SHAHLA KARIMI JEWELRY
Shahla Karimi could be the spokesperson for never giving up on your dreams. After taking a jewelry-making class she was inspired to start her own line, and through hard work and determination - and toiling away at her full time job to financially back these loft goals - she made it happen! Her namesake brand, Shahla Karimi Jewelry, marries old world craft and new world technologies.
All pieces are hand made in New York City with recycled metals and conflict-free stones. Some pieces from her Subway Series
– a collection crafted by manipulating the shapes from NYC’s famous transit lines – have even been worn by celebrities
Lena Dunham, Carrie Underwood, and Idina Menzel.
How did you get into jewelry making?
I've always loved making things since i was a small kid. When I was six I used to peddle my paintings door to door in the neighborhood for 10 cents! I started making jewelry as a hobby about 7 years ago, and from the day I took a jewelry class at
3rd Ward I knew it was what I wanted to do full time. I just had to save enough money to quit my job; And that took years.
Before dedicating myself to my brand full time in 2014, I spent ten years working in production for other companies (Warner Music Group, the Obama campaign, Code and Theory, etc.)
Your jewelry line is so beautiful. What inspires these creations?
I find inspiration in the ordinary... most of the silhouettes used in my jewelry have come from things seen every day, like a subway map (Subway Series) or city streets (Paris Waters)!
What are your favorite pieces to create?
I love doing custom engagement rings; It's a lot of pressure because you know the client is going to wear it for the rest of their life. On the flip side, it's so rewarding to work one-on-one with them - the look on their face when they see the ring for the first time is priceless and even makes me a little teary!
My favorite stone right now is Pink Opal. It comes in a lot of varieties - Peruvian and Australian Pinks are the best!
You work in a building where production is basically all done under one roof. What is that process like?
It really cuts down on over-all execution time to have a one-stop shop. I had been looking for a studio that has the resources I needed for over 6 months.
The creation of a typical piece involves:
- I take a silicon mold to my caster
- 1-2 days later I have a raw silver casting
- I take the casting to my finisher
- 2-3 days later I have a pre-polished piece
- I take the pre-polished piece to my lapidary
- 3-4 days later I have the custom stone complete
- I take the piece back to my finisher for a final polish
- 1-2 days later I have the final polished piece
- Gold Vermeil pieces are then sent to Rhode Island for micron plating (almost 100x thicker than traditional flash plating). This takes about 2 weeks
You also have a very recognizable style. Do you think it will keep changing and evolving, or do you hope to maintain this signature aesthetic?
I think the metals and stones will eventually evolve exclusively into fine jewelry, which means smaller pieces but I do hope to maintain the same over-all look. I always design for myself - I think that's what keeps it consistent. If they are all pieces I want to wear myself, I feel like there will always be a recognizable aspect.
You share a studio with several other female designers. That's awesome! Do you inspire each others' work?
I admire everyone in the studio so much, especially Tara 4779. She was a fine artist who now makes beautiful delicate concept jewelry; Check out the Negative Space Collection - it's my favorite. Leehe with Bleeker and Prince also blows my mind. She is a certified diamond-grader and always works with the most interesting, uncommon stones.
Have you found a lot of support from your fellow jewelry designers? How about others in the Brooklyn maker scene?
I don't know if everyone has the same experience as me but I rely heavily on other designers; I am an open book and share all of my vendors, pricing, and marketing tips with fellow designers. I think that because I offer help, others are reciprocal.
I typically only work with local creatives; From graphic design and illustration to photography, styling, and public relations - everyone i work with lives in Williamsburg!
My favorite thing about the Brooklyn creative community?
My favorite thing is the willingness to trade for services! I love bartering one creative service for another, like a sketch for a piece of jewelry.
The community is also so good about helping newcomers network. Everyone I work with comes from a referral and once I work with someone, I recommend them to everyone I know!
Photos by Caroline Petters