Sweet Hyena is a handmade jewelry line started by YiRan Carroll. With a diverse background in design and technology, YiRan weaves simplicity and wearability into elegant, contemporary pieces. Her inspiration springs from a multitude of sources including mythology, nature, astronomy, linguistics, and geometry. Every piece is designed and handmade in her Queens, New York studio. We had the opportunity to chat with YiRan last week. Read our interview below, then be sure to check out her beautiful jewelry collection here.
How was Sweet Hyena born?
Sweet Hyena was born out of the desire to create things with my hands. I have expressed myself through visual art, and after working in advertising for several years I wanted to return to my roots of making stuff by hand. I was incredibly inspired by the beautiful African landscape when I went on safari in South Africa a few years ago. (That’s also where the name Sweet Hyena comes from.) The trip inspired me in several different ways: to start my own business, in the designs of my jewelry, and it also to donate a portion of my profits to African Wildlife Foundation, and organization which helps preserve the breathtaking African landscape and the incredible wildlife.
In a few words, how would you describe your business?
I would describe the jewelry designs as: handmade, raw, and minimalist. I would describe my business practices as: compassionate, ethical, and personable.
You have a diverse background in design and tech - what led you to jewelry?
I have always loved to make things with my hands. While I was working in technology, I missed the tactile part of a design process. I love that with jewelry, I can design and craft something entirely by hand. There are so many different ways you can make one piece jewelry, and each jeweler has her own process which is reflected in the style. There’s something so beautiful about that. I get to be both the designer and the maker. It's very satisfying to spend time to design something, turn it into a polished final product, and send it off to someone who will treasure it.
What's your favorite part of your job?
I love the ideation stage the best. That’s when I come up with a new collection and dream up new shapes and textures. I love sketching out hundreds of ideas and discovering the pattern—what the essence of the collection will be.
Favorite materials and why?
I really love mixing metals together, as in the Artifact (Pima) Necklace. I think it’s a cool advantage of using raw metals—the ability to mix metals and let their color and patina evolve over time.
Where do you seek inspiration?
Nature and minimalism inspires my overall style and tone, and I always feel inspired when I encounter a new material or process of making. If I see someone styling or wearing their jewelry in a unique way, it inspires me as well.
Any advice for creatives just starting out?
When starting out, it’s common to feel overwhelmed with knowledge, and it feels like there’s a huge gap between where you are and where you want to be. My advice is to start somewhere—anywhere—and not put too much pressure on yourself to “do it right.” If you start somewhere and keep going, you’ll learn and improve a lot on the way. Your own style will emerge. It’s great to look at others for inspiration, but also know that if you keep at your craft, you’ll definitely develop your own unique style that is different from your favorite designers. You have your own unique style and voice, which will inspire others as well.
Favorite artist, living or dead?
I love this poet named Edna St. Vincent Millay. One of my favorite poems by her is:
“My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!”
Be sure to check out YiRan's beautiful assortment of essential jewelry pieces here.