Tell us about yourself, including what inspired you to start Enji Studio jewelry?
I've always loved fashion and jewelry. There's a photo somewhere of me as a five-year-old wearing my mom's pearls and high heels, both comically large on me at the time. However, growing up in a house of doctors and scientists, fashion or jewelry were never considered serious career paths, so I started university studying what seemed like a "sensible" path for an artist, graphic design. I quickly realized this wasn't right for me, so I took a friend's suggestion and took a jewelry and metalsmithing course, and it was love at first solder. I changed my major, and after graduating, continued studying at GIA to further develop my skills.
The ethos of my business also comes from the values I developed as a lover of fashion. Around the same time I was studying metalsmithing at SDSU, the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed, making international news. 1200 young women around my age died in the collapse, making clothes for international brands, some who I regularly purchased from at the time. This opened my eyes to the reality of the issues in the supply chain. I decided that if this was the status quo, I didn't want to support it, and wanted to do things differently. Since then, I've continued to educate myself around the issues in the jewelry supply chain and what responsible sourcing looks like, and work to keep improving.
Tell us about your design style and what makes it unique.
My design style is unique in how it blends very unique and sometimes very rough and organic gemstones with very minimal and architectural details in metal. Sometimes when I hold a stone, I can instantly envision the jewelry it would be set into, other times it takes more time for the design to unfold.
As a creative and a designer, where do you draw inspiration from?
I often draw inspiration from the gemstones themselves. I'm a firm believer that nature is the greatest artist, working over thousands or even millions of years to create such an incredible variety of treasures. I often find myself drawn to gems that retain some characteristics of the original rough, whether it's interesting inclusions, like the golden threads of rutile that form in quartz, or slices sapphire or tourmaline crystals with their natural edges. I'm also inspired by architecture and the "nature" we create for ourselves in cities and towns. In my work I like to blend these, pairing unique gemstones with architectural details, hand fabricated in recycled gold and silver.
What do you feel is the most important aspect of designing and making jewelry?
To me the most important aspect of designing and making jewelry is integrity. I think of this in terms of being true to yourself as a designer, to your client and their vision, and to the stones and materials you're working with.
What new things do you have planned for 2020?
We're busy working on new one-of-a-kind creations, and I have plans for two new capsule collections next year, one featuring East African gemstones mined by the ladies of TAWOMA (the Tanzanian Women Miners Association) that are traceably sourced and cut as well. I fell in love with the stunning colors of these gems and knowing the source and story, that these gems are part of a supply chain from which everyone benefits, makes them all the more beautiful. I also have plans for a bridal capsule collection with Montana sapphires that I'm really excited about, though this collection is planned for later in 2020.
Who are your favorite designers?
Alexander McQueen and Shaun Leane are definitely two of my favorites for the incredible runway looks they collaborated on. It changed how I thought about fashion and made it an art,
What’s your favorite piece you’ve ever created?
It's really hard to only pick one, I have so many favorites. Of the pieces in my line right now, I would have to pick the Pavla Earrings with sapphire crystal slices. They're like wearing art as statement earrings but are still comfortable for all-day wear. I do custom work as well, which are such special projects to me. One that will always be in my heart is the wedding ring I designed for my best friend to go with her vintage engagement ring. Designing around a really unique vintage piece was a fun and interesting challenge as a designer, and creating for someone who I hold so dear is such a wonderful experience.
My favorite piece from my personal collection is an aquamarine ring I designed for myself as a milestone birthday gift. The aquamarine center stone caught my eye immediately with its unique mirror cut and ghostly inclusion and I knew it would go into a piece for me. It's set low to barely graze the finger, truly connecting you to the stone.
What, if anything, would you want customers to know about you and your brand?
I would want them to know that making is really part of my being and that the responsible sourcing and sustainability aspects of my brand are more of a calling than a marketing campaign. I volunteer outside of my business with Ethical Metalsmiths, serving as their marketing and communications chair because having these dialogues around how we can improve as an industry is important and work towards those solutions that benefit everyone in the supply chain. I sincerely believe that jewelry can be a force for good in the world.
What is the favorite travel destination you have been too?
One of my favorite destinations is Barcelona. I love all of the amazing architecture (not just the Gaudi buildings and La Sagrada Familia, but they're definitely part of it), it's such a beautiful and unique city! The food is also definitely a plus, everything we ate while we were there was delicious.
Where is your next bucket-list travel destination?
Hawaii is next on my travel list! I've only visited a couple of the islands so far, but I can't wait to explore the rest.
What is your top travel tip?
For reducing my footprint while traveling, I always pack a reusable water bottle, coffee cup (I can't live without it), and utensils. It's three small ways I can cut waste while exploring,
What is your top tip for creating balance in your life?
Ask me again in a few years, this is a challenge I'm working on. When you're so passionate about what you do, it can be hard to create balance.