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Maker Stories

Katie’s Fern Frond Hoops Take the Win

August 14, 2013


We had over two hundred submissions to our 2013 Jewelry Design Challenge, and although we saw many amazing pieces we wanted to put in our own personal jewelry box, Katie Lime’s Fern Frond Hoops truly stole our judges’ hearts. The design holds a simple elegance for everyday wear, yet Katie’s innovative touch is undeniable. From the mixed metals of brass and sterling silver to the design’s geometric, whimsical shape, these nature-inspired earrings are more than just jewelry. They’re tiny pieces of art. And because it’s no secret that we are such big animal lovers, Katie donating a part of her proceeds to animal shelters was a huge cherry on top. (Details of where she donates to are below the interview.)

Meet Katie Lime, the newest member of our UncommonGoods artist family, and read about her jewelry-making journey from taking classes in high school to creating her very own jewelry company. 


Give us an uncommon fact about you and your hometown. 

An uncommon fact about me is that I’m a Science Fiction/Fantasy fan and a huge Harry Potter nerd. An uncommon fact about Carmel, Indiana is that they absolutely love roundabouts.  There are over 80 of them!

When did you realize that jewelry design was what you wanted to do?  

I took some jewelry classes in high school and absolutely fell in love.  When I went to college for Art History I realized that I could study Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design.  After that first semester in metals I realized it was what I wanted to do so I stayed in school an extra year and double majored in Art History and Metals.


What was the biggest message you took with you when you finished school for metalsmithing? 

I learned to really explore my ideas and to play around with materials.  I learned to not be afraid of trying something new and different and not to be afraid of failure.  I also learned that having a network of peers can be a wonderful resource.  We are very lucky these days to have outlets such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter to meet like-minded people who will be there to support, answer questions, share knowledge and constructively critique our work.


When was the moment and how did you feel when you made your first sell?  

I made my first big sale at my senior thesis show in a formal gallery setting.  The necklace that sold was a big show stopping piece, not really all that functional but more sculptural.  It felt great!  It gave me confidence in my work and made me feel like I was headed in the right direction.

We love your earrings, but we also love the amazing fact that you donate to two animal shelters. When was the moment that you decided this was going to be something you would be a part of?

My boyfriend and I have rescued three dogs in our adult lives.  They are the sweetest, most loving and giving souls in this world and we don’t know what we would do with out them.  I wanted to do more for other animals in need, so I started donating money from my company.


What inspires you the most when you create your designs? 

I am inspired by the natural world surrounding me.  I like to examine all the beautiful and small things in our world and take inspiration from them.  I’m also inspired by all the people in my daily life and all the makers in this world who create for a living.

What’s your favorite part of the design process?

I love creating new designs, playing around with new ideas and making pieces with gemstones.  I also really enjoy working on custom pieces for my customers.  I love that I’m creating something just for them!

How exactly was Moira K. Lime Jewelry born?  

When I moved to Chicago I was designing and producing for another jeweler and creating my own jewelry in my spare time.  I realized that I could really make a living off of my designs when my work started to sell consistently and I began running out of time to make my own creations.  It’s great to be able to be your own boss and create things that you like for other people to cherish.


Creative people all have those days (or weeks!) when we feel unmotivated, lost, or stuck. What do you usually do when you catch yourself in this frustrating rut?  

I usually step away from my studio and give myself some time off to get that creative mojo flowing again.  I’ll also go for day trips, hikes, or places in the city that inspire me.

Are there any interesting future projects you’re pursuing or currently working on? 

I’ve always dreamed of opening my own storefront/showroom/workshop space.  I’d like to use the space as my working studio, a place to meet customers to work on custom designs, a small show room and a place to teach workshops.  I’m really hoping to make this happen one day soon!


If you could give away one of your secrets to all those who want to win a design challenge, which secret would it be?  

Be yourself and your designs will be truly unique and eye catching.

If you’re inspired to read more about Katie’s favorite animal shelters, visit Chicago Pit Stop RescuePAWS Chicago, and One Tail at a Time

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Emilie Shapiro

August 5, 2013

Jewelry designer Emilie Shapiro | UncommonGoods


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.

