As a Santa Barbara native, Marisa Haskell can’t help but embrace her coastal roots. Her love of the ocean and of the indigenous flora and fauna that’s part of the local landscape is a cornerstone of her work as a jewelry designer. Her line of Marisa Mason pieces handcrafted with leather, brass, silver, turquoise beads, and other earthy materials offers an elevated bohemian aesthetic that’s inspired by California, yet chic and versatile enough to be worn by a variety of women.
What started as an open-door policy at her tiny studio has become a full-fledged retail experience at her Oakland storefront, which offers a curated collection of embossed leather goods, ceramics, felt hats, candles, and more in addition to pieces by a number of other independent jewelry designers. Marisa also stays busy as a new mom when she’s not designing or tending to her brick-and-mortar, and her success at managing all of the above inspired us to sit down with her and find out how she started her journey into jewelry, what she’s most influenced by, and what piece in her personal collection makes her feel most powerful.
I loved the wearable sculpture element of jewelry and began to find myself coming up with new ideas all the time.
How did you first fall in love with making jewelry?
I started making jewelry with scrap leather and old American Indian beads my grandmother had given me. I loved the wearable sculpture element of jewelry and began to find myself coming up with new ideas all the time. I still had a full time job but found myself so obsessed that I got a studio space and would go every night after work and on the weekends to try out new ideas. I started with large statement pieces that I didn't really think many people would wear. That was a way for me to try to find the root of my aesthetic and then start making more wearable work from there.
What are your biggest influences?
Old tribal jewelry and tools, Indian and American Indian jewelry, textiles, African craft of all kinds.
And when did your brick-and-mortar come about?
I had a tiny 8'x16' studio space in an alley in Oakland that had been the former horse stables for the Oakland fire department. The area had charm but was very funky and mostly used as storage space. A couple of people started opening tiny shops and so I left my door open and hung some jewelry on the wall. It was really casual; I would get some random shoppers here and there, mostly word of mouth. No regular hours, a surfboard crammed into the corner. It was a super unique shopping experience and I found people really enjoyed that.
Who are some of your other local favorite brands or retailers?
There are some amazing women designers in Oakland and Berkeley that make their own lines and many have retail stores as well! Erica Tanov, Ali Golden, Michaela Greg, Claflin Thayer, Lauren Wolf, and Kate Ellen.
Fill in the blanks:
Wearing my favorite piece of jewelry makes me feel ______.
It sounds cliché but powerful. It is a ring that my mom gave me that has by grandmother's diamond in it. My mom designed it and it is a very unusual, heavy gold ring with this amazing worn texture. I wear it everyday.
If I had a superpower it would be ______.
Being in two places at once? I love my work but it would be great to be on adventures and spending more time with my daughter.
Fill in the blank: When I want to recharge with one day of inspiration I ________.
Let's be honest here, it is pretty hard to do that now that I have a baby and a business, but it used to be heading out to West Marin to go surfing or hiking. One day there will be the time!