Name: Benh Pham
Current City: Downtown Los Angeles
Hometown: Moreno Valley, CA
Occupation: Jewelry designer & metalsmith
YEAR 901 began with Benh producing jewelry as a side passion, working pop-ups on the weekend and metalsmithing in the evenings. Over time, she took a leap of faith and made it her full-time career, and she hasn't looked back since.
Read on to discover more of her journey.
In a few sentences, tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a jeweler, metalsmith and doer of all things at YEAR 901 currently living in downtown LA where there’s never a dull moment. I received a BA in Communications—Advertising from Cal State Fullerton before entering the corporate world working in marketing and then business development. Although it was fast paced and high stress, I enjoyed it while it lasted and learned a lot about work ethic and resilience. I also had a handful of mentors that helped push me way out of my comfort zone.
For a while, I worked a full-time job, made jewelry all hours of the night and vending at craft shows on the weekends. It was about 2 years and most of it was a blur. It was a tough decision to take on YEAR 901 full-time but it felt right. It’s been quite the journey but so so exciting and rewarding.
What's the origin story of Year901 and what are your goals for the future?
I often get questions about the name YEAR 901.
901 came from my old mentor, it was our street number and we used it for all of our projects. As I moved on and did different things I continued to use it. To me, it means taking what you’ve learned and applying it to the next part of life. My apartment number is 901 as well (a complete coincidence) and that’s where it all started.
Are you a self-taught jewelry maker, or did you take classes/workshops? If you took classes/workshops, which did you take?
When I first started YEAR 901, I was self-taught and a student of the Internet (still am). I learned by trial and error and by doing things the hard way (still do). Since then I try to take a few jewelry or ceramic classes a year at art centers, mostly to work alongside other makers. It feels more like a community when you have people to bounce ideas off of.
Where do you find inspiration for your pieces, and do you have a favorite?
When I’m not making shiny things, picking up supplies, prepping for shows… or constantly switching hats, I’m usually walking around DTLA with a film camera. Most of my inspiration comes from those walks. Some times I'll notice shapes on the sides of buildings, fun patterns on the ground, or things stacked in a unique way.
One of my favorite pieces is the loop necklace. It was probably 2am and my roommate had just come home from a night out. I had been working all night and she noticed my light on. As we were chatting, I was playing with a piece of wire (I have fidgety hands!), I looked down and that was the shape I unintentionally made.
It's funny how you can spend so much time trying to make the "right" thing, but sometimes the accidents are the best creations.
What's your dream collaboration?
A metalwork installation at a museum is a dream I didn’t know I had until this Q&A ☺
Are there any fun pop-ups/release of new products coming up that you’d like to readers to know about?
I’m working on more “things for your jewelry”. I released fun and colorful jewelry displays for your home. Check Instagram for more deets!
Discuss the importance of paying it forward.
Give more than you take and we all benefit.
If you could give one piece of advice to young individuals around the globe, what would it be and why?
Learn how to be by yourself and enjoy your own company. At the end of the day, you’re all you’ve got, so make sure you’re spending time getting to know thyself. And know thy worth.
Who are some of your greatest influences, and why?
My parents for immigrating from Vietnam with 3 kids and very little else. As I work on building my small business, I’m often reminded of their bravery and grit. I tell myself that if my parents were able to do this with 5 kids, I can get through this week with my head held high.
What/who are you grateful for?
I’m grateful for a life surrounded by people that I’m proud to know. For the countless sacrifices my family made so that I could have a better life.
What does empowerment mean to you?
For me it means taking full ownership of my life. The odds of becoming a human being is so rare—it is a true gift. I’m in control of what I do with mine. I want to enjoy the ride and laugh a lot along the way.
Do you have a personal mantra or quote that inspires you?
“I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and the unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.” – Frank Lloyd Wright