NEW KDHamptons Fashion Diary: Meet Montauk Shark Wrangler + Jewelry Designer Bella Ornaf
“In spring of 2012, I packed up all my belongings and my Jack Russell Terrier, Samson, and moved out to Montauk permanently, with no intention of ever leaving,” shares Bella Ornaf, founder of the FIN Montauk jewelry collection. While setting up roots in Montauk, as a local shark wrangler and megalodon tooth seller, she started to make necklaces out of the prehistoric teeth, with designs inspired directly from the ocean and the environment around her. Ornaf’s passion and love for the ocean and jewelry has come together in making unique, one of a kind and always environmentally friendly pieces. Bella shares her new FIN collection and Montauk lifestyle in this NEW KDHamptons Fashion Diary, below:
KDHamptons: How long have you been living in the Hamptons? Why do you love it so much out here?
Bella Ornaf: I’ve been living in Montauk for three years now. I started coming out here four years ago to crew on shark dives on the Sea Turtle. Every time I left Montauk, my heart broke and I felt that I just needed to get back here, regardless of the season. I’ve lived in so many amazing and different places – ranging from Vermont to Norway – and I’ve traveled all over since I was six, but Montauk is the only place that has ever truly felt like home.
KDHamptons: I’d say you have a pretty diverse career as a shark wrangler and a jewelry designer — will you share more with our readers?
Bella: As a shark wrangler I act as the intermediary between sharks and people, helping everyone feel comfortable with the interaction. I use a blue fish on a string [no hook] to taunt the shark and keep it close to the cage for the clients to get the closest interaction. But, my primary professional focus is my jewelry line, FIN Montauk. FIN makes fine jewelry using fossilized Megaladon teeth [prehistoric shark teeth from roughly 10,000 years ago] hand-dipped in 18 kt gold and silvered nickel. We recently expanded the line to include silver and 24kt gold, sterling silver cast shark tooth earrings, as well as some rings that will be debuting this summer!
Each shark tooth is found 200 feet down on the sea floor of the Atlantic Ocean, the pieces are then hand selected and dipped in 18kt gold. No sharks are ever harmed in the collection of these teeth, and 5% of sales go to a shark conservation organization. Prices range from approximately $110-$450.
KDHamptons: How did you first delve into shark wrangling?
Bella: I went on a dive four years ago with some friends and when I was leaving, I somewhat jokingly asked the captain, an awesome guy named Chuck Wade, if they were hiring. He said yes and that was that. I strongly believe it saved my life, spending so much time on the water with those heavenly creatures.
KDHamptons: Can you explain the inspiration behind your jewelry collection?
Bella: To be honest, the inspiration behind FIN is twofold. I had the hardest time finding jewelry that I would ever wear – I am very into fashion but no one would call me ‘dainty,’ per se. I wanted jewelry that matched my personality – bold and one of a kind – and when I couldn’t find it, I decided to make it. The other inspiration behind the FIN creations are the sharks themselves, and the beauty and magic they inspire and a commitment to their preservation. The name FIN came to me in the winter of 2013, FIN for the obvious sign of a shark, and “fin” in French which means “the end”, which just so happens to be the nickname for Montauk.
KDHamptons: Were you ever surprised by something you found in the ocean waters off Montauk?
Bella: I am surprised by the ocean every day, honestly. It’s all pretty spectacular.
KDHamptons: Describe your perfect Hamptons day in detail?
Bella: Every day is perfect in Montauk! But to narrow it down to a day, I’d probably sleep in until 8:30, then hit the gym and spa over at Gurneys with my fiancé James Katsipis or my friend Amanda. I’d scratch cooking and have brunch at John’s Pancake House, come home and grab my dog Samson and head to the beach. Then I’ll grab a snack over at Joni’s and work on a piece, a sketch or Instagram. I’m a firm believer in the power of the nap, so I like to take one outside on the amazing patio that we designed….
…..For dinner, James would BBQ for friends in our garden, and we love to bonfire either in our fire pit or on the beach. To complete my perfect night, we head off to hear some live music at any number of places, and should the mood strike– a late night skinny dip before some meditation, and then bed.
KDHamptons: What is your favorite Hamptons restaurant?
Bella: For lunch I would have to say Joni’s, her fresh food, incredible menu and service are unmatched usually have a fish taco and fresh brewed unsweetened iced tea. For an afternoon snack I head over to the new Left Hand coffee; they make a banging cappuccino freddo! For dinner, although I have a few favorite spots, I have to say Navy Beach is my hands down favorite. Their food is fresh and mouth watering especially the Salmon tartar to start and then the soy glazed golden eye tile fish or the buttermilk fried chicken if it’s a cheat day! The owners Leyla and Franklin are super inviting and help to bring a laid back and fun atmosphere, and the sunset is absolutely killer.
KDHamptons: How would you describe your Hamptons home?
Bella: Our Montauk home is lovingly referred to as the O.K. Corral, after both of our last names. It’s a one-bedroom cedar plank cottage with high ceilings that makes it feel a lot larger than it is. I adore it. We painted our bedroom a dark blue and it feels like we are in the ocean, totally peaceful and relaxed. I’ve matched that with dark brown furniture as well as pops of bright blue and white. I painted our kitchen deep red as an homage to Diana Vreeland, who truly inspires me. My fiancé’s amazing photography adorns our walls. Currently, my favorite photo is a black and white of Duryea’s Dock framed by Jay Biondo of Antique Lumber here in Montauk. The raw wood frame compliments the dock perfectly and can be stared at for hours. I decorate our home with things that move and inspire us, are representative of the life we live, and make me visually happy when I’m working from home or coming back. My latest obsession is a Moroccan lamp that I hung in our bathroom that’s adorned with Andy Warhol pieces and photos of Warhol himself.
KDHamptons: Do you like to garden?
Bella: We have a beautiful stone patio with comfortable furniture and an Indian table, all surrounding a fire pit that we utilize several times a week in the summer. Around the patio we have a gorgeous garden along with two wisteria plants which started so small and are now spreading like wild fire! I’m not a plant person like my mom, but these two wisteria are my pride and joy, I weirdly say good morning to them every day and enjoy training them to go around our lattice fence just the way I’d like.
(photos by James Katsipis)
KDHamptons: What are you looking forward to most this summer?
Bella: Opening the first FIN pop-up [details are currently under wraps but more info to come soon!]. Also, my wedding and, of course, swimming with more sharks. And any adventure that comes my way – Montauk has a way of pleasantly surprising you!
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