Featured Designer Mikaila Kalinowski

Experience the raw and natural talents of Jewelry Designer and Maker, Mikaila Kalinowski!

I first met Mikaila, also a native San Franciscan, when we were 3 years old in preschool and even from a young age, her talent and creativity was apparent and contagious! So when she began designing and making her own jewelry, I knew she was going to be a success! Although she is now based in Portland, Oregon, her talent crosses state lines and her ability to take raw metals and turn them into something absolutely beautiful is magical. Tiffany who?




INSPIRARE:  Who is Mikaila and what is your design aesthetic?

Mikaila Jewelry Designs is a handmade jewelry collection based in Portland, OR. I use sterling silver, gold, and handpicked semi-precious gemstones in my work. My designs are meant to make you feel your most beautiful! Thus my line incorporates pieces meant to adorn your body, little things you never take off, as well as larger distinctive pieces that make you feel one of a kind. Mikaila Jewelry Designs is elegant, natural, and a little bohemian.

INSPIRARE:  How did you get started in jewelry making? What made you decide to become a jewelry designer?

I was introduced to jewelry design in high school. I attended a high school with a unique shop program. I took courses in metals, wood, and glass, but immediately fell in love when I took jewelry fabrications. I loved the process of designing, planning, and creating with my hands. I later took a semester off college to apprentice with Aimee Golant and David Casella, two incredible San Francisco metal artists. With their mentorship my passion for jewelry designs was solidified. I absolutely love it!


INSPIRARE: What is your favorite piece and what’s the inspiration behind that design?

I recently made a necklace for a close friend. An avid traveler, she wanted a piece of jewelry made with a stone she acquired in South Africa. I was immediately excited about this project because my friend has a few constellations tattooed across her shoulders and back and this particular stone has a moon-like shape. Wanting the design to be uniquely hers, I thought to hang the stone like a moon amongst the stars. I am very happy with the necklace!

INSPIRARE: What themes inspire your design aesthetic? What is inspiring you right now?

I am very inspired by the materials I work with, particularly gemstones. Right now I have been enjoying working with organically shaped gems, such as agate slices and crystals. Their natural shape lends to one of a kind designs. I am also very much influenced by Navajo silver and turquoise jewelry, as well as traditional Tibetan and Ethiopian jewelry.


INSPIRARE: When it comes to your designing, how do you get started?

My designs usually begin with a person, a stone, or a thought as I’m falling asleep. I love doing commissioned work, designing a piece for a particular person. The process involves combining their request, their personality, and my design aesthetic into one unique piece. Its a really fun challenge! I also enjoy hunting for inspiring stones that fit in with my line’s aesthetic and spark an interesting design idea. Occasionally, as I am falling asleep I will formulate design ideas. Something about this half conscious state is very creative, but I have to jump up and draw a picture or the design might be lost by morning!

INSPIRARE: Do you have a trick to battle ‘designer’s block’?

Designers block is tough. To get past it, I usually start by cleaning my space. Oddly enough, this clears my mind and allows me to refresh. I will go through scrap materials, look for inspiring stones, and draw on my usual influences as well as seek new ones. In general, I don’t worry about it and I remind myself that creativity always comes back!


INSPIRARE: Do you have a style icon? Who?

Most recently I have been loving Pheobe and Annette Stephens, sister jewelry designers. Their jewelry line is incredible and their personal style is really rad.

INSPIRARE: What piece of clothing can you not live without?

My grandmother gave me her vintage Ralph Lauren Country wool coat. I wear it almost everyday, I love it! 


INSPIRARE: What city would you love to live in?

I would love to live in the Southwest. There is a thriving artistic community that jewelry is a big part of. I would love the opportunity to learn more about Navajo and Southwestern native american jewelry in general. There is also an amazing energy in the area and the landscape couldn’t be more beautiful. 

INSPIRARE: If you could meet anybody in the world, past or present, who would it be? 

Led Zeppelin! Thats more than one person, but I have to cheat here!


[Because you everyone has tried to play this on guitar at one point in their life]


  • Kate vanzanten

    Wonderful article!! I love your work!

  • Abigail

    Well I hope you are commenting on both my writing, but more over, Mikaila’s work! Thank you on behalf of both of us! I love the organic feel of Mikaila’s jewelry. You can see and feel how much work, attention to detail, and more importantly, love, she puts into every piece. We love her!