Enyo Jewelry is a new jewelry line that specializes in ethnic-fusion jewelry. We spoke to founder and jewelry designer Isabel Wetzel (Enyonam) to learn more about the brand and where she hopes to see Enyo Jewelry in the next few years.
I love your name Enyonam. What does it mean? and why did you decide to use ‘Enyo’ (a variation of Enyonam) for your company?
Enyonam is my third name which was given to me at birth. My mother asked her wonderful friend for a name recommendation for her last child. It was Auntie Jane who then recommended Enyonam, which is a Ghanaian name and means “It is good for me”.
When building my jewelry shop based on West and East African design inspirations I thought using my own name would be most powerful – this is me, and these are my creations, carrying my own name! The short version – Enyo – is how many people refer to me that call me by that name. It is short, poignant, memorable, easy to pronounce, and beautiful!
How long have you been designing and creating jewelry? When did you start?
I have been inspired by African jewelry for a very long time. The women in my family have always had a great sense of fashion and jewelry, and it was my mother who always brought back gorgeous jewelry when coming back from West Africa. She wears chunky beads and pendants, and at some point in my teenage years I could not bear but ask her for some of her jewelry to wear myself.
Then, when living in Nairobi last year, I finally started my own bead collection. One of my Kenyan colleagues who I was working with always wore wonderful jewelry and told me that she actually made it herself! She was the one who brought me to local, hidden away shops and traders, so I started buying some beads there. In the meanwhile, I moved from Nairobi over London to Washington, which gave me little time to actually work on crafting and creating jewelry. This summer, I finally had the inspiration to pick up jewelry making. I had no background in crafting whatsoever – I just started learning by doing. The only thing I knew was what kind of jewelry I really liked and wanted to create!
Tell us about your design style and aesthetic. What makes ‘Enyo’ jewelry unique?
As I mentioned earlier, my designs are heavily inspired by West and East African jewelry that I have come across. I absolutely love large beads, many colors, large pendants, as well as chunky pieces of art, but I also like abstract pieces, randomness and merging different styles together. Many of my multistrand necklaces, for example, mix lots of different colors and beads. I like to create unity through some sense of randomness. It is then the large beads or pendants that hold the different pieces together.
Enyo Jewelry is special because the beads have all been handcrafted in different places throughout Africa. I find so much beauty in African recycle glass beads, brass beads or pendants, and this beauty deserves beautiful presentation and variation. There are also certain Asian beads or pendants which sometimes catch my attention for its shapes and colors. I am aware that African and Asian beads, depending on where they are from, do not always have anything in common. However, I realized that sometimes they can be combined in wonderful ways.
As a designer, where do you get your jewelry inspirations from?
Actually, starting out I was curious to see what else there has been created, and who else is out there. I know a few designers who create African jewelry and fashion, so I started off seeing what they offer, who is in their networks. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest helps a great deal! Actually, I browsed through “African Jewelry” sections on Pinterest, and created an own board named African Jewelry. The board is a wonderful collection of gorgeous beads, already crafted African (inspired) jewelry, as well as stunning photography All of this is so inspiring! It is important though to keep thinking in your personal style, and to develop own ideas. This can only come from your own creativity and imagination!
You grew up in Germany and have lived in other countries. Do you feel that your environments play a big influence in your creations?
I went to boarding school in the Swiss mountains at the age of 14. I never returned back to my hometown after this, which made me a very independent spirit from a very early age onwards. I think back on it as very liberating, and empowering. I had a strong sense of what I wanted to do, places I wanted to go to, languages I wanted to learn, experiences I wanted to make. I tried to do as much as possible till now, and continue to be extremely curious about other places, people, cultures and habits that I have not yet come across.
I believe that my different environments have all shaped me very deeply to become the person I am. It can make you feel nostalgic at times, because every time you leave a place, you are leaving behind a dominant chapter of your life that you will only continue to carry with you in memories, not substance. However, I also think that learning how to navigate in new places and environments makes you a stronger and more flexible person. Sometimes, you watch, adapt and learn from your new environment; and sometimes you bring in your past influences and build them into your new environment, enriching it greatly.
You use a lot of rare stones and materials for your pieces. Where do find your beads and embellishments?
I have collected some of them personally on my travels. I have had people bring me beads! And I have started ordering online – from African traders and entrepreneurs. Last week, for example, a package from Senegal, and another one from Ethiopia reached me! Who doesn’t like to receive packages from so far away?
In the future, I would like to have stable sources of local traders and shops in the places that I source beads from. Ideally, I would like to travel to places I am interested in purchasing beads from, and get to know people personally whom I will then be in touch with in the long-run. However, I am still at the beginning stages of building a sustainable and ethical product, value and supply chain that feeds Enyo Jewelry.
What kind of person wears your jewelry? Is there any celebrity that you would love to see wearing your designs?
I imagine my customer being someone with a good sense of style. She likes beads from Africa, she likes unique jewelry pieces. My dream customer is elegant, and knows how to combine her clothing with the jewelry she wears. She is fashion-conscious and knows that she will be admired for her beautiful jewelry. Of course I would not mind seeing Michelle Obama wear my jewelry! I am also thinking of Chirlane McCray, Bill de Blasio’s wife; Adiat Disu, founder of the African Fashion Week; Queen Rania, queen of Jordan; or the actresses Charlotte Gainsbourg, Liv Tyler, Judi Dench, Salma Hayek, Meryl Streep, Scarlett Johansson, Maggie Cheung, just to mention a few…
Do you have any favorite jewelry designer?
I really adore the designs of Le Collane di Betta, Sankofa’s Child, The Ndau Collection, Anita Quansah, Heart 365 Emporium, and I also like Sandra Webster Jewelry, and The Joy Moos Collection…
What do you do when you are not creating jewelry?
I play the piano! Have been playing both piano and violin since the age of 5. I am very dedicated to it, still. I also love reading books, travelling, working on international development and urban policy, and I dance salsa!
Where do you see the Enyo Jewelry Brand 5 years from now?
This brand is still in its early stages, though I have the aim to expand. I have a background in international development; hence my focus remains heavily on expanding my business into a socially conscious enterprise. My primary focus is to build a business that entails a strong ethical component. I live for building and creating impact beyond my personal needs and wants. Educated in urban policy and development, I am highly interested in the liaison between building an innovative model of a social enterprise aimed at tackling urban poverty, having impact on, and improving lives of people in cities in the Global South, and appreciating the promotion of unique arts and traditions.
Also, I keep up to date with technology and the fast pace in which the internet is developing, because it is also a crucial factor to creating a social business with the intent of a long-lasting impact. Lastly, the profits Enyo Jewelry could be used to help create a center for local craftsmanship in Accra or Dakar, so that more small-scale jewelry designers can find their way into the international market.11. How can our readers learn more about Enyo Jewelry?