Holly was able to take some time from creating in order to talk about her craft and inspirations, and how being an artist first and a jeweler second has helped her achieve her dreams, even in the face of personal hardship.
JustLuxe: How did you initially get involved in designing jewelry?
HS: I always had a fascination with stones and jewelry as a child. As a young adult I was engrossed in geology— you could find me in the Catskills hammering away at the mountains, unearthing crystals and geodes. I started taking jewelry classes around 2000 and began designing and created a studio where I could manipulate metal. What really got me excited was using metal clay. Once the clay is fired in the kiln, you are left with a fine silver piece. Using metal clay is a beautiful marriage of my two loves of sculpting and jewelry, and using it allows me to create miniature sculptures. Because of this, my collections take on my personality in a way that flat metal and wire could never allow.
JL: You also work as a painter and sculptor. Do you see this as a natural progression?
HS: It fascinates me that the jewelry became a natural progression from sculpting. However, the painting was used as a source of inspiration after a personal tragedy and has interestingly gone on to influence my jewelry. We had a house fire, and although my studio had not been destroyed, it had to be packed up during the reconstruction phase. During this time, my creative hunger was fed by my need to redesign the house. Playing with colors and textures during the design phase led me to oil painting, so after the house was completed I channeled my energy into paint and color theory. I suppose I came full circle, in a way, but I found over time that my heart was still drawn to jewelry. Today I'm working on three different collections. I’ve been very busy!
JL: How would you define your designs?
HS: My designs are eclectic, which is exciting to me because I believe it gives me creative freedom. I think my style gives freedom to women, too. Sometimes we dress according to our mood or an event, so our looks change, and so should our accessories. I expect that over time something in my work will become my signature and something my jewelry is defined by. Even if a signature look carves a path for me, I will still be eclectic and infuse every collection with something fresh and ahead of trend.
JL: How does the creative process differ when you’re working on a piece of jewelry or a painting?
HS: The creative process on a painting is completely different than jewelry. Oil painting is organic for me. Your brush touches the canvas and it's magic, really. You almost don’t know what you want to happen, and anything can affect the direction of a painting, from your initial vision to what the light is like. It really is poetic when it all comes together. Perhaps the creative process moves through me differently in this medium. Jewelry, on the other hand, is not organic the way painting is. It is fashion and art to me, but to the woman who buys the jewelry, it is probably more about fashion.
JL: Who do you see as your primary target market?
HS: My primary target market is women between 35-55. Her lifestyle is a blend of business, downtime with family and friends, and she may be an always on-the-go mom. She is well-traveled and very stylish. She enjoys a dynamic, one-of-a-kind piece when it comes to fine jewelry, and she likes to stand out even when she's wearing her little black dress. This woman loves her accessories, and when she isn’t wearing fine jewelry, she enjoys a funky, handmade piece that stands out. There may be a secondary market emerging amongst fashionable men, as I’ve seen the silver versions of my scarab beetle design being picked up by this segment of the population.
JL: Do you have a customer in mind when you create a piece?
HS: There is not a specific customer I envision, but sometimes a collection will have an inspiration. If I tailor my designs to the customer, I will lose that part of my work that is "me." The way I work is by staying true to my natural creative process.
JL: How do you want your customers to feel when they wear your creations?
HS: Sexy is always nice, but sometimes a woman just wants to feel stylish, polished, and put-together. Some of my pieces allow you to feel refined at that luncheon for just the right touch of luxury and fashion. Other pieces are elegant and artistic, to make for a statement piece to wear with your little black dress. Still, others are funky and bold pieces that are great for spicing up a casual outfit.
JL: Where would you like to see your line in 5 years?
HS: In five years I would like to be in fine boutiques on the east and west coasts with an international presence, as well. Because I work with so many mediums, I’m setting my own personal bar with plans to brand a home goods collection next.
Holly Shannon Jewelry can be found at fine boutiques in Litchfield County, CT, J. Seitz & Company in New Preston, CT, pop-up shows in NY and CT, and on Etsy with prices ranging $45-$6,000.