Fashion Q&A: Jewelry Designer Megan Kaltenbach

September 2013

When putting together this month's style page, I was looking for items that had just the right dose of cool-girl attitude fit for fall music festivals. Local jewelry designer Megan Kaltenbach—and her tribal necklace—hit all the right notes. Her made-by-hand pieces deftly fuse Southwestern spirit with rock 'n' roll attitude. I recently chatted with Kaltenbach about how she got into jewelry making, her materials of choice, and her inspirations.

5280: How did you start making jewelry?

Megan Kaltenbach: I moved to New York City in 2008 to model, and that really sparked my love for fashion. Working in showrooms and seeing new lines and trends gave me the urge to be creative. One day, I decided to make a necklace for myself to add some individuality to my outfit. (It was also easier on my budget!) When I began receiving compliments on my pieces from the various showrooms I modeled in, as well as people on the street, that’s when I thought maybe I should start doing this as a business.

5280: From start to finish, how long does it take to produce a piece?

Once the design is set and the materials are chosen, it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to make a piece. It can take about three to six months [to complete a line], from finding the materials to getting the design right. All the pieces have to work together so your line can tell a story. 

5280: Are there certain materials you gravitate toward?

I like working with semi-precious stones like amber, coral, turquoise, and agate. I personally handpick all the stones in my line, and nothing is bought in bulk. For example, my agate is real Grade A agate. I want my customer to know they're buying something real, that’s handmade, and at a good price point. A lot of stuff out there is the same price as mine but made with faux turquoise, plastic agate, or fake amber.

5280: What inspires you to create a new piece of jewelry?

Nature, photography, fashion, ad campaigns, the mountains, the ocean, the way someone styles an outfit, vintage pieces, and family—the list goes on and on.

5280: What's exciting you in fashion right now?

Fashion is constantly changing and there are so many things I love about it, but right now I'm inspired by leather. I love that it's clean and you can easily combine your own accessories with it. I also think leather is timeless; unlike most trends, you can always wear it, just change the way you style it.

Pictured: leather turquoise necklace, $115; palm tree bead-and-agate necklace, $130; mixed-media bracelets, starting at $38; mkaltenbach.com

Follow fashion editor Georgia Benjou on Twitter at @gabenjou & Pinterest at /gabenjou.