When Danyell Rascoe was a child, she took a fateful trip to the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. that would mark the unofficial beginning of her jewelry journey. “I remember picking up pyrite stones at the Smithsonian during a visit, back in the day,” says Danyell. “I thought it was the prettiest thing in the world and I gave one piece to my great-grandmother! My family thought that was odd.”
Danyell grew to love jewelry from around the world. “I would often rummage through vintage shops and flea markets, looking for an interesting piece of jewelry.”
When she joined the workforce Danyell did a brief stint in fashion before she turned her talents to jewelry. She began by making custom one-of-a-kind gem-set pieces. Around five years ago, she finally launched her own collection, Dan-Yell.
Working out of a Brooklyn studio, this independent artist describes her designs as “fluid and shapely, but sort of understated jewelry.”
The precious personal pieces twinkle with a few gems and gleam in hand finished matte texturing. “I feel that works best for my jewelry and since there is some sort of curve with high and low levels, light still plays off the surface.”
Danyell draws on ancient cultures and geometric forms for inspiration. “It is always present in my works, as are palindromes—I like to find interesting ways to have a piece the same backward as forward.”
Find out more about are Danyell Rascoe in the following interview that has been edited and condensed.
Tell me a bit about yourself, your journey so far…
I was born in North Carolina and raised in Northern Virginia. My family’s roots run deep in both States. I received my B.S.A. at Radford in Virginia. It was a small school, so it was good for me in some ways, but I knew I had to go to New York if I really wanted to pursue fashion.
After working for a while, I was ready for a change. I was thinking of going back to school to focus on textile design and while talking to my mom about my future plans, she suggested that I explore jewelry. I took some classes at different places in New York, but Fred de Vos is where I learned wax carving. I also worked for some New York jewelers and even was a teacher’s assistant at Bianca Lopez Studio.
How did your career in fashion and subsequent business trips to India shape your love of jewelry?
I worked for independent fashion designer Alpana Bawa, and also partnered and designed for a collection called Tola & Layla. It was hand-block printed clothing at Layla and jewelry at Tola—all made in India. The Layla line is now solely designed by Alayne Patrick with a boutique in Brooklyn (that was the first store to later carry my work!).
I was fortunate to go to Delhi and parts of Rajasthan. Even though I went to work on a clothing line, jewelry was everywhere and on everyone! From observing how the average person layers their jewelry to old architecture, down to bindis (a decorative mark worn, in the middle of the forehead, by women in India) and mango trees…it has made a deep impression on me.
I did notice table leg inspired earrings on your website – how did you achieve that ‘carved’ result and what’s your creative process?
The process of creation changes from piece-to-piece. Sometimes, it is sketching or working straight onto the metal or carving wax. The table leg series came from me wanting to make a more perfect 3D tear/pear shape on the lathe. After achieving my goal, I continued to playing with different tools and that gave rise to the ridges and cures of the pieces. I didn’t go in with furniture design on my mind but the process became similar to the turning of a wooden table leg.
What new pieces are you working on?
I am adding on to my ‘surface’ hoop series. The Lua, Ravan, Uhura Kerang hoops are a staple, but there is room for more shapes!
How has life changed for you with lockdowns and the ongoing Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement?
During the lockdown, I really don’t venture out much from where I need to be. And when I do, I seek creative alternatives with friends. One thing I am so grateful for is FaceTime with my 11-year-old nephew. Almost every day, he calls to check on me or tell me what he did that day. I don’t know how long this will last, but I’m loving it!
I am a patient person, but things take longer to complete than before and I have accepted that the BLM movement is complicated to say the least. The new attention felt a little awkward, at first, but somehow it helped ground me at this time. I am thankful for the new interest in my work and, on the other end, also elated that I am being exposed to so many beautiful artists and companies that I’d never heard of. In dark times, there is still beauty and kindness.