Hi there. I’m Alison Stein, president of Alison Wonderland Jewelry Corp. I’m based in New York City, and since all creative people inevitably end up in Brooklyn, my studio is in DUMBO — that’s Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Underpass in idiotic urban acronym parlance.
In the photo that you see here, I am on the roof of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, holding a honeycomb teeming with live bees. That has nothing to do with my jewelry, but I think it’s a fun picture.
*Drop me a note at alisonstein at gmail.com.
*If you’d like to buy my jewelry, head over to my store.
About Alison Wonderland Jewelry
Alison Wonderland Jewelry makes unique, handmade jewelry that are each small stories. I like to call it “narrative jewelry,” which to me means wearable significance, meaning, insight. The jewelry I make commemorates and communicates something significant: about you, about the world, about life. Sometimes this message is funny, sometimes it’s irreverent — but it’s always witty and beautiful. The guiding principle of Alison Wonderland Jewelry was articulated by the Duchess in Alice in Wonderland: “everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.”
Much of my jewelry includes words. This is because for a very loooooong long time — like almost twenty years — I made my living exclusively as a writer. (I still do write, actually, but only take assignments very selectively these days.)
Over the years, I wrote tens of thousands of words for many different magazines, newspapers and websites, including American Archaeology, Glamour, Inc., Mother Jones, The Toronto Star, The Washington Post, Yoga Journal, among other places. I even wrote some books and contributed to some anthologies, of which I’m particularly proud. In Leave the Lipstick, Take the Iguana: Funny Travel Stories and Strange Packing Tips, a Traveler’s Tales anthology, you’ll find my essay, Naked with a Passport — on a visit to a spa that went awry. I was also honored to be included in Best Women’s Travel Writing, where you’ll find my essay “The Heat Seeker” — on pursuing the spiciest food I could handle. Read some more of my writing here.
My specialty was travel writing, and let me tell ya: that didn’t suck. But one can tire of nearly anything, even delicious dumplings in Shanghai, safaris in South Africa and luxury hotels on every continent.
Mostly, I found myself tiring of moving pixels around a screen, and craved something more tactile.
In 2013, I took a sabbatical from travel writing and studied art and craft at The Art Students League, The School of Visual Arts, The National Academy Museum and School, The Fashion Institute of Technology, The Center for Book Arts, The 92nd Street Y, and other places around New York city.
At first, I heavily flirted with other art forms – especially printmaking and bookbinding– but when I first sat down at a jewelry bench I knew I’d found my next creative home.
In retrospect, this should have been totally obvious path, since jewelry is both in my nature and my nurture. My maternal grandparents owned a jewelry store in Krakow, Poland, and after World War II, in the Bronx, after which my Grandma Anne worked at the jewelry counter at B. Altman’s, one of New York City’s great department stores. Her jewelry box set an early standard by which I still judge any jewelry box I rummage through today. My other grandmother, Grandma Gert, was a devoted and expert estate sale/garage sale/thrift store shopper — I use the lessons I learned from her when I source many of the components I turn into jewelry today.
On the nurture side, I’d always made it a habit to seek out local jewelry artists everywhere I traveled, starting with my first trip abroad to Paris, where I bought a beautiful emerald green and purple glass in the Marais. I’m often drawn to beautiful pieces made from less-than-precious materials, so my personal jewelry collection includes carved stone pieces from New Zealand, a wooden saint bracelet from Honduras, a necklace made of lava from Iceland, an intricately pierced silver ring from India — all of which have influenced my own designs as I make my own jewelry.
I think it’s thrilling that jewelry encompasses so many different techniques – carving, etching, embroidery, weaving. (The reality is my artistic practice still is very diverse and includes many different types of media. ) While I don’t fondle honey bee hives any more, as pictured above, but I now regularly use bad-ass equipment like torches and polishers that could totally take your fingers off if you’re not careful.
My business started with three not-very high falutin’ words: Fuck This Shit. I handstamped it onto a keychain for myself, in a moment of total frustration. The story is here. People started asking me for them. And the business was born.
I design and make all the pieces myself at my DUMBO studio. I work hard to source sustainable and environmentally-friendly materials, and to create accessories that tell a story.
About the name Alison Wonderland Jewelry. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have always been in my consciousness, since more than a few children and a shocking number of adults think they are the first to notice the similarities between my first name and the name of Lewis Carroll’s books.
As it happens, throughout my life, I’ve been influenced by Alice’s sense of curiosity and adventure — when I launched this blog a decade ago, I named it A Very Curious Mind in homage to Alice. (It originally had the tagline “curiouser and curiouser,” which I still use in my Twitter bio.)
Carroll’s stories are interesting and funny, disturbing and weird, profound and beautiful — which are words that also happen to describe everything I love in this world. These are the qualities that I hope to bring to each piece of jewelry I make.
About Very Curious Mind
I initially started this blog as an online portfolio for my writing, and a place to share the interesting material that didn’t make it into my published work. It also turned out to be a great place to publish short pieces on subjects I couldn’t or wouldn’t want to place elsewhere.
Over the years, the topics I’ve focused on here have shifted with my career. Initially, there was a lot about demographics and business, then women’s health, then travel, then personal essays — and now I’m mostly interested in art and jewelry. Besides my curiosity, the common thread through it all has been my deep and abiding interest in creativity, the creative process and running a creative business, topics I continue to write about here today.