Stunning Portland-Made Jewelry from Kirsten Elise
Wearing Kirsten Elise’s jewelry is like wearing a piece of Portland. The natural beauty Pacific Northwest acts as a bottomless well of inspiration for the artist, and many of her materials are found within it, like bones and raw stones. Elise’s work includes both ethereal and industrial style pieces, all delicate yet undeniably badass. In addition to being inspired by the beauty of PNW nature, Kirsten is also inspired by strong women and her progressive political voice often comes through in her work. Read on to learn more in our interview with Kirsten.
MIP: How did you get started making jewelry?
I started making jewelry to supplement my income after my daughter was born. When faced with only three weeks maternity leave and 10 to 12 hour daycare days for my child, I decided to use a creative outlet to allow a more flexible schedule and barter for goods and services while on a stricter budget. I have traded jewelry for photography, child care, baked goods, massage, haircuts, clothing, art, household items, and other handmade goods. It’s my favorite.
MIP: What/who are your biggest influences that can be seen in your work today?
Lately, I have been especially inspired by strong women and the work that they have contributed, like Sylvia Rivera, Bell Hooks, Malala Yousafzai, and Leslie Jones. Because jewelry is my creative outlet, I find inspiration for design through the creative process of working with my hands. My Girl Gang series is a way to highlight strong women while giving back to organizations that are important to me and empower individuals and communities, including Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock Sioux, Trevor Project, IRCO, and Planned Parenthood. My raw gemstone and rattlesnake vertebrae jewelry is inspired by nature. By using stones and bones found in nature, I like creating one of a kind, ethereal pieces.
MIP: How has the Portland community impacted/supported/reacted to your work?
The Portland community has been amazing. I am fortunate to have met and befriended so many inspiring individuals, whether they are shop owners, photographers, event organizers, or artists. I often describe Portland as a version of Montessori school for adults, because everyone is so accepting and encouraging of one another’s talents and creative outlets. Even other jewelry designers have been supportive and helpful in giving suggestions, resources, and feedback regarding various markets, supplies, and design elements.
MIP: Where can we find your work?
You can find me on Instagram and Etsy. Locally, I have jewelry at Tender Loving Empire, Consign Couture, Bridge City Mercantile, Sweet Jayne, Button, Hunt & Gather, Hazel & Pear, Zim Zim, and Rubia Salon. I also love participating in the Portland Night Market, which completely epitomizes all my favorite things in Portland from food trucks, music, small batch, and handmade.