We had the good fortune of connecting with Marlena Rijn and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marlena, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’m really inspired by ancient jewelry. I love looking at jewelry in museums and books and thinking about the hands that created each piece so many years ago with such a limited set of tools. This type of craftsmanship and connection to the materials and thus results are what I really strive to emulate in my work, and why I am so stubborn about making everything by hand- despite much faster alternatives now available in modern times. Perfection is very boring to me. It’s very rare that I see a piece of jewelry by a major designer that stirs my heart or peaks my interest. I want to see the personality of the artist come through the work. That’s basically what I’m after with my jewelry line, RIJN STUDIO.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
It’s taken me a long time to find my path career-wise and I think I’m still navigating that. But I know that art will always be a part of my life. I graduated from UCLA with a major in Cultural Anthropology and a minor in Global Studies. These studies really affected how I view the world and my own engagement with politics. The study of other cultures –be-it language, to rituals –really helped hone my artistic eye in a way I had not expected. I look at jewelry through a more refined lens than I think I otherwise would have because I am thinking of the history of different shapes and designs as well as making connections to their likeness throughout the world. I cannot just look at earrings from, say, India without thinking about the religion, the people, the environment etc. I like to think that my own jewelry has the same type of transportive properties and are not just an object to be worn.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite activity is eating! As a native Angeleno I have a lot of favorite spots around the city. I would take a friend from out of town to all my favorite local places. Los Angeles is amazing in that it has every type of food, and different areas have different specialties. I mean, just because there are burritos in Silverlake, I wouldn’t say they are the best in town. I would definitely take them to my favorites, Elena’s in Glendale is the most affordable and amazing Armenian food. Dune in Atwater has the BEST falafels with 100% organic non-GMO ingredients, Just What I Kneaded in Frogtown for amazing vegan treats and bagel sandwiches, El Buen Gusto in Atwater for affordable Salvadorean food. I would definitely take them to Stories Books and Café in Echo Park, which is one of the older businesses there at this point and has an amazing selection of books and wonderful staff. If COVID wasn’t an issue I always take friends to the Natural History museum. Those dark halls of taxidermy transport me and I could spend all day there.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to give a “shout out” to my mom, for always encouraging my interests, especially in the arts. From enrolling us in art camps & classes, to taking us to museums; my mom provided us an enriching environment for my creative endeavors. It is through specific exhibits, which I can vividly remember, such as the ancient Egyptian jewelry area at LACMA- and the world-traveling Tutankhamen exhibit I’ve been lucky enough to see twice in my life, that I gained huge appreciation for the craftsmanship of handmade jewelry. In my early 20’s it was my mom who gave me a coyote vertebra, which I strung on some twine and wore around my neck, getting so many complements on it that I decided to make similar jewelry to sell that started my journey into making jewelry for others. Her support and encouragement mean the world to me.
Taka Nonaka-Hill, Marlena Rijn, Pavielle Garcia & Ruby J. Carlson