In the few years since graduating, Carrie Bilbo (Pratt Institute, B.F.A. Jewelry/Metalsmithing ’09), has made a dramatic entrance into the rarefied world of fine jewelry design.
Bilbo’s incorporation of cicada wings in necklaces and rings—described as “edgy and chilling” by Nylon—have gained recognition as beautiful body ornaments, and received media attention in Vogue, Sublime, and New York magazine’s blog The Cut, NBC New York, and InStyle magazine.
“I’ve always been very detail-oriented,” explains Bilbo. “It’s the wing of the cicada up close and how it mimics a stained glass window with all of its detailed beauty that I love, or the rough, random, not-planned texture of a branch or tree bark that transforms when it’s made in metal to allow so many different interpretations.”
The daughter of a college art history professor, Bilbo grew up in Northern Kentucky painting, drawing, and making things “since I was old enough to pick up a paintbrush.” Just before her senior year in high school Bilbo came to New York to study fashion design in Pratt’s summer Pre-College Program, an experience that cemented Pratt’s standing as her college of choice. In her sophomore year, she switched her major from painting to jewelry after being “blown away” by the Jewelry Thesis show, which she still returns to see every year.
As the winner of an award underwritten by Art Jewelry Forum for her senior thesis collection, The Attachment of Fear, Bilbo quickly achieved distinction for the vivid naturalistic brooches, rings, and headpieces that she creates—works that validate nature’s beauty while dramatically attaching themselves to the body physically as well as psychologically.
“I’ve been told my jewelry is timeless,” says the 24-year-old Bilbo. “Timeless in that it does not just follow the trends of right now, but timeless also in the sense that my pieces appeal to women of all ages from all over the world, as sales figures have revealed.”
During New York Fashion Week 2012, Bilbo’s black Bark Ring and Bat Wing Rings were worn on the runway during Christian Siriano’s fashion show. The Bark Ring, in gold, is a favorite of Whoopi Goldberg, who is frequently seen wearing it on television while co-hosting The View. And actress Isabelle Fuhrman is also among Bilbo’s celebrity customers.
Bilbo now lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. She handcrafts all her jewelry in a rented studio space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard that she shares with two other Pratt jewelry alumni, Julia Seltzer (B.F.A. ’09) and Kaylee Russotti (B.F.A. ’10). “I will very often be in the studio for fifteen hours straight,” says Bilbo, who takes great pride in running her own website business. “I work weekends and weekdays making what I love and producing well-made handcrafted pieces of artwork,” she adds. Bilbo’s pieces are also carried in stores and boutiques in Austin, Boston, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. Her latest collection, Quechua, is inspired by her travels to Peru last year.
To see Carrie Bilbo’s jewelry designs, visit www.carriebilbo.com.
Text: Adrienne Gyongy
Photo: Steph Mantis (B.I.D.’09)