RONY VARDI & LEIGH PLESSNER

RONY VARDI & LEIGH PLESSNER

MADE IN BROOKLYN

Catbird founder Rony Vardi and general manager Leigh Plessner — co-creative directors of the jewelry and accessories brand— recall building the in-house design studio that became a pillar of their company.

A painted mirror inside Catbird’s Williamsburg, Brooklyn headquarters

Some of the brand’s products — rings, a candle, and a matchbook — on an office conference table

RONY VARDI: We had one jeweler [in Catbird’s old studio], who would be clanging away while we were trying to conduct business. It was always so loud.

LEIGH PLESSNER: Back then, we were only selling as much as we could make. The company needed a space that would allow it to flourish, but was not too far away from our store [in Williamsburg, Brooklyn].

RV: You and I looked at tons of places over six months, but this was actually the first one we saw.

Catbird’s jewelers at work

Rony Vardi and Leigh Plessner inside the in-house jewelry studio they built

LP: We moved here in January 2013. Though we don’t have jewelry backgrounds, we know what we like, and worked with our production manager, Candice [Lathrop], on building our new jewelry studio. She designed it and sorted logistics like what equipment we needed, how many people to hire, and what we could actually produce.

RV: It was a slow, organic process.

LP: When we first moved in, there were only five jewelers.

RV: It took years to build our current team [of 20].

LP: But all along, we knew what needed to be accomplished in that room, which was helpful. We had tons of ideas.

Safety precautions decorate the room’s walls

A maze of pipes provides the space with proper ventilation

RV: Before, we were daunted by our own imaginations, but now you and I can explore, design, and make things we’d always dreamt about. Seeing our new studio full of talented people creating things for the first time was an extremely powerful and amazing feeling.

LP: My great-grandfather used to work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. When I told my grandfather — who grew up in the area — that we set up shop nearby, it blew his mind. All he wanted to do was get out of here.

RV: But our set-up is so perfect, I can barely imagine another one.

— as told to The Thick

Did you see? Designer Isaac Mizrahi shares favorite baubles from his stash of Eisenberg costume jewelry, accessories designer Paulina Liffner von Sydow takes The Thick Questionnaire.

Jewelry castings are organized in drawers before being polished and soldered, all photography by Bramble Trionfo