Sitting at the worktable in her Treloar home studio, artisan jewelry maker Anne Jansen laid out the components for a new piece she had been anxious to work on.
Strewn across the table was a seemingly odd mix of items — buttons, beads, skeleton keys, typewriter keys, watches, water spigot handles, shotgun shells, bullet casings, crystals from a chandelier . . .
But in Jansen’s hands, these everyday things become statement pieces. The kind of bracelets, necklaces, earrings and broaches that people ask about and clamor to find.
Case in point: Last December when celebrity chef and author Georgia Pellegrini (“Girl Hunter”) received one of Jansen’s shotgun shell bracelets as a gift and wore it on a “Today” show appearance, so many people began noticing and asking about it, that in January Pellegrini wrote a blog entry about the bracelet and other shotgun shell pieces from Jansen’s line, The Key of A, LLC.
Later this month when Pellegrini appears on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” she’ll be wearing a new necklace that Jansen is currently designing for her.
You may soon notice other celebrities wearing The Key of A too. As a member of The Artisan Group, an exclusive group of artisans who provide samplings of their handcrafted products to celebrities in the luxury gift lounges at major award shows (The Academy Awards, The Golden Globes and The Primetime Emmys), Jansen has been invited to include some of her jewelry in “swag” bags for Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Khloe Kardashian.
In September, she will be participating in the luxury gifting lounge and swag bags for the Primetime Emmy Awards, and she’ll be featured in the fall issue of Flea Market Style magazine.
This sudden national attention to her jewelry is gratifying, said Jansen, who only last summer decided to quit her day job working at an office in downtown St. Louis to focus on her jewelry line full time. Up until then she juggled both.
Artistic, Business Background
Jansen grew up in an environment that was both creative and business savvy. Her parents owned a floral shop and Jansen, naturally, spent a lot of time there and worked there.
“That has lent itself to my success now,” she admits. “I’ve pulled from those lessons.”
After high school Jansen took premed classes at Washington University but left before graduating (she later earned a business degree from Maryville University).
Over the years she worked a variety of jobs that used her creative skills, including being a floral designer at one of the top shops in St. Louis and creating floral pieces for celebrities on the West Coast. She also rehabbed two houses for profit.
But those kinds of jobs were all-consuming, said Jensen. They kept her working evenings and weekends and were exhausting.
So she decided to go in the opposite direction and accepted a 9-to-5 desk job.
Jewelry Line Began With Typewriter Keys
Jansen moved to Treloar over 12 years ago with intentions of rehabbing her third house for profit, but she never felt inspired by it, so it remains untouched.
Instead she was inspired to begin making jewelry. Her first pieces were made using typewriter keys.
She had seen a similar bracelet at a flea market and decided to try to make one herself using an old Underwood she had at home. She brought the bracelets to work, laid them out on her desk and called over a few co-workers.
“Within an hour, I had sold them all,” she said.
Jansen said she knew she had something when co-workers from other floors came to her desk to ask about the bracelets. She quickly went out looking for more old typewriters and promptly turned her kitchen table into a worktable.
“I’m all self-taught jewelry wise,” said Jansen, noting she draws on her 25 years working in the floral and design industries.
A year after making that first typewriter bracelet Jansen set up a shop on etsy.com, a worldwide online marketplace for handcrafted pieces.
In January 2009 she started doing craft shows and the response was overwhelming.
“At my first show, I had 12 bracelets, 12 pairs of earrings and some pendant necklaces,” Jansen recalled. “I sold out and left with 39 orders.”
In September 2010 Jansen launched her website, www.thekeyofa.com, and began scheduling shows like the Hermann Maifest, Gypsy Caravan and area high school craft shows.
“My jewelry was still a hobby and craft then,” she said. “But then my artistic side began to snap into place and I wanted this to be a business, so I honed my skills.”
She also began looking beyond the typewriter. She began working with skeleton keys and later piano keys.
“That’s when my name became The Key of A. Before it was Typewriter Jewelry by Anne,” she recalled.
Now the typewriter jewelry that started Jansen’s business is just a small part of her line. The current hot pieces are her shotgun shell pieces and what’s known as “steampunk” design.
“It’s the marrying of the Victorian era with the industrial age,” Jansen explained.
“It’s watch parts combined with vintage filigree and old tooling. Each piece is one of a kind, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Jansen describes her jewelry line as “upcycling,” transforming vintage, antique and sometimes just unexpected components into something interesting and beautiful — wearable art.
Each piece is unique, authentic and handcrafted, she said.
“I do not use anything that is reproduced with the exception of filigrees and stampings, however they are reproduced from molds originally used in the late 1880s,” she said. “Any stone or beadwork is genuine.”
Jansen also does custom work for clients who have something meaningful to them — like an old key from their childhood home — that they want made into something wearable.
Artistic Eye Always Looking for Ideas
Jansen said her use of shotgun casings in her jewelry line came from her continued eye to spot new and interesting “refound” objects that she could “upcycle” and “repurpose.”
“With the focus in our society on gun rights, women learning to shoot and hunt, conceal and carry and such, I was actually subconsciously seeing how this shotgun casing collection could soon play a major role in the fashion and accessory side of women and guns,” she said.
“Tactical, gun and ammo shops are making room in their retail stores for areas geared to women’s apparel, gear and accessories that cater to them specifically. You can purchase pink revolvers, leopard skin gun cases, purses with pockets for your handgun, bras with pistol pockets built in and so much more.”
Jansen’s naturally artistic vision saw how this so-called “armament” could be transformed into “ornament” and have great appeal to the women of today.
She uses that same approach with all of her other jewelry designs, always keeping her artistic eye open for new ideas.
Over the last six months, Jansen’s business has “skyrocketed,” with wholesale accounts from Alaska to Connecticut.
In St. Louis, The Key of A can be found exclusively at “The Curio Shoppe” on Cherokee Street.
With all of her retail success, Jansen continues to do shows.
She has been juried into one of the more premier art shows in St. Louis, “Art & Air” in Webster Groves. Last year she was invited to the Missouri Botancial Garden’s Best of Missouri Market and sold over $10,000 retail in less than two days.
Locally, Jansen will be one of the artists featured at Washington’s annual Art Fair and Wine Fest the weekend of May 19-21; She also will be at the Hermann Maifest; and at Washington’s annual Fall Festival of the Arts and Crafts.