Mad Crushin' on Paraphernalia

I’ve been Mad Crushin’ on Paraphernalia‘s enchanting accoutrements for quite some time now, falling in love with several designs of hers that I have purchased for both myself and my girlfriends. Taken from the pages of childhood fairytales and 18th-century science books come ready to wear pieces of art for us girls who fancy wearing an Albertus Seba specimen along with our diamonds and pearls. The charming Ms. Vanda was sweet enough to chat with me about Paraphernalia and the inspirations for her creations.

+ How did you get started making jewelry?

I’d always wanted to do something, some sort of art, since I was child. I tried all the usual crafts before letting my love of vintage illustrations take over. I had quite an extensive collection due to some Zine-making adventures a few years past, and realized no one was using them like I wanted to! So I started experimenting, and Paraphernalia was born!

+ Where did you grow up? Did it influence your designs?

I grew up is Cascais, Portugal, about 10 minutes from the sea and 30 minutes from Lisbon. I live in the UK now, and I think I’m more Portuguese than ever! Both my parents were scientists when I was growing up – my Mother is still a Biologist, and my Father the captain of a research ship. I grew up surrounded by scientific and astronomic charts and maps, and I can definitely see that coming out in the work I do!

+ What is your design process?

Sometimes I’ll have an idea and go hunting through my images to bring it about, but mostly I just fall in love with some images and then I’ll have to use them, the images themselves informing my design. For example, the Fauna brooch collection came about because I had so many animal pictures that had funny or amusing expressions on their faces that I had to design something around them. The Migration collection was designed during a particularly bad bout of cabin fever, and the Moving collection appeared fully formed in my mind while walking to the supermarket!

I have the slightly OCD thing of having to design collections and not single pieces, so they all usually came about through a whole night’s process – sometimes five, sometimes ten pieces at a time, though I’ve broken that rule a couple of times. I can’t help it, I have to have a theme and consistency throughout. I have beautiful images I’ll probably never use since they can’t be incorporated into a collection.

vanda link

+ What sorts of things fascinate you?

The intricacies of the images I collect – I honestly think it’s becoming a lost art. Masks, fauna and flora charts and maps – I’m obsessed with maps! Taxidermy, though I think I might like it more in theory than in practice. I love, and collect, anatomical drawings, toys, models, charts, anything I can get my hands on. Milagros, ex-votos and all religious kitsch. Curiosity cabinets. Hands – I collect them as well!

+ What have been your favorite pieces out of your collections and why?

The Anatomica Heart was my first creation, it has remained a best seller and it’s one of my favourites, even if it’s a pain to cut! It’s still the one I wear most. I really like my new Scientia Collection, especially the Medica necklace, because the combination between the skeleton and the pearls is somewhat unexpected.

+ Are there any other jewelry designers or fashion designers you admire?

I love Imogene and Annie, Sudlow, Star of the East and Madame Fortuna on Etsy – I appreciate originality but as I usually wear my own pieces I tend not to look to much at other jewellery designers! 😉 I don’t really follow the designers of big fashion houses – I tend to find the whole obsession a little boring. My on-line stalking tends to stick to illustrators and artists, like Allison Sommers, Matt Cipov, Berkeley Illustration, Caitlin Quiet, Bombus, Magic Jelly and Aussiepatches. I want to have like a million of their babies!

vanda link

+ What are your other interests and hobbies?

What I do is a pretty much full-time obsession, but I do read a lot of comics, watch a lot of DVDs (while working as well!) and could probably spend my entire day reading design blogs. I have a thing for typography and product design, and I love photography – it would be what I’d do if I had another life!

+ When you started Paraphernalia was it just a side project? Did you anticipate it becoming so popular?

Very much so, and never in my dreams! Well, that’s not true – I didn’t start a shop expecting it to fail! 😉 I was doing a PhD in History at the time and loathing every minute of it – I’d taken my BA and MA in Religions and Theology, which is a much more lively and interesting subject, and was in desperate need of a creative outlet. I was giving some serious thought as to how I could give up my scholarship but not get stuck in the limbo that comes with having an MA (the plan has always been to become an university lecturer), so I opened up an Etsy shop and tried it out with five Anatomica necklaces. It took off after a couple of months, and it’s been growing ever since!

+ On the path to starting your own company what sorts of challenges did you face?

Customer service! Don’t believe any seller (especially on-line) that says they delight in it, it’s not true. Most customers are complete angels, but a few make you want to throw the computer out of the window. The joys of the postal service losing packages can be a daily struggle, and a very frustrating one since it’s totally out of your control. Not being able to switch off, not even on holiday – you can just go to bed for the night and you’ll have a full inbox by morning! However, the perks are considerably superior to the hassles – I set my own schedule, don’t have a boss, don’t have to commute, and I get to do something I love – even if it’s cutting the 1000th Goldfish! There are people all over the World wearing something I made, and that’s a feeling you can’t beat!


+ What advice would you give someone who wants to start selling his or her own creations?

Be as original as you can possibly be – I know it’s easier to copy someone who’s selling well, but you’d be letting yourself down, and, well, it’s just wrong! Try to make your work instantly recognizable, it’s the best marketing tool you can have. Social networking sites can work extremely well for promotion, and familiarize yourself with wonderful blogs like Modish, Decor8, Design for Mankind, Creature Comforts, Design is Mine, Mixed Plate, Indie Fixx and Poppytalk – then write to them about your products! Blogs, not traditional press, are the ones that will bring in more sales, every time.

+ What’s coming up next for the wonderful world of Paraphernalia?

Ooh, the Wonderland Collection is going live in a couple of days! I’m pretty excited about this one, since I’m a huge fan of Tenniel’s illustrations. There’s even a bit of glitter! I have ten Fauna bracelets making their debut at the beginning of September as well. The biggest thing, though, (for me!) is that we’re moving back to Portugal around April next year, to downtown Lisbon! Can hardly wait! 🙂


Paraphernalia jewelry will not only make you look like even more of a stunna, but it’s affordable too! And on top of that, readers get 10% off! Just go to and enter the discount code: HELLOLOVER at checkout!

Have a great weekend everyone!