Jewelry designer, Selen Bayrak, developed her love of design at an early age. She graduated with a BFA in Interior Design at the Fine Arts Academy in her native Istanbul. On her first visit to New York in 1993, when she was still studying design, Selen was amazed at her reaction to the city – it felt both familiar and new. Selene claims it was love at first site. She moved here in 2002 and attended Parsons School of Design for jewelry. Selen started Selen Designs, which produces works of bold design in precious metals, particularly pewter, for discriminating clientele and specialty shops.
Were you always interested in design?
I have been painting since I was 14. I was always very hands on with clay modeling; I loved making little models, maquettes in clay and wood.
How did your talent develop?
As I continued to study, I learned to become attuned to anything and everything that could be turned into a design item, a collectible, a piece of jewelry. I transform those images or textures into design. A fire hydrant can amaze me with its patina; a leaf or a branch can inspire me. I have a visual memory. I can tell you what the person who just walked by me was wearing, right down to the color of her nail polish. I guess I’ve trained my eyes to be present.
When did you start designing jewelry?
I started in 2002 – Wow, it’s been 10 years already! The first piece I made was an Art Deco pendant. It was bold, edgy, and simple, with many interior architectural elements transformed into a piece of jewelry. It was a proud moment for me when I sold that piece. My designs today are still very architectural (it attracts my male clientele) but as I evolved as an artist, my style has become more abstract and contemporary. It can best be described as modern and minimalist with a bold edge.
Can you describe your creative process?
I usually sketch most of my designs then work with Photoshop to visualize the possibilities. Then the fun part starts when I transform the designs into three-dimensional models. Depending on the size of the design I work with purple wax, self-drying clay or PMC (precious metal clay) for master models.
What materials do you work with?
I work with high quality pewter. It’s been my signature material since 2004. It is malleable, affordable, maintenance-free, wears nicely and is skin-friendly (which is perfect since I am allergic to many other substances). It’s really the perfect metal – I can make high quality, bold pieces and still be affordable. Isn’t that great?
Are all pieces one of a kind?
Some collections and commissioned pieces are one of a kind. However, I usually make 20 to 30 pieces of each style. But since each item is hand-made, no two pieces are exactly alike. I constantly add new designs to my collections.
What type of woman do you design for? What type of clothing works best as an accessory to your jewelry?
I design for a well-travelled, funky, proud, bold, unique, modern, earthy woman. If I think about clothing as an accessory to my jewelry, I can imagine a woman that wears the pieces featured in this article also wearing a Courtney Washington top and jeans or dress pants and high heels…or a plain top and sleek pants from Calvin Klein or G-Star. Essentially, something classic.
Where can we find your jewelry?
I have a pop-up kiosk at Grand Central Terminal in the Graybar Passage until April 30. I sell my jewelry in better boutiques, juried craft shows and online at selendesign.com.
As a foreign-born woman now living and working in NY, would you mind answering a few of our Woman Around Town questions about New York? My pleasure.
Things you love about NY? I love its rhythm – that it always changes- that it’s never stagnant – so inspiring!
Things you hate about NY? Not necessarily about NY- not hate- but I am extra sensitive to inconsiderate rush hour commuters.
Favorite NY Restaurant? Barrolo
Favorite NY moment? Sitting in the River Café with my parents and the open horizon on a crisp, breezy, picturesque day thinking – “Here I am in NY!” I do live here now! I did it!