|The custom, mismatched ear crawlers Allison made to my specifications|
Allison of Happy Fox Studio makes modern pieces from vintage and reclaimed materials. We first got in touch on Instagram (gotta hand it to Instagram for putting me in touch with people I never would have "met" otherwise) and it's been great to learn more about her process and why she's passionate about sustainable jewelry-making. I'm impressed with her attention to detail and ethical sourcing. I hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes interview as much as I did.
When did you first become interested in making jewelry?
I started making jewelry about 10 years ago, when I had a hard time finding simple jewelry that wasn’t, well, too simple! I actually had someone at a bead shop show me how, but it wasn’t long before I started making my own, unique “findings” – the wire part of the earrings. It was a slow first few years, I really ramped up my making and selling in 2011.
What sets Happy Fox Studio apart from other independent jewelry shops?
There are a few things that make happy fox studio different from the majority of shops. The first is that the majority of my materials are reclaimed. For me that might mean something I bought at a creative reuse store, or vintage jewelry I take apart, or something from a “junk” bin at an antique shop. The second is that most of my pieces are one of a kind, but priced in a way that is accessible for a lot of people. Third, I want my customers to be super happy with their product, and working with reclaimed materials can sometimes present unforeseen challenges. Because of this, I work really hard to get feedback, and if there is ever a weakness in the materials, I find a way to fix it right away!
What are your favorite materials to work with?
Right now I’m sort of obsessed with finding individual, vintage earrings – I call them “orphan” earrings – and turning them into pendants. I also really adore working with vintage metal – I bought a whole stash of vintage copper and brass bangles at a ‘junk’ shop and have made around 30 minimalist, architectural necklaces with them. I’ll be very sad when it is all used up!
What inspires your designs?
There are a few things that really drive my style. One is architecture and design. My family is in construction and I had a career in urban planning, so that design element is always there for me. Another is simplicity – I feel like, for the most part, I don’t want my jewelry to be the first thing people notice about me. But when they do notice it, I want them to be like, wow, that is so cool, where did it come from? I love making jewelry that has a story, a history, way before it was made or purchased.
You mention you sell a lot of jewelry locally and in person. How do in-person relationships help you refine your craft?
It’s so important! I only make my best-selling mini earrings because they had such a good response when I made a template that people loved at a market. I make studs and ear crawlers because so many of my customers requested them! I love that my business is small and not static, so that when people show an interest in something, I can respond. (However, I probably won’t be making anything with druzy, despite multiple requests!) I do quite a bit of custom work as well. It’s really cool that my customers trust me enough to say something like “I want something medium length, maybe silver, maybe blue or green” and let me come up with the end product. I made my first piece of wedding jewelry this way, and she was really happy with it, it looked amazing, and I made something totally unusual and reclaimed.
What is your favorite design or piece to make?
I most enjoy making necklaces, I think. Sometimes they come to me as I am falling asleep, other times they are a labor of love, trying many different thing until one clicks. I love the process of finding materials that work together aesthetically and then making them work functionally. I also really love making my whorled studs because every earring is individual and I love all the variations. It actually makes them incredibly frustrating to make, too, but the end result is great.
How does sustainability and ethics factor into your process?
It’s a huge part of both how and why I do what I do. Using reclaimed materials and educating my customers on why that is important is an honor and a challenge. I have not found wire yet that I can verify the geographical source or recycled content, which has been frustrating. I guess it’s not a question many jewelers ask.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I’d encourage your readers to ask the favorite jewelry makers where they get their materials. The more people asking that, the broader the conversation is about our ability to reuse and recycled. One last thing - when I say I make reclaimed or eco-friendly jewelry, I think many people envision bottle-cap necklaces or paperclip rings! I hope that I can expand people’s idea of what eco-friendly jewelry look like, that it doesn’t have to look “different” – just awesome!
Allison made me a custom pair of mismatched ear crawlers to my general specifications (she always puts her own creative spin on custom pieces, so it's truly a collaborative experience, which is awesome) and I'm really happy with them. Unlike other ear crawlers I've tried, once they're on and adjusted, they don't budge at all. She'll make you a custom piece, as well. Just ask.