Guy hates baths.
He hates them so badly that even sitting in a dry tub with me is the worst thing he can imagine. You can totally see it in his eyes. What Guy loves, on the other hand, is the beauty and the brains behind Erica Weiner Jewelry. Erica herself has graciously and awesomely done an interview for this humble blog:
Erica Weiner and I graduated from Vassar in 2001. After graduation Erica worked in costuming for Broadway productions and moved on to working with a fashion designer. Not for her. Making jewelry was her creative outlet, which has led to a successful company that offers unique pieces ranging from the totally baddass to the ultimate in elegance, from original works to estate pieces and antiques. She started selling her jewelry at craft fairs and eventually received a $100,000.00 order from Anthropologie that she produced with her friend-cum-business partner on her kitchen table. She hasn’t stopped since.
Timeline me, baby!
In 2004, I had been doing craft fairs in Brooklyn when the DIY/craft movement was just starting. I did the first Artists and Fleas (which still exists) in Williamsburg, and the Brooklyn Flea (which has since blown up to massive proportions). I had my boyfriend at the time build me a rudimentary e-commerce site. I got like three online orders a week. A buyer from Anthropologie met me at one of those craft shows and emailed me out of the blue, met me the next week, then gave me that big-ass order. I thought that I had MADE IT!!!!!
Erica just produced another order for Anthro that I can't wait to see. She offered this hint on her Instagram (ericaweiner)... sparkly!!!
source: Instagram @ericaweiner
So, you went from your kitchen table to a full-on studio complete with a storefront in Manhattan...
That famed kitchen table was on the Lower East Side, then I moved to a bigger apartment with a "home office" in the East Village. Then to a real industrial studio back on the LES, and a storefront nearby. We moved up about every two years.
You use a lot of found objects in your pieces. My current obsession is the American West Necklace made from the "Indian Head Penny" and the "Buffalo Nickel", which my husband, in his sweetness, let me order for my birthday this past October. Has your creative process always included the use of found objects?
I know, that is probably my favorite piece too! It's not the best-selling one though, not by a long shot. The Mercury Dime necklace is pretty great too. I have to say that shopping for antiques, whether online or in person at antiques shows, really gives me ideas to run with. I am not a big sketcher of designs, nor do I like to mock up pieces using computer programs. Hunting for stuff and discovering weird, forgotten objects- that's the design process I rely on most.
The EWJ website is super informative and I grabbed this bit of info from the FAQs:
Is this stuff [the jewelry] vintage or what?
Yes, most of the chains, charms, and findings we use were made in New England factories in the 20th century. When these factories moved their operations overseas, their surplus jewelry parts were put into storage and we dig through these warehouses to find weird, gorgeous stuff. We combine these vintage parts with some new chains, charms, and findings to make the jewelry in our collection. Sometimes we add a surface treatment like powder-coating (it looks like paint), or electroplating (this is when a thin layer of real gold or silver is applied to cover the non-precious metal). We also make some of our own pendants from scratch by casting found objects.
Ummm... she cast a bat jaw. So bad-A. So totally beautiful.
Where are your favorite places to scavage? Do you prefer stateside (I see a lot of Americana in your work), or going abroad?
Lately I've been making little day trips from NYC. Providence, RI and central NJ turn up some good antique fine jewelry. For the weirdo multiple stuff, like pen nibs and cut coins and tintypes, I have to go further afield. Atlanta, Georgia. Inland Maine. But this year my business partner, Lindsay, and I began traveling to Europe to source antique jewelry, and that is majorly fun. We're planning another trip for February: London, Paris, Antwerp. CAN NOT WAIT.
You got married just over a year ago. Has that affected your creative process at all? Especially since your husband is also creative? (He was involved with They Might be Giants, y'all). I find that my husband has really affected the pieces I choose to work on, but maybe that's because they're often gifts for him.
[My husband] sang backup on a few of [They Might be Giants'] albums and is currently working on a project with [them]. But he is a talented musician and composer, true. Maybe even more impressive: he worked on the cult TV show "WonderShowzen". I feel like Lindsay, you must know about that show. If not prepare to lock yourself in with the dvd set for a few days. Anyway, I love that we're both in the arts but not the same field, exactly. I can be kind of competitive, which is great for getting ahead of the competition, but not great for relationships. He and I can support each other's projects without giving notes or any nonsense like that. It's an ideal situation for me. And I think for him, too.
Because a lot of your pieces use found objects, they are necessarily limited editions. This is totally awesome because it makes each piece feel more special, but totally frustrating when a customer misses out on a piece. Do you feel like this has had a positive affect on your business? What are the main drawbacks?
We have sort of three types of jewelry: stuff that's one-of-a-kind (antique engagement rings), some-of-a-kind (which I can get 100 or more pieces of, like the Buffalo Nickels, Pen Nibs for Pen Nib Necklaces, and all are SLIGHTLY different due to the patina, finish, etc) and "unlimited", I guess, which is where we use new or cast parts to make lots and lots of the same design. (Raptor Talon necklace, Bee necklace). We try to keep a balance of all of these types of things. I think the limited stuff is the most creative and exciting. But when people are desperate to buy something that we can't make? Yeah, that's pretty annoying.
source: Instagram @ericaweiner
Your wedding ring (pictured above) is absolutely jaw-dropping stunning. Did you find that yourself? I'm more on the practical side than the romantical when it comes to things like that. For example, I had my husband give me a budget and I went ring shopping on my own. Later I brought him in to give the final approval.
