Julia Sherman: You have said that your mom, painter Geraldine Neuwirth, has been an inspiration and influence on your designs, how?
Irene Neuwirth: I am inspired by the way she uses color and mixes different mediums and colors in her artwork. When I was a little girl, she always dressed me in mixed patterns. I remember the wallpaper she chose for my room: one wall was pink and white bunny rabbits; another was stripes; another, polka dots. There was something whimsical and playful about it, and it looked great. I carry that in my designs.
JS: Where else do you look for references and inspiration?
IN: I am always inspired by the women who collect my jewelry … My collection evolves by designing pieces to fill in the gap in their “jewelry wardrobe.” I am constantly look to the natural beauty and landscape of California – I’m a southern California girl at heart. I also travel and my heart remains in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I have been going there for 15 years. The colors there are like nowhere else.
JS: Pet pendants are very different from your other pieces: how are they made and how did they come about?
IN: I am obsessed with my dog, Teddy – just look at my instagram! I decided to make a pet pendant for myself, I did not think of how it would be part of my collection but I am so happy there is a market of pet lovers out there. These pendants are whimsical but very fine. They are just so unusual, which I love – something fine with a sense of humor.
JS: Take me through your design process: do you start with the stone and design from there, or do you buy the gems to fit into pieces you have already mapped out?
IN: I start with the raw stones and lay them out, it’s very old fashioned.
JS: If you could design something besides jewelry, what would it be?
IN: I recently remodeled and designed my kitchen. The hand painted tiles on my wall may be my favorite part. I always dream of getting into homeware.
JS: What do you make these days apart from jewelry?
IN: Food! I also love to draw. Oh! I also made Teddy a bejeweled dog collar, but I guess that falls under jewelry.
JS: What inspired you to put a full eat-in kitchen in the jewelry showroom? It’s unusual for a retail space to have such a laid back and domestic vibe. I felt so comfortable, I could have slept over!
IN: I wanted my jewelry store to feel like the anti-jewelry store. I love to entertain, and I always love having my clients over for dinner. It is easier to communicate an understanding of myself and my brand through a meal. I also figured that everyone I like wants to hang out in a kitchen, so why not put one in the store? I love how it gives the store an approachable and warm feel. We have hosted a number of dinner parties for friends and clients here, and some post-dinner dance parties! I’m looking forward to hosting more parties this year.
JS: You entertain a lot, do you do the cooking?
IN: Yes I do! My go-to party dishes are grilled lamb chops, pasta with delicious vegetables and a big salad. And Casa Dragones tequila!
JS: Your work and face are all over the pages of fancy fashion magazines. Why did you want to be in Bon Appetit so badly?
IN: Because I love food! I cook and entertain all the time, it’s my favorite way to relax and unwind. I’m always looking through Bon Appetit for new recipe ideas. I love how they have been combing fashion and food. I am honored to be included.
JS: You are a friend of the arts and recently auctioned off a $60,000 skateboard for LAX Art? Where did it go?
IN: It went to a very happy home, I couldn’t be more pleased!
JS: Do lunch and massive jewelry purchases go well together? In my fantasies, I buy your jewelry with a salad and glass of champagne on hand.
IN: I think so, don’t you? Why not?