Being the web guy here at JCK magazine has put me into contact with jewelry industry professionals who aren’t necessarily big names. Whether talking to the next generation taking over the family business or a social media guru on mastering new marketing media, gazing into the bright future of the jewelry industry has easily been my favorite part of the job.
I reached out to Coco Corral, a jewelry designer from Biddeford, Maine, to ask her about the an unusual piece she created, a money clip for Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston. Her answers to all my questions were so inspired and honest that I couldn’t help but share them in full.
Oh yeah, and the money clip is #badass.
JCK: How did you get into making jewelry?
Coco Corral: I have always loved adornment and accentuating natural details and self-expression through fashion.
I was halfway through my freshman year at Rhode Island School of Design, and they informed us that it was time to pick a major. Some kids knew exactly and unquestionably what they meant to study, but I kind of loved everything.
I loved drawing, printmaking had the process I craved but it felt more drawn towards 3-D. Ceramics seemed interesting, but felt too malleable. Glassblowing had the elemental and scientific elements, but the thought of the marriage of sculpture and adornment and I knew I was home. I might not have known since the beginning of (my) time that I wanted to be a metalsmith, but once I figured it out, it was the most natural and familiar course of action.
After studying at Rhode Island School of Design for a while, I wanted something more. And through a very spontaneous action, I decided to attend the University of New Mexico. It was amazing. It was my destiny. I loved all of it. I loved the art school, and I also got to study Spanish and Navajo language, Flamenco dance, geology, astronomy, and computer science—so many elements that added to my design sense and general sense of well being.
JCK: What are your specialties?
CC: I love rings. I really do. I love the accent on the hand and how it catches the eye during the day. Hands are so expressive. I love to design really, really big rings—and really, really small rings. I love hearing that I’ve converted someone to the joy of large ring wearing! Once you start, it’s hard to stop.
JCK: What’s your most memorable design/sale?
CC: At the risk of stating the ridiculously obvious, custom jewelry feels very personal and intimate. Working with someone to create something that they’re excited about, either for themselves or to give as a gift—it’s one of my most favorite things. So it’s hard to pick my most memorable experience.
Not this past February, but the February before, we learned that Esperanza Spalding would wear one of my designs to the 2012 Academy Awards. It was a whirlwind of talking with handlers and stylists and getting things to where they needed to be in time, and [we] ultimately didn’t have a whole lot of details to how the evening would go. So we settled back to watch the awards show…and watched and watched and watched…and didn’t see Ms. Spalding anywhere.
Feeling a bit disheartened I was getting ready to just write it off, and then after a break the show returned to this beautiful woman standing on a darkened stage, in a flowing white gown, with a stunning crown of hair and she started to sing, lifting her hand near her face, and on her hand was my ring! Oh my lord, she was so incredible and singing this incredibly moving version of “It’s a Wonderful World” for the In Memoriam [tribute] at the Oscars, and emoting and gesturing with my massive agate heart ring on her hand. I watched it with tears streaming down my face. It was tremendous and a tremendous honor.
Esperanza Spalding at the 2012 Academy Awards wearing the ring designed for her by CoCo Corral. (Photos courtesy of Coco Corral)
JCK: How did the opportunity to make a money clip for Bryan freakin’ Cranston come up? Tell me every last morsel of detail.
CC: Oh man! I know, right?
A little background: We moved to Maine from Portland, Ore. It was kind of a nutty move mostly because of a family tragedy that happened right at that time, so [there were] a lot of changes all at once. I only mention this because, in relation to the project, it was at a time that I was just finally able to kind of see myself again when I looked in the mirror and not just a haze of owie-ness—which was so nice. So, the memory of this awesome money clip initially returned to me in fits and starts. And when I sat down and really thought about it, it was almost a surprise—like “Wow, wait a minute, I did that!”
At any rate…Pulp Fiction, it’s a great movie. There’s that scene where Jules convinces Pumpkin to return his wallet to him. And that was the inspiration for the money clip design—a solid sterling silver clip with the “Bad Mofo” phrase. I added a rose gold heart because, well, because. Sportswear International Magazine ran a bit on it and there was some activity around that.
One day, roughly five years ago, we’re contacted by Gail Smerigan, a VP at Albuquerque Studios asking if we could customize the clip with the logo for a show that they’ve just completed the pilot for. They were excited about the show and felt like it was something special. She explained that the logo had the periodic chart symbols for barium and bromine, two elements involved in methamphetamine.
I’m thinking, “Cool! I like science! I like the periodic table! I love Albuquerque! I don’t know much about methamphetamine, and I’m kind of scared of intense shows, but I’m way game!”
After we talked, my husband and I interweb-surfed over the Albuquerque Studios site and the first photo that pops up is Samuel L. Jackson standing arm in arm with a bunch of the studio folk, and I’m all, “Oh my god, I’m making a Bad Mofo money clip for the absolute king bad mofo his own damn self!” So, I spend the next few hours trying to figure out how to ask if it is for Mr. Jackson, and can I get his autograph. And somehow I did ask and was told that no, Sam Jackson was at the studios for a project, but this is a gift for Bryan Cranston, the star of this new show called Breaking Bad.
At the time, I was a bit disappointed. I didn’t know of the actor Bryan Cranston. And now there isn’t hardly more of a bad mofo in recent pop culture history than the bad mofo-ness of [his character] Walter White. Holy moly, we could not be more thrilled and proud! It’s amazing!
Bryan Cranston’s “Breaking Bad” money clip.
JCK: How do you incorporate social media into what you do?
I really like Instagram for the immediacy and visual impact, both my personal Facebook page and our lovinganvil [blog] page are a good way to get the word out and stay in touch. I go to Twitter more as a barometer—to see what people are raging about. I love the idea of Twitter but haven’t mastered the art of 140-character quips. Most of my points are developed through rambling backstory—in case you haven’t noticed—and there’s no room for backstory on Twitter. I’ll keep trying.
Instagram is my current favorite. We use it for sneak previews of new work, to announce giveaways and contests, show custom orders as they’re finished, and give little peeks into our everyday stuff.
JCK: If you could design jewelry for another actor or TV show, who or what would it be?
CC: Well, Heisenberg is quite alright.
But the first person that comes to mind is Elvis. Oh man, if I could have, that is right up my alley. I didn’t even realize how much of an Elvis fan I was until we meandered our way into Graceland during a Memphis visit. It was glorious. Totally inspiring!
A pinkie ring for Robert De Niro! An elaborate bracelet for Danny Trejo! Something mischievous for Rihanna. Anything for Pam Grier! I also think of Frida Kahlo. Again, not at all an actor. Or alive. But that would be a dreamy collaboration. I know I can make absolutely anything out of metal—with time, and attention, and mental space—and it seems to me like she could think of anything. We could collaborate while drinking tequila.