Inside the Artist’s Studio with Emilie Shapiro
I would definitely consider it love at first sight. The moment I saw the ragged edges and claw-like setting of the Raw Gemstone Necklaces, I knew I wanted to meet the designer. (And get one for myself.) So I invited myself to her Long Island City office and studio for a meeting.
Whenever I meet one of our incredible artists, I try to find similarities between myself and these seemingly normal people making extraordinary things. Our artists can make us all feel so much from a necklace or a wine glass that it makes me wonder if there is some super-human element they possess. Finding a common ground might indicate some greatness within myself. So I always look for a connection.
With Emilie Shapiro, it’s the love of treasures -digging through her rock and shell collection, hunting for pieces in her grandmother’s jewelry box, rediscovering something others have overlooked and bringing it all back to her worktable to create something new – that keeps her ticking. I too share her love of found objects and breathing new life into them.
Meet Emilie, lover of found objects and handmade jewelry designer.
What are your most essential tools?
I absolutely could not live without my stone collection. It’s something I’ve been working on since I was about 3 and picked up my first seashell (my first business was selling painted seashells on the beach), and then moved on to rocks and crystals. I have stones, minerals, shells, bones and wood from all over the world!
Where do you find inspiration within this space?
I have a lot of treasures in my studio that I’ve collected throughout my life. From simple things that I find on the street or beach, to beautiful pictures of my grandmother, mother and niece. I think you define what is precious in your own life – whether it’s a piece of coral you found washed up on the beach or a ring made of brass and rough gemstones. Someone designed it, but the beholder defines the meaning.
Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
We take lunch really seriously around here! I love to cook so I like to bring food for my assistant, Chrissy, to spice up our work day. We’re both pretty excited about my CSA this summer. This week I made pesto with kale and garlic scapes – it was delicious!
What was the toughest lessons you learned as a young designer starting a business?
Trust your instincts, because they’re usually right.
You are your best advertisement – wear your work because you never know who you’ll meet!
Act professional, then you’ll be treated professional.
Always look people in the eyes when you speak.
Life is to short to work with unkind people. There are a lot of good people in the world, sometimes you have to take the time to find each other.
What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
5 years ago I was entering my Senior year at Syracuse University feeling like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders – who was I going to apprentice for? Would I work for a larger fashion company? Would I head back to Florence and continue my studies? Would life go on after college, etc? Looking back, I would tell myself to relax and that it would all work out the way it should. I would have experiences that would eventually lead me to where I am, and where I’m going.
How do you set goals for yourself?
I think the toughest and most important part of being your own boss is creating a schedule, and then sticking to it! My goal for my new collection is expanding my wedding & engagement line. Creating new designs is the fun part, sticking to my schedule is the hard part!
How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Victories are so important, whether they’re small – like finding a great deal at a garage sale, or big – like getting into UncommonGoods! To celebrate any victory, big or small, I usually meet my best friends for drinks.
What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I am trying to get more into traditional goldsmithing and recycling techniques. Starting with 24k gold and blending other metals to create custom alloys for beautiful hues of gold. I’m going to take a class at Liloveve Jewelry School in Williamsburg where I currently teach the wax carving classes and some other specialty techniques. It’s so beautiful there!
What quote keeps you motivated?
The most amazing part about my job is creating every single day and doing what I love. Whether it’s designing a new piece, seeing my work in a new Gallery or boutique, or teaching someone to do something how to create something that didn’t exist before – I am creating something tangible that will be here way beyond me.
How do you recharge your creativity?
A great yoga class! It’s so important to keep a healthy body and mind, but to also make time for yourself when you run your own business. I find the most challenging part of being your own boss is making a schedule and sticking to it so you don’t end up pulling all nighters – I hope those days are behind me!
Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I teach jewelry classes and am constantly learning so much from my students. I am always blown away by their talent and eagerness to learn, and always learn new things about myself when working so closely with my students.