Erica peterson I Jewelry Designer | Stvdio Brooklyn
"Learn how to do everything, and don’t rely on anyone. No one is going to care about your business more than you. Have fun. Experiment and take chances, even if they haven’t worked out in the past. Keep an open mind, and be open to change, and failure. And above all, remain positive and keep moving."
Where did you grow up?
Describe that place and its people…
My family moved around a lot, I think we lived in around 8 different houses and towns by the time I was 16. We spent the most time in the Lambertville / Hopewell area before we moved to Florida. It was generally a pretty artistic community, but my family was really into sports, which was a considerable part of my childhood.
What were you like as a child? What did you want to do when you grew up?
I was always busy. If I was at home i’d be working on some sort of project and if I wasn’t at home I’d be participating in some sort of activity. Ballet, tap dancing, gymnastics, piano lessons, tennis, soccer, softball...I did it all. I guess I was always moving.
When I grew up, I really thought I was going to be a physical therapist. I fractured my back pretty badly at an early age and had knee surgery soon after, and spent a lot of time rehabilitating. I really appreciated and respected the doctors who helped me through it.
When did you first leave home? Where did you go?
The first time I lived away from home was when I was 16. My parents decided to move to Florida and I really wanted to stay in New Jersey and surprisingly, they let me. I transferred to a boarding school in New Jersey, and then on the weekends and in the summers I’d stay in my parents apartment in Lambertville and work at a restaurant there. I was shockingly responsible for a 16 year old living in an apartment on her own.
When did you come to New York? Was there a particular reason you wanted to come here?
I think I moved for a job, but I had always wanted to live in NY, even though I was a little intimidated by it. But I just felt like this was where I needed to be. It didn’t even feel like a choice. I felt like I had to be here...it was calling.
Is there something about NYC that is especially inspiring to you?
The pace of it has always been really inspiring to me. You have to have a little bit of hustle to live here, and it's not for the faint of heart.
How did you first get into making jewelry?
I had always made jewelry as a kid: pasta necklaces, friendship bracelets, hemp necklaces. I started to take it a little more seriously in high school. I started making these really bizarre wire necklaces during the summer that I’d sell to stores and friends.
Was there a particular moment when you knew it was what you wanted to pursue?
I was really up in the air between painting and jewelry, but I felt like painting was something that I could could continue to pursue on my own, and jewelry was a trade that needed to be taught, and that felt more valuable to me at the time. I just knew that whatever I did, I wanted to use my hands.
Did you go to school for jewelry design?
I went to RISD for Jewelry and Metalsmithing.
What were you doing before you started Stvdio Brooklyn?
I was designing jewelry for Madewell.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? How has it changed over time?
It definitely changes. I think it has a lot to do with my growth and experiences. Right now I’m just interested in things that feel really classic, but can still be relevant. I’ve been really interested in pairing delicate pieces with more bold items, and mixing feminine with masculine. I’ve also been gravitating more towards fine jewelry because as I get older I just want to collect things I can have forever, that are timeless, and fine jewelry has that heirloom quality to it.
What inspires your work?
I take a lot of inspiration from the things and people that surround me. I would say that a lot of it is geared towards making things that fit with whatever I’m wearing at the moment. So if I’m going through a particular clothing phase, that will certainly show through in the jewelry.
My motivation is a little all over the place. I’m fiercely independent so I like working for myself and creating my own schedule. I love using my hands, and I find it rewarding to create. I also like a good challenge and running your own business is certainly that.
What are your favorite materials to work with?
Right now I’m all about mixing silver and yellow gold. I can’t get enough of it.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t really have a typical day at the moment. Sometimes I’m running around the diamond district, and sometimes I’m at home working on new samples, or filling orders, or planning our a lookbook or the next collection. It’s really all over the place. But I think thats what I like about it. There is really never a dull moment.
Do you sketch out your designs before you begin, or do they come to you as you work?
I think it's a little of both. I usually start a season by sketching. I would say 80% of the line is planned out in advance and the others 20% is happy accidents or last minute things I want to add in.
What’s your favorite part about being a maker?
I really love the freedom, being able to put pieces that I love and believe in out into the world, and being able to use my hands everyday. It’s also a job that allows you to grow and demands an open mind. I’m making mistakes and learning from them every day, as frustrating as it is at moments, it's also really important and rewarding.
What are your biggest challenges? Do you have an achilles heel?
Being in my head a little too much. I think as a maker, or independent designer, you’re doing everything. All the work and decisions you are making are so very close to you, and sometimes I need a second opinion, or to take a little breather or a step back. I always try to remind myself that if I start taking it too seriously, it’s time to recalibrate, and remind myself that this should be fun. I think if you're overthinking things or you aren’t having fun, it comes through in your work. My experience so far has been that the things I genuinely felt a need to make and loved making are some of my best selling pieces, and I think there’s a reason for that.
What are the biggest lessons have you learned along the way?
Learn how to do everything, and don’t rely on anyone. No one is going to care about your business more than you. Have fun. Experiment and take chances, even if they haven’t worked out in the past. Keep an open mind, and be open to change, and failure. And above all, remain positive and keep moving.
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken that paid off?
I’m still in the early stages of Stvdio. It’s very much a startup, it only launched in October of 2014. But so far, the biggest risk I’ve taken is leaving my career and full-time job to pursue what I love. It was scary, and still very much is at times, but I love what I’m doing, and taking that risk has allowed me to do what I love daily.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The Stvdio Fine launch that happened last week. I’ve been working on it for what seems like forever.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to do what you do? Or for anyone who wants to live a more creative life?
This question has actually come up a lot with friends of mine, or acquaintances, and the best advice I have is if you want it, just start doing it. I started Stvdio when I had a full-time job. It wasn’t jewelry at the time. It was ceramics, but I was working every weeknight, and all weekend. I just wanted to do it, and even though the pottery went out the window, it led me to the jewelry, because ultimately I realized that working on my own was what was making me a happier and a more fulfilled person.
Favorite makers and artists right now?
Natalie Herrera from High Gloss’s pottery is just stunning. I’ve been a fan of Hannah Keefe’s jewelry for a while now. The new collections from Caron Callahan and Electric Feathers have been a source of inspiration for me. Rawan Rihani of Aurora Botanica has been doing some really incredible things with flowers, and I’m actually looking forward to a collaboration with her this coming Spring.
What does the word authentic mean to you?
I think authentic to me is the ability to be honest with yourself, your work, and also with other people.
What are the things that you want to fill your days with? What are the things that are most important to you?
I’d like to fill my days with things that ultimately just make me happy. I used to have a very intense and I would say almost dark side to me where I would go into these holes thinking I wasn’t doing enough, making enough, living enough. Ultimately I found that I was just wasting my time thinking about what I wasn’t doing enough of and once I kinda let go of that pressure I was much happier. The most important things to me right now are making meaningful work, spending time with friends and family, and having fun.
Any badass women you love, dead or alive?
I think there’s a lot of female artists, musicians, actors, writers, designers, and thinkers that I look to as a source of inspiration for my work. Whether i’m listening to someone’s music or reading something at the time I’m making a collection, it always comes through. Actually, a lot of my pieces are actually named after some of these ladies. So maybe, I’ll encourage you to head on over to the site and see for yourself.