Emilie's essential tools | UncommonGoods

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.

Emilie's studio | UncommonGoodsEmilie's studio | UncommonGoods

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.

Emilie's rock collection | UncommonGoods

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!

Emilie Shapiro's creative studio | UncommonGoods

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!

Emilie's favorite quote | UncommonGoods

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.

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Etta Kostick

July 1, 2013

Stained glass is often associated with large-scale pieces; sprawling mosaics, iconic cathedral windows, and ancient works of art. This meticulous craft doesn’t have to be reserved for the grandiose, though. As Etta Kostick proves, stained glass provides an illustrious splash of color to handmade jewelry.

Etta combines the techniques that were passed to her from her family of glassblowers and her talent for sculpting jewelry from silver and other metals to create her bold hexagon bracelets and the rings and bracelets in her collection.

The artist creates her pieces in her Chicago studio–a bright, inviting work space within her own apartment. Although we didn’t catch her hula hooping in her living room (see “How do you recharge your creativity?”), we did convince her to take us on a virtual tour of the place where she captures light and luster with glass and solder.

What are your most essential tools?
I couldn’t live without my soldering iron. It’s a pretty basic tool but it allows me to transform solder into a molten state so I am able to manipulate it. I also always have podcasts streaming while working and the occasional bad reality TV show. It’s definitely my guilty pleasure.

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
My studio is located in my apartment and I love being able to roll out of bed, have a cup of coffee and start working. What most inspires me within my workspace are the raw materials surrounding me. Having all my materials easily accessible allows me to brainstorm new designs and test them out right away.

In the summer I really love working in my living room- I have a really comfy chair located right near all of the front windows. I get to enjoy the cross breeze and all of the chirping birds in the trees.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
I like to take breaks and wander around the neighborhood, go to the gym, or lay out in the park. For a quick boost of energy I hula hoop in my living room.

How do you set goals for yourself?
I set weekly goals and am pretty good at scheduling times I should be in the studio. I have learned that it is important to pace myself and maintain a schedule that allows for a balanced day of work and down time. I like for my goals to reflect this lifestyle. I also like to be constantly creating new designs, exploring new techniques and pushing myself creatively. This is a constant goal for me and it seems to manifest itself naturally.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I work by myself so I usually don’t do too much collaborating, but I love getting advice and input on new designs I am working on from friends and family members. I have worked in the past with my father- he is a glassblower, a craft he taught me when I was 7. We recently have collaborated to create fused glass sheets for my current work. I love that I have been able to maintain a connection with my family’s trade and incorporate it into my jewelry designs.

Etta’s Dad

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
My favorite way of celebrating success is by traveling. Although I am technically not working during these times, I find that much of my inspiration for my jewelry occurs when I am traveling and exploring landscapes that are new to me.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
I love the Thomas Edison quote “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.” It was terrifying to take that initial leap and go full time with my business but this quote was a reminder of how I should approach life and work.

How do you recharge your creativity?
I grew up in the country and I love getting out of the city to connect back to my rural roots. There are some great state parks within driving distance of Chicago. There is nothing more relaxing and revitalizing to me than going to a quiet beach and lounging out by myself for the day. I always come back refreshed and energized.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Keep pursuing what you love! It was easy to feel overwhelmed and insecure during that time period when I was just starting my business. I’ve learned a lot in 5 years and I would tell myself it’s OK to make a mistake. It’s all a part of the learning process.


Our 3rd Annual Jewelry Design Challenge

June 12, 2013

It’s that time of year again! Our buyers are itching to find the newest original jewelry design.

Send us your necklaces, earrings, bracelets, bangles, rings, cufflinks, and tiaras. Well maybe not the tiaras. Actually, throw them in too!

To submit your jewelry designs and read complete contest rules, visit the Jewelry Design Challenge page.

