry!”

What do you hope people take away from experiencing your work?
“I have really high standards for each piece as far as quality goes and I want people to feel that when they purchase and wear my jewels.”

What are you working on now?
“I am working on launching 15 new styles […] on April 5th! What goes into this is photography, production, updating the website, email campaigns, line sheets, and creative copy for the individual product pages on the website.

I love this time. It’s a crunch but I thrive on that.”


What materials do you prefer?
“I prefer working with Sterling Silver, Gold Vermeil, and 14K Gold. I received my BFA in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Metalsmithing and Jewelry design at the University of Kansas. There, I worked mostly with Sterling Silver and 14K Gold. I love using these metals because of the quality and preciousness of the material.”

What’s your creative process like?
“First, I look at the existing collection and decide where I need to fill in on price point, silhouette, and style (necklace, bracelet, etc.). Once I have an idea of what I need to update and add, I start pulling magazine tears of patterns, shapes, home design, etc for inspiration on lines and angles.

Then I just start sketching away. Getting as many ideas as possible down on paper. I will look at all my sketches and decide what I think are the most compelling designs and start refining them as jewelry renderings.”

What is your workspace like and how does it function for you?
“I love my workspace! I have windows on three sides of the room, a drawing table, desk, and a jewelry bench all set up. Along with lots of storage and a pack and play for my daughter to play in when I need to get some work done.”

How do you stay creative while also running a business?
“To be honest, sometimes I find this very challenging. I get so caught up with marketing, finances, inventory, shipping, website updates, etc., that it’s sometimes hard to sit down and be creative. I really don’t like to put a time limit on creating and sometimes I must do that.”


Why is it important to support other artists?
“It is so important to rally behind your community! Everyone doing this small business, creative thing is going through the same thing you are.”

Which artists do you admire?
“I have a lot of artist/designer friends. There’s too many to name but in Kansas City, I love seeing what Karrie Dean of Happy Habitat, Emily Reinhardt of The Object Enthusiast, and Alexia Wambua of Native Atlas are up to. They have some bad ass businesses and I look up to them.”

What do you wish people knew about your line of work?
“I want people to know that I design everything that goes into my collection. Also, that I’m working my ass off and loving every second of it.”

What about you?
How does Sierra’s jewelry make you feel?
What kind of jewelry do you gravitate towards?
Did anything Sierra said resonate with you? Why?
Why do you think humans have adorned themselves with jewelry for centuries? What is it about physical adornment that we respond to?
What’s your first memory of creating something?
If you could create any piece of jewelry, what would it be?

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Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved.

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