There’s something about the fluid jewelry from Seaworthy that hints at a bigger story behind a minimalist piece. We went behind the scenes with self-taught jewelry designer Marisa Howard to find out more.
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TELL US HOW YOU BECAME A JEWELRY DESIGNER. I studied Journalism and Communications at University of Oregon, with a focus on magazine writing. I thought I was going to write long feature stories and learn about people’s lives, but once I was out in the “real world”, I learned that I didn’t like pressing people for their stories and I didn’t like the publishing industry in general. So I moved into Marketing and PR and worked my way into the lighting industry somehow. My “career” before starting Seaworthy was in the commercial lighting industry. I worked with clients like Nordstrom and Costco and worked on casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, as well as other large projects all over the US. I traveled constantly. I can see now that all my random jobs prepared me to run this small creative business.
In the lighting industry, I worked as an operations manager for a couple years. So I hired and fired, I managed a budget, I did sales and customer service. I also managed a warehouse and implemented shipping schedules and inventory management. I also learned the creative side of lighting design and layout. In that career though, I could see the end of what I wanted to learn and accomplish. I had burned out and I knew I needed a change. In January of 2010, I just quit. I had a couple part time things lined up: a retail job and a freelance editing job for a Canadian publication, but I really had no idea what I was going to do. I was making a little jewelry as a creative outlet and a way to build community. Eighteen months after I quit my “career”, I was making jewelry full time. That was four years ago in August.
“There’s a real lack of workwear for women,” Helen Levi says, considering her studio uniform. “I think it’s great that Ilana [Kohn] is addressing that space! She’s super supportive of other women designers.” The photographer-turned-potter switched from film to clay in 2014 and after a chance meeting with Steven Alan at a party, found almost instant success with her eponymous line. Helen’s signature pieces include pineapple-topped mugs, paint-splattered pitchers, and dip-dyed jugs, and have been featured in Vogue, Lucky, Nylon and more. Taking inspiration from natural resources and photographer Sylvia Plachy, her approach to design is primarily focused on trusting her gut.
Here, she takes the Lola Utility Coverall for a spin and answers all of our questions.
The oversized silhouettes of Ilana Kohn’s coveralls allow for them to be totally unisex which was a welcome discovery for Chen Chen and Kai Williams, the design duo at Chen Williams. “We have normal overalls which tend to be a little too technical and also much tighter fitting in the torso which don’t make them as easy to get in and out of,” Chen explains. “We love the simplicity of these coveralls and the loose fit.” Comfy workwear is important to the duo, especially considering their studio develops so many varied pieces: furniture, jewelry, coasters, bookends, home accessories, materials and more. The Pratt Institute graduates founded their creative studio in Brooklyn in 2011 and their experimental and playful combination of everyday and unusual materials has since been featured in design museums and festivals all over the world.
Chen takes the Lola Utility Coverall for a spin in their studio while we get to know him and his partner Kai.
“No two days of work are alike for me,” Caroline Ventura says. “I often find myself splitting time between working in the studio or overseeing production in the diamond district to being in Calliope with customers.” The New York-based jewelry designer and co-owner of Meatpacking District design boutique Calliope is a longtime friend of Ilana Kohn and you might recognize the petite bombshell babe from the lookbook photos from past seasons. For BRVTVS, Caroline mixes masculine and feminine inspiration for delicate jewelry handmade in her studio using reclaimed materials whenever possible. Naturally, she turned to Ilana for help in the versatile wardrobe department. “It’s sometimes tough to have so many costume changes throughout the day, so wearing a piece that can transition from being alone working and getting messy to meeting people face to face is a hell of a lot easier. Plus, this type of coverall always looks better once it has a little schmutz on it, so it’s okay if I get a little dirty while working.”
The return of the jumpsuit might be one of fashion’s biggest comebacks of late, but for anyone getting their hands dirty in a studio, the return of the coverall beats a Studio 54-era onsie any day of the week. “I was bugging Ilana [Kohn] about making one for me last year after I was on a relentless search for one to wear to studio,” recalls Julianne Ahn, the beauty behind the ceramics from Object & Totem. Known for her mixed media necklaces and glazed vessels, the Brooklyn-based ceramic artist is getting her wish granted this week as we launch Ilana Kohn’s exclusive, limited-edition Lola Utility Coverall this Thursday. “Having one designed by a friend is going to be really special so I’m looking forward to the history of what it might look like well worn years from now.”
“Our many maker friends really responded to this particular style, saying it would be the perfect workwear,” Ilana says of her best-selling Lola Coverall. “So this one is made to get mucky, roughed up and lived in!” The Lola Utility Coverall, available Thursday, October 1, features a heavy, work-friendly cotton twill and is made in New York City’s garment district.
This week we’ll be featuring four New York-based makers whose personal and studio style inspired it all. First up, we get to know Julianne.
Eric Blum’s pieces are so complex they offer up more interpretations than a Sia music video. Born in Fresno, California, Blum grew up in Los Angeles and now calls the East Coast home. He has an intimate studio in New York City where he creates his enigmatic works. Blum began his artistic career as a photographer but currently works with transparent layers of ink and wax-infused silk. You might be able to categorize Blum’s play of light and shapes as abstraction, but his stunning forms have a story to tell and we’re totally hooked. He has been a recipient of grants from The Pollack-Krasner Foundation and New York Foundation for the Arts, and continues to exhibit widely throughout the United States. We were lucky enough to grab a moment of his time to find out more. Blum talked to us about his medium, what his work has to say and more.
THE LAYERS ARE JUST STUNNING. IS THERE A UNIFYING THEME FOR YOUR PAINTINGS IN TERMS OF INSPIRATION OR FEELING? I didn’t know it when I started out, but the unifying theme turns out to be uncertainty: seeing without looking, which expands the possibilities of interpretation… how a form viewed peripherally or in the background can be felt as something other than itself, something potentially more desirable, poetic or preposterous. Like anagrams, parts are mixed up and reassembled to become something that ultimately appears foreign; no longer resembling one’s own preconceived ideas.