Creative Quarantine: Artist/Jewelry Designer Marla Wallerstein

Lord bless You and Protect You | © Marla Wallerstein

1. How are you holding up?

Luckily I can say I’m in a decent place because the people in my life are safe, and have been (thank the universe) thus far spared of sickness. Right now, that is all that really matters. The notion of essential has been called to the forefront of all our decision making. What trip out into the world is essential, what interaction is essential, what purchase is essential, who’s work is essential… before this hit essential was obscured by desire and what we need to do to fulfill wants beyond the essential. Even if you were struggling for the essential, the life of wants was dangling before you at every turn. Right now, I’m good with the essential and grateful for the basics – health, shelter, food, people I love.

Light Before Darkness Before Light | © Marla Wallerstein

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

Yes, absolutely, it’s affected my work in every way. I started this work in 2008 making pieces that addressed my need to fortify my own sense of optimism and hope. It was these Hebrew pieces, excerpts of prayer, little mantras, that to be honest, I made from my own need to believe in good and better happening. All amulets are like that, they only have power if the wearer ascribes them power. In this situation, those pieces make the most sense and I’ve gone back to them, the first pieces, to highlight at this time. Ultimately, I’ve been buoyed by the resilience of others’ ability to continue to celebrate life events and each other. People find their way to my work and gift each other and themselves these special pieces because of their meaning and/or the feeling they get from wearing them. That has been the most affirming blessing (and economic lifeline) I could never have predicted and am eternally grateful for. For a while, I’ve been wanting to start an offshoot of my brand, not saying what it will be yet, but taking this time to design and structure that as well.

This Too Shall Pass | © Marla Wallerstein

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?

I’ve probably taken away more than I’ve added, actually, I believe that may be the answer. Again, the idea/question of what we/I can do without, what is essential? If I can carry this way of thinking forward in all respects I believe it will continue to serve the work and all other endeavors.

Necklace | © Marla Wallerstein

4. Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?

There are a few! Reyes Witt, owner of Assembly Creators Market in Evanston has been a light of optimism, motivation, and reinvention. She’s an artist/designer by training who left the executive/corporate world of merchandising and accessory design to create her own brand and then venture into owning an Evanston brick and mortar featuring designer brands, like myself.
She has been a whirling dervish of nonstop promotion, and a champion for local retail. She’s transitioned to online sales as the focal point of her business and creates opportunities while giving back. I feel lucky to be in her orbit and offerings.
Chicago Musician Nino Arobelidze (aka Girl Named Nino) is constantly creating and putting out beautiful music from her home studio. She’s a delight and will keep you wanting for more of her grooves. Her YouTube channel is a must follow as well as her Instagram .
Blacksmith artist/architectural staircase designer David Green is another artist who literally keeps grinding away throughout this time, [check out] his website & Instagram.
It’s the endless work and optimism that runs through these three very different artists that inspire and keep others going… even if they don’t always feel their influence – it’s there!
Speaking of that – you also keep this ball of wax going, keep people connected, and keep putting out great content and art. THANK YOU @estheticlens!

Marla Wallerstein is the artist-designer behind the jewelry & leather accessories brand MarLa studio (  Her collections of jewelry are infused with meanings both literal and symbolic with a rock-n-roll vibe, elevating your look, and mood. Everything in the collection is handcrafted and designed to effortlessly transform the ordinary and transmit a sense of confidence… think the strength of a lion with the swagger of Jagger.

“None of us has skin thick enough for this world. We put on some metal and leather and feel transformed, a bit more prepared for whatever may come.”  – Marla