In anticipation of the 2017 Walker’s Jewelry and Accessory Makers Mart on February 4, we interviewed three of the designers whose work will be on view this year. More than 15 jewelry artists—as well as accessory designers—will present their unique, hand-crafted products. With 10 new artists from across the country participating in the event, the Makers Mart will be more diverse and celebratory than ever before. You’re invited to stop by, browse, and get to know the makers. To give you a head start we got the conversation rolling already. Amanda Stolle of Bird Industries, Emily Thelemann of Shimmering Carbon, and Christina Hankins of Urban Gypsy Design give insight into their art, personal business stories, and creative processes.
Bird Industries by Amanda Stolle
How did you decide to get into business?
About 8 years ago I was commuting by bike every day. I wanted to wear the clothing that reflected my style but still be comfortable on my bike. I started creating functional, stylish accessories so I could do just that! My friends began wearing the items I created too, and it grew from there.
Are you inspired by the materials you use, the form you give them, or both?
I started out being inspired by the form and functionality of accessories, but lately I’m more inspired by the materials. Upcycling bicycle inner tubes for jewelry has been a great exploration. The material is so lightweight, and layering the tubes gives even more variety as well.
If you could collaborate with any artist/designer/maker, who would it be?
Though they’re no longer alive, I would love to have collaborated with Charles and Ray Eames. Their designs are classic. They created everything from surface patterns, to furniture, to short films. I don’t see why they wouldn’t make gorgeous accessories as well!
Do you have any products you are particularly excited to showcase at the Makers Mart?
I’m excited to show my inner tube statement necklaces, which were created specifically for the Walker event and are my newest pieces. The metallic and black together make a polished yet industrial look. I can see these as everyday pieces, or worn with something more formal.
What do you like about being a Minnesota Maker?
Minnesota has a very supportive maker community. We have unique shops that feature Minnesota artists, maker collaborations, and incredible events. There’s so much creativity in this town, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
Shimmering Carbon by Emily Thelemenn
Describe what you make.
I make jewelry with exotic woods, sterling silver, and stones.
How did you get started in jewelry-making?
Growing up on a farm seven miles from town my creative juices started early as a kid. I was drawn to working with my hands, and started early on making friendship bracelets and beading. I went to UW-Milwaukee with no idea what I was going to study. I heard about a jewelry-making class, and after my first class I fell in love and knew this was the perfect fit for me.
What’s a day in your studio like?
That is the exciting part, everyday looks a little different. Depending if I am making a custom engagement ring or piece for a client, I could be sketching, carving, or finishing up a one-of-a-kind piece. Some days I do jewelry repairs for customers; others I just play creatively, designing and making new pieces for upcoming shows and art fairs.
From where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I love being outdoors and experiencing the beauty and phases of the change in nature. I love taking walks and runs in the woods; a lot of ideas come to me with movement, and I try to incorporate that into my pieces. I am attracted to clean, geometric lines, so architecture is very inspirational to me. Part of the fun in working with wood is handpicking each piece, cutting it open, and discovering the patterns that emerge. This inspires unique pieces for me.
What do you enjoy most about your creative work?
The feeling of excitement you get from living your passion and working with people to create a piece that expresses them and brings joy to them by wearing it every day. I love getting engrossed in the creative process as it becomes playful and different ideas come to me.
Urban Gypsy Design by Christina Hankins
What inspired you to transform your visual art into a line of hand-crafted bags?
My original background is in painting and drawing, but I have always loved fashion. Ten years ago I started to conceptualize a product that would combine my visual art with the functionality of a handbag. I wanted the look to have a bohemian vibe and be inspired by art and travel. I started by experimenting with different materials and processes, such as recycled wool, wet felting, hand painting, and hand-carved block prints on leather.
How do you create your products?
I start by designing and carving an image on a block to make a print, which is stamped onto a piece of leather. The print images are inspired by Chinese paper cuts, Japanese textiles, and vintage floral designs. Next, I create a pattern for the bag, then hand-cut each piece out of full-grain leather. The pieces are then glued, edge coated, and sewn into the final product. Every bag is also lined in fabric with interior pockets.
What’s your favorite thing about working with leather?
Its durability and the range of ways it can be used.
What was the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business?
The large learning curve in transitioning from painting to handbag design. I had to learn pattern-making and sewing skills and gain an understanding of my new material of choice. I also had to invest in equipment. There were a lot of missteps along the way in my design-making, but I learned valuable lessons from my mistakes and customer feedback.
Do you have advice for aspiring Makers?
Be tenacious, know your craft and the rest will fall into place.
Join Amanda, Emily, Christina, and more artists for the 2017 Jewelry and Accessory Makers Mart in the Skyline Room on Saturday, February 4, 11 am–5 pm.
Walker members enjoy a 10% discount on all purchases, as well as complimentary mimosas and first pick of the jewelry and accessories at a special preview, 10–11 am. Members RSVP here or call 612.375.7655.