Crafting Recycled Metal into Works of Art with Santana

Oakland based visual artist Santana Bellas has evolved from a designer/photographer to full on craftsman. Santana’s new journey shows us that what may seem like a setback can actually open up to a whole new creative world. Join us as he takes us through his own soul cleansing process of jewelry making.

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Since I’ve known you, you have always had your hands in so many different mediums of art. What has the journey into jewelry design been like?

It’s been a long journey. Back in October of last year, I ended up getting reactive arthritis from food poisoning which lasted for about 7 months. During that time my body was very sore and tender. At one point I was bedridden. I couldn’t really do much during that time so I started to look into different mediums of art. My body started to hinder me from taking photos and I began to lose interest in it. I took some time to myself and started to think about what I would like to do next — making jewelry and metal objects really stood out to me. From there, I started to dive into videos and articles about metal jewelry making. Then I found myself creating rings from antique spoons and incense holders from metal clay.

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How was your transition from photography to something a bit more hands-on like crafting jewelry?

For me, I felt as if I was hitting a wall when it came to expressing myself creatively. I had focused on film photography for about 3 years and was working with various brands and publications which was great, but I needed more. Passion projects that involved photography were no longer fulfilling and became dull to me. So, I sat back and thought about what I could do that was still aligned with me and that would help me grow. I always thought about making jewelry and creating metal objects, but I never went for it, but something hit me and told me that it was time.

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I love how you have incorporated vintage silver and things of that sort; can you share where that idea came from?

I’ve been a fan of vintage clothing and accessories for about 6-7 years now, and I love how one-of-a-kind they look — how the pieces may look handmade, old, worn and torn. I wanted to keep that same look when it came to my pieces.

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When moulding pieces what does Santana’s workspace look like? What music is playing, is there incense burning, is it messy or very organized?

When I’m working on new pieces, everything in my workspace is pretty clean and neat. I mean, yeah there might be a ring mandrel hanging around on the table or some clay sitting in a jar but overall, it’s clean. I’m usually burning a Japanese incense or Copal on a burner which really helps me relax. When it comes to music, it’s usually R&B/Soul from the 90s or 80s Funk/Boogie/Post-Disco.

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Have you faced any unique challenges?

My most unique challenge has to be working with metal clay, which is very similar to regular clay, but comes in different types of metals like gold, silver, bronze, and copper. It’s fun to work with but can get tricky when it comes to creating certain objects. There are many similarities with the clay but there are slight differences when it comes to firing the clay. The great thing about metal clay is once you fire it, then it is fully metal.

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What is your favorite piece or design so far?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what I can create with metal clay or recycled metal. I ended up having the best time with turning old antique spoons into rings. My favorite pieces were my cherub rings that I released in my first capsule.

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Does releasing as a capsule collection allow you a little more intimacy with your pieces?

Definitely. So, I want all my collections to serve as capsules. As a small collection of one of a kind pieces that has a set theme or focus. For me, this makes the pieces more unique, rare, and special.

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What can we look forward to next from your jewelry and metal work, or any other exciting endeavors you have coming soon?

More jewelry made from recycled metal and unique pieces from various metal clays.

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Check out more of Santana’s work @santanabellas

Interview by Gustavo Oliver

Photography by Arman G @cultofarman

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