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Nikki Reed claims she’s shy to sing in front of people, but lately she just can’t help it: The actress and newlywed is grooving along to a reggae-pop song on the set of a photo shoot for a collaboration between her jewelry line, Mattlin Era, and 7 For All Mankind. In fact, she's belting out the tunes with so much feeling, you just want to help a sister out and hand her a hairbrush-slash-mic.
Her husband of almost two years, the musician Paul McDonald, is the not-so-secret sauce. (The two sing together on his recent album, The Best Part.) Plus, she's channeling their romance into something tangible, with her jewelry collection for the premium denim label, all based on this idea of love and connectivity. Between bites of her vegan meal and thumbing through iPhone pictures of her beloved dogs, she chatted exclusively with R29 on the inspiration behind her designs, her innate artistry, and her other love — Yahtzee.
You’re quite the triple threat (actress, singer, designer). Did you find this foray into jewelry to be a daunting process?
"No, I’ve always had a desire to design. My great grandmother on my father’s side was a jewelry designer and my grandmother is a ceramic-tile muralist; very much a pioneer in her own right. My whole family is filled with artists, actually — my brother is a painter, my dad is sculptor, and my mom is a beautician. I love creating and I wanted to make something tangible that I could hold and wear. Designing jewelry is a totally different form of expression. I actually do this all myself and someone later helps me draw to scale. When I got the call to do the collaboration with 7 For All Mankind, I was so excited. The phone call came at 8am; by 2pm I had a ton of drawings already done."
You and Paul sing and write songs together. Does he also get a say in the jewelry line?
"With the first collection, I was constantly bouncing ideas off of him. He loves to be involved in everything I do, down to what I wear everyday. We bounce everything off each other."
What’s the inspiration behind the collaboration?
"It’s all about love, so it just fits with what my life is right now. All Paul and I write about is love, so parts of about 20 little love notes I wrote are engraved on some of the jewelry."
Do you have a specific music look that you like to don while singing and performing on stage?
"I’m really into denim shirts. I got that from Paul, because he is the denim king. (He’s from Alabama so that makes sense!) Also, I love to wear a necklace under a collar. I was recently looking at a video of us singing in Nashville and I'm wearing a denim shirt with a necklace under the collar and cowboy hat and I thought, 'This is what I want to look like, this is my music look!'"
Was there a specific pair of 7 jeans that sparked some ideas for the jewelry?
"The jeans with a cool star pattern on them [the embellished lattice-print jean] inspired the Starry Knight necklace and earrings. I’m not one to do a lot of sparkles and glitter, but I thought this was a good way to do a star in a cool, angular way. The earrings feel like big clip-ons, which I like with my short hair. Also, I think it’s nice to make matching pieces."
How do you get inspired?
"It depends on what area I’m feeling creative in. When I’m writing, I feel inspired by what I’m surrounded by in nature or at a music festival. With jewelry, I like taking different patterns found in nature. Like, I love bees and a honeycomb pattern."
How do you like to wear your jewelry?
"It’s all about mixing metals for me. I can wear a really expensive ring and pair it with an inexpensive bangle or ring. Also, I like stacking my rings and mixing the look with metals — things that don’t necessarily go together. For example, my mom’s wedding band and my engagement ring couldn’t be any more different, but it’s about the meaning behind it all; I love being able tell the stories behind each piece. Paul and I made our wedding rings from scratch. It was a four-month process and I loved every minute of it."
It sounds like you and Paul make your time together really special. Describe your perfect day.
"I love to be outdoors. My dogs (100-pound European Shepherds) are my life. We do a lot of hiking, too. For example, on Valentine’s Day, Paul packed our bags and drove us up to Malibu to hike these waterfalls. We had a picnic, then went to Neptune’s Net to drink beer and eat fried food — my other favorite thing. I love fishing. We love music festivals. My New Year’s resolution was to be more social, because I isolate myself easily. For instance, yesterday I was at my dad’s house playing Yahtzee. I think at 24, it’s important for me to be more social."
Photographed by Jeff Lipsky