– By Cheantay Jensen
Ani Gabrielson was 16 when she made her first sterling silver ring. She crafted it with a friend who had learned how to do it from his grandfather, a silversmith in Utah. They spent hours in her friend’s basement, hand-cutting stone, hammering metal and torching it into wearable pieces of art.
“I wasn’t very good at it… but I was super proud of it,” she said of her ring, “I remember I wore it every day.”
Today, Gabrielson recreates that same experience at her shop, The Hellbent Silversmith, a jewelry business and silversmith workshop in the heart of Downtown’s East Village Arts District. The process, she says, is nearly identical to what she learned back in Utah, but now, as a seasoned silversmith and jewelry maker, she unveils the centuries-old craft to curious newcomers across Southern California, with some traveling up from as far as San Diego to give it a go, she says.
And, at $90 a person per class, it’s an ideal experience to enjoy with your partner for Valentine’s Day (or with your best friend if this is a Galentine’s kind of year). Not only will you get to learn a new craft, but you’ll also walk out with a new sterling silver accessory that’s uniquely yours.
The silversmithing workshop as designed by Gabrielson is very approachable and split into three sections.
The first is all about creating your bezel setting, which is the metal casing used to hold your gem. The second part involves carefully attaching your bezel-set gem to the band. Lastly, you’ll get to clean and polish. The two-and-a-half-hour long classes are intimate, with about 4 to 6 guests at a time, and are delightfully tactile. You’ll get to pummel metal with small hammers, bend and shape the silver, and solder it all together yourself.
Some aspects of the workshop may feel more intimidating than other parts—anything with fire is both exhilarating and daunting—but the fun and easy-going nature of the class is a clear extension of Gabrielson’s own passion for the craft.
“I think [silversmithing] it’s one of those spaces where I can completely turn everything off. Especially as a business owner, I feel like my brain never stops thinking about what I need to do next. My to-do list is endless,” she said. “So even though it’s work, silversmithing feels like play.”
Her work has also inspired many other women to take up the artform. All three of her apprentices are women who got their start taking her silversmithing workshops and now teach the classes themselves.
“The entire operation is run by women, so if you’re supporting us, you’re supporting a women-operated business which is pretty cool. I feel like there’s not a lot [of silversmithing businesses] that are 100% women owned and operated,” Gabrielson said.
Years before Gabrielson would take the plunge to start Hellbent Silversmith, she’d spend many late nights after long days at her corporate job smithing rings and other jewelry in her apartment. In 2020, with a little more free time on her hands, she decided to start an online Etsy business with her work and it took off, quickly eclipsing the income she was making from her day job.
“I was like ‘wow, people are really supporting this, this is crazy,’” she said. “I waited a few months to make sure the income was steady and quit my job and I’ve been doing that since 2020.”
In 2021, Gabrielson moved to Los Angeles seeking sunny weather and coastal views, eventually landing in Long Beach six months later. She found community with the local motorcycle scene—she rode for many years back in Utah, where she’d earned her nickname “Hellbent Ani”—and started teaching silversmith workshops at Off Track, a local motorcycle shop.
One viral TikTok later, and her silversmithing classes became booked out, sometimes six months in advance. She knew then it was time to expand and a couple months later she noticed a shop vacancy across the street from her apartment. By May 2022 she was open for business.
Gabrielson admits it took a lot of courage for her to take that final step but drew a lot of inspiration from her mother. Originally born in Venezuela, Gabrielson and her family moved to Utah when she was 4 years old. It was tough for a while, she remembers, but it didn’t stop her mother from starting a bilingual learning center.
“She just believed in herself and now it’s very successful and they’ve expanded into three locations over the past 10 years, and it just keeps getting bigger,” Gabrielson said. “My parents are a huge inspiration and they ended up being my number one supporters.”
She’s also felt a tremendous amount of support from the Downtown community.
“The community has been great. I love the small businesses I’m surrounded by. My block is mainly women-owned and everybody is very helpful and supportive,” she said. “I love the culture here. It feels like everybody is doing their own artistic thing and if they’re not creating then they’re supporting.”
Hellbent Silversmith workshops are available Friday, Saturday and Sunday with morning and evening classes. The group workshops cost $90 per person, but private classes are available starting at $150 during weekdays and weekends. The shop also creates handmade custom jewelry you can design through the shop’s website and make for a great gift. Visit their website, here.