Just a month or two ago, I stumbled upon Soulbound NYC on instagram (hail social media!) and I was instantly in awe. Designer Kelly's design instantly appealed to me. The fun pixel designs and the soft tones of gemstones made me swoon. Playful yet feminine...I like!
Soulbound is a line of video game inspired jewelry designed and crafted in New York City with the finest materials - recycled gold, conflict-free diamonds, and natural colored gemstones.
Get to know more about Soulbound below in the Q&A I did with Kelly.
Where does the name “Soulbound” come from?
The term "soulbound" is used in video games to describe items that cannot be given to another player. Items that are "soulbound" are typically rare and powerful.
Your line is inspired by video games, why is that?
For as long as I can remember, video games have been a part of my life. It actually all started with my dad. He was a big Nintendo fan and I remember spending hours watching him play Super Mario Brothers on the NES. At the time I was too young to play myself, but I was already falling in love with video games.
Why pixels in this collection?
The Gameboy was the first video game system that I owned myself (our NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 were all my dad's and were kept in my parents' bedroom). I played all the time – at home, at school, on the bus to school, and on long car rides (which was almost impossible at night, because the screen was not backlit!) The graphics in all of the video games I was playing were 2-dimensional and pixelated, which is why pixel art is so special and nostalgic for me.
My love of pixel art never went away. When I was in middle school I started creating my own pixel art in MS Paint on my family's PC. I learned how to create pixel “dolls” which I showed off on pixel art forums and my very first website! I taught myself basic HTML coding and created a simple Geocities portfolio site that I updated almost daily with new pixel artwork. This was actually the start of my interest in art and design.
What made you get into jewelry design?
In high school I took my pixel art skills and applied them to drawing and painting. I attended college at the Rhode Island School of Design. When I first arrived at RISD, I chose illustration as my major. I actually panicked and changed my major to apparel design at the last minute (you declare your major before beginning your sophomore year), because I thought that learning a brand new skill would be a better use of my time and money. I also thought that there would be better job opportunities in the fashion industry.
Almost every piece of clothing I designed had sequins, embroidery, or bead work. I would actually begin designing clothing by thinking of the embellishments. I was much more interested in the little sparkly details than the overall shape of the clothing.
When I graduated, I worked as an assistant designer at J.Crew. My desk was actually pretty far from my boss' desk, and in between the two was the jewelry design team. I loved walking past the jewelry designers and I would always try to see what they were working on. They had trays full of sparkly little glass gems and components and they were piecing them together on their desks. It looked so magical!
I was then approached by StyleWeek Northeast to create a ten-piece collection of clothing to be featured in their 2013 runway show. This should have been a great opportunity to launch my own clothing line and gain tons of exposure as an up-and-coming apparel designer, but I was much more excited about designing the accessories that my models would be wearing down the runway than the actual clothing. I taught myself how to create costume jewelry and made a unique necklace for each look. At this point I knew that I had made a big mistake, and my real passion was for jewelry, not clothing.
After the fashion show, I photographed all of the jewelry I created and used that to land an internship at a costume jewelry company. I learned enough during my internship to be hired as a full time bench jeweler, which was an incredible experience. I actually started Soulbound at this time, but it was just small costume jewelry business. I was selling little brass necklaces on Etsy, at comic book conventions, and on my own website.
I wanted to go to the next level and work in fine jewelry, but I knew that I didn't have the skills. I attended the Gemological Institute of America and took every course they offer at their New York campus! This gave me the knowledge and confidence to land a job at a fine jewelry company. After working in fine jewelry for about a year, I left to transform
my little costume jewelry business into what it is now. I discontinued all of my costume jewelry and launched a brand new website with new branding, a new focus, and my debut fine jewelry collection!
How come your creations are only set with white diamonds and pink sapphires? Is there any reason for this choice of gemstones?
The idea for my collection of fine pixel jewelry came from my own desire to express my femininity and love of video games.
I knew that I wanted to offer several different versions of each piece of jewelry (a plain metal version that really shows off the pixel inspiration, a diamond version that is sparkly and elegant, and colored gemstone version that's more fun) because
I love the idea of layering and stacking jewelry in your own way.
Eventually I would love to offer each piece in a wide variety of colored gemstones, but I started with pink sapphires because pink is such a feminine color. It reminds me of being a little girl in the 90s with a big bow in my hair playing Pokemon Red on my Gameboy Pocket.
What is your current favorite piece of your collection?
I think my favorite piece is the Pixel Heart Ring of Wisdom. It reminds me of the health bar in old Zelda games, which would be a line of hearts. If your character was hurt, you would lose hearts. To gain health, you'd have to find little hearts in the game.
I also really love the Pixel Sword Earrings of Light. They're so much fun to wear and they really make a statement!
What's your favorite video game?
I love so many video games and I go through phases of obsessions, but my all-time favorite video game will always be The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64.
What do you love about your job?
I love creating pieces of delicate fine jewelry for women who want to express their love of video games and technology in a tasteful and feminine way. I especially love designing engagement rings inspired by video games, because my boyfriend and I play video games together every day and they're a big part of our relationship. Eventually I'd like to have a video-game-inspired engagement ring as well!
Go for it Kelly! I hardly can wait to see what comes next!
[All images thanks to Soulbound]