Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shelly Kerry of Em's Studio and Lightbox SF Shares her Creative Journey

When Sarah and Lisa asked me to write a post about my journey as a small business owner and jewelry designer, I was ridiculously honored to be invited by two insanely talented women. It also speaks to exactly what I am doing now in my personal and professional life and that is to really reflect and “own” where I come from. As Genevieve and I always preach at Lightbox SF, you have a unique story that is meaningful. Use it to guide you in both your creative endeavors and personal adventures.


I spent much of my childhood the quiet, reflective kid in the corner (can you even believe that?) drawing, writing and daydreaming. Lazy summer days outside, crafting at my Grandma S’s house and long trips to see my other Grandparents in West Virginia fill my favorite memories. I was never bored or uncomfortable alone and to say I had one hell of an imagination is an understatement.

My love for working creatively started early. Finding my particular craft, jewelry making, took some time. I dabbled in many mediums, trying anything that inspired me. As a child I always had a sketchbook. Late teens and early 20s went through a stage of reconstructing thrift store finds and making all my own clothes. My canon AE1 was always around my neck. However, it wasn’t until I moved to NYC in the late 90’s that I discovered a love for making jewelry. I realized how much money I was spending on badly made, cheap jewelry at big chain stores and thought, well man, I can make this and I can make it better.

So I taught myself jewelry making by deconstructing purchased pieces and seeing how they were made, just the same way I used to make clothes. Then I was able to seek out advice on what tools and techniques to use and how to actually make my own creations. My first pieces were horrendous and it took a lot of trial and error over the years to come up with a style all my own.

The same way I came into my medium reflects directly how I developed into the woman I am today. There was a lot of experimentation and adventure. There was a lot of trial and error and mistakes. I despise fear, except the kind that keeps me from jumping out of planes or diving into unknown bodies of water. I am a-ok with that kind of fear. However, fear of the deep emotional places that often hide inside of us and prevent us from moving forward and taking chances is my one known enemy. It is the need to conquer fear and a high sense of optimism that fuels me to do new and exciting things.


The hustle and bustle of NYC was not for me and after 6 years of living there and working three or so jobs I headed west to San Francisco. There is something about this city that really helped me come into my own and I started my jewelry line, Em’s Studio. Although I still consider myself a self-taught jewelry artist, I have now taken a few classes here to teach me more of the technical aspects of design. I am surrounded by some of the most amazing artisans in the country and inspired daily by the beautiful state of California. I think the Bay area is the best combination of city life and a slow rural charm that appeals to a Midwestern lady like me. My jewelry combines the rawness of nature against the delicate and soft. I like subdued colors, unpolished stones and lots of tiny, tiny chains.


I was so fortunate to also discover my other passion while living her in SF and that is community and helping others. Along with a desire to be constantly surrounded by growth and creative people, Genevieve and I founded Lightbox SF to help support artistic community and guide artists on how they can be more successful. I like to think we are the perfect duo of grounded logic and creative motivation. This past year I took a break from making jewelry to really focusing on Lightbox and I think it was a much needed break. I wanted to re-access my designs and open up space for new ideas and motivation.


At the end of December of 2011, I lost my apartment to a horrible fire in the Western Addition. Through much distress, I have been unable to really see the damages I have accrued. I still don’t know how much of my inventory is lost and the state of my tools. All of that is a very long story but I can say that I have had more than enough time to reflect on the future of Em’s Studio. It looks as though 2012 will be another year of reinvention. For my jewelry business this might not be all bad. I am already beginning to sketch out new designs and plan on trying to conquer lost wax casting this spring.

Life’s adventures are what make us. Our story helps guide us. Fear can fuel us if we let it.

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