NEW YORK -- "Head to the woods," says 25-year-old designer Christopher Phelan. The painter-turned-jewelry designer says he has always been fascinated by body ornamentation and spent a lot of time hiking and camping as a boy.

"I have a deep, true respect for Mother Earth, and the forms I do and the materials I use, such as shells and coral, reflect that," says Phelan. "I wear a lot of jewelry myself. It makes me feel safe and secure. Hey, I want to be buried with all my jewelry on."

Phelan says what he does is true to himself. "I'm not interested in getting on the trend bandwagon. What I'm creating is something I really feel for. I think that everything out there right now looks really repetitive."

Common motifs for his own collection of pendants, bracelets, rings and earrings are leaves, flowers and twigs. The pieces, done in sterling silver with semiprecious stones, are all handfinished and range in price from $20 to $300. Phelan, who currently sells the collection to Henri Bendel, projects a wholesale volume for this year of about $20,000.

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