Words: Mundi Ross
Photos: Becca Simonds
Jackie Barr of Red Bench jewelry stood out amongst many at the Colorado College craft fair over the holidays. I was drawn to her use of materials and exotic stones sourced from around the globe. Her work is common theme these days with the use of triangles, chevron, and arrows. However, the pop of color, delicacy, and attention to detail sets her apart. Jackie’s studio is located in her beautiful home in the heart of Denver, a space full of natural light and nooks of inspiration provided by her 5-year-old daughter. My eyes wandered the walls of her house and I concluded that she is a woman who loves well––not only in the care she takes with her home, but also in her work as a maker.
She grew up in Colorado Springs, always dabbling in jewelry making even as a child. In college she discovered metal smithing and there was an instant connection. “Right after I graduated, I was hired at a local jewelry store and it was during this time that I learned more about fine jewelry, wax carving, and stone setting.”
After five years and some time at the bench developing her skills, she eventually made her way to Denver and started her own jewelry line.
Where did the name Red Bench come from?
The name is based on a work bench that was red. Plain and simple. When I first created my Etsy shop there were so many names taken and I was making/creating at this bench; threw the name out there and it stuck.
How would you describe your style or aesthetic? On your website you mention being inspired by the Colorado landscape?
I don’t think design inspiration is totally conscious; it’s just being from Colorado and always living here. I notice it hindsight in the shapes of my forgings and the stones I choose. I don’t go with a shopping list and I don’t start with a plan. I doodle a few times, begin the process and see where it leads me.
Do you design based on what’s in style or what you love? How do you find balance in filling a need in the market versus staying true to yourself?
I design jewelry based on what I love to wear. I do look at a lot of fashion, so sure it does influence me. But as I said, it’s what I want to wear and so far it has worked.
What would you say a success has been for Red Bench?
The past couple of years have been great. I was in 5280 Magazine two Christmases ago and that was huge for me as it has been a game changer for my website. Now approaching Denver boutiques, there is some credibility. I am about to travel to the Oakland, San Francisco area to meet with some boutiques so that is really exciting. I am really happy right now where things are at.
You have mentioned using recycled materials in your jewelry, tell me more?
It was definitely more at the beginning when I first started. I use aluminum cans, guitar strings, copper, and some silver. Copper however, with its demand, has become difficult these days to get recycled. I guess people are saving it with the hopes of retirement?
Where can we find your jewelry?
A lot of it is located in Denver; Fancy Tiger to name one. Fort Collins, Memphis, and soon to be Terra Verde. Check out my website too. It’s an easy way to shop my line.
What do you love about being a woman?
Lots of things! I would say that as a woman, we get to wear so many different styles in clothes and jewelry. I also love being a mother, it’s a different type of bond than a male. I love that woman are communicative and talk things to death. I love sitting around with my best friends and hashing things out. It never gets tired.
How do you find balance in your life?
It’s really hard and it depends on the time of the year. Especially as a jewelry maker. Christmas time is the busiest season for me. I am a crazy person working until 2 in the morning. I am constantly on the go. Luckily my husband has been so supportive. He encouraged me to quite my 9-5 job to fulfill this dream and so I would say he too helps me find balance. I really love what I do so it doesn’t feel like a job. I feel lucky that I get to get up in the morning and go to work right here in my home doing something that is both fulfilling and rewarding.
Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs starting out?
I wish I had a better handle on the business side of Red Bench early on. Even rudimentary stuff like separating bank accounts and spreadsheet basics. I think that really slowed me down at the beginning as I was winging it, thinking it wasn’t going anywhere so it didn’t really matter. At one point I really thought I was going to quit and go get a real job with predictable income and Matthew at Fancy Tiger told me to fuck that. Do whatever you can to stick it out. That encouragement was awesome and I feel like that has almost become a motto for me: “Fuck that, stick it out!”
Where do you see Red Bench two years from now?
I would love to not being doing as much of the production side of things. I would also like to launch a higher-end line using more precious stones and materials such as white, yellow, and rose gold. Stay tuned!
Red Bench Jewelry