Somewhere between mysticism and extraterrestrial fashion, Stephany Colunga built the eponymous House of Colunga, from which she produces her bewitching and surprisingly earthly jewelry line. Founded in Chicago in the spring of 2014, Colunga specializes in creating keepsake-worthy pieces. Mixing repurposed materials, vintage jewelry and stones with her own metalwork and homegrown bismuth, each piece has a very specific nostalgia to it, feeling as though it’s been pulled out of an antique music box that’s been collecting dust in the attic of an old Victorian home.
Colunga herself is a multi-disciplinary artist coming from a background in fashion and costume design, and initially pursued assemblage jewelry making and vintage jewelry up-cycling on the side as a way to make extra money for rent or while on tour with bands. When she later gained access to a wood shop, she began teaching herself more intricate techniques that ultimately crossed over into metalwork and stone-shaping. “I started creating from items in a metal scrap bin, let my mind wander andmy collection blossomed from there,” Colunga tells CH.
Colunga believes in experimentation above all else, which is especially reflected in her homegrown bismuth line. By growing each piece of bismuth herself there is no real way to plan a piece of jewelry, thus giving Colunga the chance to truly shape something special every time. “Most ideas come from the process with the materials in front of me,” Colunga says. “I have just started learning to cut my own stones and have found an abundance of inspiration in the plethora of beautiful rocks that exist on our earth! It is spellbinding.”
Though she has left the fashion industry behind, Colunga says that clothing design still has a lot of influence over her work. “The theme between my clothing and jewelry is the need to be creating with my hands,” Colunga explains, “I seek to create more unique, one-of-a-kind pieces,” noting that jewelry design allows her to express her often-erratic ideas. As a self-taught artist, Colunga has the “fake it ’til you make it” mentality often required when entering a new creative fieldeven with an experienced artistic background. “I did take a four week metalsmith intro class, but didn’t get much out of it,” Colunga notes. However, this was enough to get her access to the cooperative art studio from which Colunga Jewelry is still made. “I came in with work I had made in my metalsmith class and convinced the manager I knew what I was doing,” she says.
Currently in the continued process of learning how to do her own metal casting and carving, Colunga is constantly expanding, and will soon be launching a men’s bolo tie line. In the end, it’s Colunga’s insatiable curiosity that drives her to keep creating new and unique pieces. “I love the trade so much because I know there is so much to learn, and I need to be constantly challenged to learn new things,” she says. “If you know it is something you want to do, have faith that, given the opportunity, you will thrive.”
Bismuth necklaces and rings by House of Colunga are available online and range in price from $60 up to $185.
Images courtesy of Stephany Colunga