Pebbles worn smooth over time, tendrils shaping themselves as they climb and twist: these are the objects that inspire local designer Tanya Stiegler, whose carefully handcrafted jewelry often follows forms provided by nature.

A kayaking and hiking enthusiast, Stiegler finds inspiration in the outdoors, where colors, shapes, and sounds spark her creativity. She then translates these into wearable art—think long, spirally earrings, pendants in 14k or 18k gold, or necklace clasps in sterling silver. Like little sculptures, no two pieces in the Tendril collection are exactly alike. A left dangle earring differs from its right. One pendant spirals tightly, while another unwinds from a chain.

One of Stiegler’s most popular collections, the Fizz series, is inspired “by the way water tumbles over rocks in a stream and air bubbles fizz up,” she says. The collection includes earrings, pendants, and signature rings, where precious metal, the fizz, surrounds massive gemstones like labradorite in rich blues and greens.

But she’s not only collaborating with the natural world in her designs. Stielger finds inspiration in other place-based muses: the old water tower at Hampton Station is the subject of a series of photography prints and notecards (she’s a photographer, too), and is manifested through precious metals in earrings, necklaces, and key rings. Last year, inspired by her Hampton Station neighbors, she created a Birds Fly South antiqued brass key ring featuring the brewery’s signature logo.

Photography by Eli Warren.

Stiegler’s OpenHearted series highlights hearts cast in 18k yellow gold, her “most sentimental” design, based on a gold heart locket her mother gifted her as a young girl. Unlike her organic, one-of-a-kind tendril designs, this series is created using a CAD program, digital software which lends itself to precision, symmetry, and the ability to make exact multiples easily.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Stiegler grew up in a creative household, where making things—from cross-stitching to fashioning pushpin-and-sequin Christmas ornaments—were regular activities. Her skills were strengthened at Guilford College, and a beginning metalsmithing course at Philadelphia College of Art, as well as an internship with designer Shirley Gobble Merriott, refined her craft and business sensibilities.

The artisan maker has worked at various retail jewelry locations. After a detour in the kayaking industry, she returned to jewelry as a goldsmith at llyn strong for eight years until she launched her own studio. Her 24-year metal- and gold-smithing background honed her attention to each material’s unique properties and “what they like to do.” This knowledge informs her designs, where she maximizes the metal’s natural tendencies.

Art is often a solitary process, and Stiegler enjoys the creative camaraderie afforded by having her studio in a thriving, collaborative atmosphere. “It’s exciting to have a sense of place here at Hampton Station and be enveloped in its history,” she says. “Being part of this creative community of artists and entrepreneurs means you’re surrounded by problem solvers. It’s an energizing experience.”

For more information, visit tanyastieglerdesigns.com, or visit her studio at Art Up Studios at Hampton Station, 1320 Hampton Avenue, Greenville.