Maker Stories

Tavia Brown’s “Industrial Delicate” Rings to Last a Lifetime

May 20, 2013

“I very clearly remember being six years old and knowing I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. And it never changed,” said jewelry artist Tavia Brown. “I ventured down my artistic journey in my childhood and ended up in college discovering metalsmithing.”

That drive, discovery, and dedication lead Tavia to found taviametal in 2001, and stay true to her craft through business ventures, marriage, and motherhood. Fittingly, her latest collection celebrates one of those special occasions in life–saying “I do.”

Tavia incorporates metals not traditionally used in wedding jewelry, like titanium and rose gold, and textural elements into her original designs to create unique rings for men and women. She calls her style “industrial delicate,” referring to the juxtaposition of tenacious metals with elegant design, and although her pieces are a bit bolder than some wedding bands, they are perfect for making the statement, “our love is solid.”

“In my first jewelry class I found my match in this small-scale, three-dimensional medium,” Tavia said. “I knew then that this was what I was going to do.”

The artist now creates her pieces in her own Charlottesville, VA studio, but before setting out on her own she worked as a bench jeweler for a high-end jewelry designer. “I worked in the jewelry studio and daydreamed about having my own studio business,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do it; I didn’t have a concrete plan. I just knew I was going to do it.”

Taviametal started out as a part-time endeavor, but grew over time as Tavia transitioned from exhibiting her own work at small shows while still working full-time at her bench job. Over the next few years, she got married, cut back her day job hours, and started planning for her future while helping her husband, who is an entrepreneur himself, with his business.

“Eventually, I knew kids would be the next step and I quit my job for the jewelry designer to get accustomed to not having that paycheck,” Tavia said. “I wanted to ensure that I would still follow my dream and take that big leap after having kids. So I worked part-time for my husband and part-time for taviametal, nurturing both businesses. I eventually switched and made taviametal my full-time commitment in 2007. Since then, my husband and I have continued to support each other in our individual business adventures, helping each other grow.”

Along the way, Tavia also discovered the joy of working with titanium–which is now her signature metal.”I had a very close-knit group of metalsmithing/blacksmithing friends and we would have these Monster Metal weekends during which we would take turns at each other’s studios learning a new technique or trying out a new material,” she explained. “Well, one weekend we tried our hand at titanium. I found that I really liked the color and the weight; and I loved the industrial feel and look to it, which fell right in line with my aesthetics.”

“I discovered that I could use the titanium for my rings, taking advantage of that natural gray color to contrast with other materials and continue the layering of textures that I like to create in these rings,” she continued. “I also found I could apply a heat patina which adds even more color – blue, purple, bronze – to the recesses of the designs. Titanium definitely has its challenges. Some basic metalsmithing techniques cannot be used with it, such as soldering – which is a main practice. So I fabricate my titanium jewelry by cold joining contrasting materials and friction fitting the layers, with an emphasis on textures and design. I really love these challenges about titanium. It keeps me creating in ways that take me outside the box. It pushes me to come up with new and interesting designs, and I am constantly exploring.”

“There are times where I get inspiration simply from the material… its challenges, limitations, and look intrigue me,” said Tavia. “Other times it’s just texture, the juxtaposition and tactility of different textures together, and the manipulation of the materials into amazing surfaces… Another impetus for me is family. This is a recurring theme in my work since college.”

Now, as a mother of two, Tavia is inspired by her children and says that over the years she’s been lucky to be able to mold her schedule around what’s best for her whole family.

“I want my kids to see that you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to,” she said. “I want them to know that they can dream as big as they want… On days where I must work longer than the usual I take my kids to the studio with me after school. I have carved out a kid area in my office, complete with easel, art supplies, toys, TV, movies, hula hoops, snacks, and more. Even though I am working, it is fun to be together at the studio.”

Tavia says that one of the biggest lessons she’s learned so far is “to breathe and be kind to myself and know that it will all work out.” She explained, “If I do my best, my kids will be their best. That’s not to say the ride hasn’t had its moments of difficulty; some days just have tears and other days are full of laughter. Each day is a new day of parenting with new challenges, so I am constantly learning – not just as a mom but also as a metalsmith and business owner.”