Oh yeah, so it came from Doyle and Doyle! I did find it. My husband knew me well enough to let me do the ring shopping. I didn't really want to be surprised, especially with something that I plan to wear every day. It's like letting someone else pick out your tattoo or something. I still think it's romantic - he went and bought the setting that I had put aside, he picked a diamond to set into it with the Doyles' help, and proposed romantically a few weeks later. Pretty wonderful.
When did you introduce estate/antique jewelry into your collection? And how do you find such amazing pieces?
Really right around when I got engaged myself with [the] gorgeous Art-Deco era ring. I did a lot of research on what kind of ring I wanted. I was an art history major at Vassar, but had never been interested in jewelry history. Probably because I was always broke as hell, and any fine jewelry, in my mind, was out of my reach. But I started my hunt at Doyle and Doyle, a store on Orchard Street which is owned by a pair of sisters, great and kind businesswomen, and I was hooked. Coincidentally, I opened MY store that same month. I seriously bought a few small antique pieces and put them in the shop, and once I started, things just went crazy from there. Now we're selling like $6500 vintage diamond rings regularly.
Speaking of engagements, how many do you suppose you are responsible for at this point?
I wonder! I've heard some great stories. And some happen in the store right after the purchase! It's the lesbians getting engaged that always makes me cry (damn it, Vassar). I don't know. 200 or more?
What is your favorite part about designer jewelry? What are the most difficult parts of running your own business?
I don't know even how to answer the FAVORITE part. I love traveling and I goddamn love shopping. I really like wearing special diamond jewelry that I don't have to pay for - it's just on my body in the interim before I decide to sell it. The most difficult parts are easy to name. Bullshit paperwork having to do with taxes and payroll and insurance. It's never ending. Difficulties with employees. Doesn't happen often, but with a studio packed full of women, there's always something going on.
How often do you collaborate with other companies and make a piece exclusively for them? who have you collaborated with so far?
D.S. & Durga, on a perfume locket necklace. Club Monaco, on a mini-line for holiday 2011, and a great website called "Of A Kind" that does limited runs by handpicked designers. We're releasing a new edition with them in a few weeks. Also with Bona Drag - we're building some exclusive rough emerald rings for them right now. Who else? I can't think of who right now.
Your first piece for Anthro was a necklace. What did it look like? Was it commissioned to look just like a piece you had already made?
The first order for Anthro was a series: an 18" vintage brass chain with two seemingly random "vintage" charms hanging together. They weren't actually all vintage; many were new but looked vintage. We set up 40 different permutations that would make the customer feel like they had found a one-of-a-kind necklace. When they were hanging all together, you rarely saw a duplicate - they seemed to all be different charms.
You just started 1909, your fine jewelry collection. The pieces are to die for, but the price range is higher because of the cost of materials. Has this sold well? Are you planning to create any other lines, or just see how things pan out?
1909 is selling pretty well, yeah! We actually jokingly call it our "vanity project" because we are so unused to charging higher prices. Honestly, all the jewelry in that line are priced EXTREMELY low considering the ridiculous cost of gold right now. Our profit margin on all those 1909 pieces are so teeny, but like I said, our vanity is forcing us to produce that super-cool shit. We're not going to get rich on the 1909 jewels unless we literally double the prices. No other plans to create any other lines. We are working to find a second store location, which is a huge undertaking. [Pictured above are the Beacon earrings]
More on 1909 from EWJ's FAQs:
[The pieces] are modified re-creations of some of our favorite antique pieces that have come and gone through our shop. When we find a piece of jewelry that we can’t part with, we note our favorite aspects of it to use as a starting point. We add or take away or an element of the design that we think would work better for everyday wear, or we just make a stylistic change to update the look.
Finally, if you could have anyone endorse your brand, would it be Roger Federer and why?
Ha! I know you have a thing for him. Actually I would love for Kristen Wiig to endorse my brand and SHE IS!!!! We're costuming her in our jewelry for a new movie she's doing. A romcom. I am so excited about this I can barely talk about it.
SHUT. THE. FRONT. DOOR!!!
So, here are some more amazing pieces from Erica Weiner Jewelry... just a teensy taste. Peruse their website- and I mean study it in depth, which is the actual definition of peruse anyway. You NEED to follow them on facebook lest you miss out on the antique piece of your dreams, or a new collaboration... their updates are drool inducing.
Someday I will have surgery to repair my ripped ears (I am bound to studs for now because of my penchant for wearing HUGE earrings in my younger days). Then I am going to dangle these cicadas like a boss.
Part of me will always regret that these gorgeous chevron rings weren't available when I bought my husband's wedding ring. Is that the worst thing to admit?
And for the lady? Elvis, please. I totally have a thing for Elvis, y'all:
If I could customize one of these pieces, I'd totally use lyrics from "Suspicious Minds", but I love Kenny straight up. And how does one choose between Kenny AND Dolly vs Shaggy and Rayvon? You buy both, silly.
These rough diamond rings are especially for Pam. you know who you are.
Ummm... I need to expedite my ear surgery. Straight through your heart, baby.
This has so much yes. So damn much.
Check these out! Mine would totally spell "Guy". Duh.
I suppose I have to stop at some point, but go get your holiday shopping did, y'all. Support small business. Support awesome business. Seriously, Erica's prices are amazing. Shockingly affordable. Happy shopping!