The good folks over at Localwise just posted an interview they did with Solee before she headed north on her next adventure.
From the Localwise blog:
Crown Nine's Jewelry Production Assistant Solee Darrell
Handcrafted, boutique jewelry is all the rage right now, and for good reason: who doesn’t want to wear art that looks and feels rare and unique?
Crown Nine, located in the heart of the historic Old Oakland neighborhood, carries some of the most gorgeous and distinctive pieces in the Bay. The shop displays jewelry from over 20 artists, including its owner, Kate Ellen, who describes her work as reminiscent of discoveries from an archaeological dig.
Oakland's very own jewelry queens
Crown Nine is run by the efficient trio of Kate, the earthy metalsmith queen, Christina, the retail operations master—also a jewelry artist, and Solee, the trusty and creative production assistant. If you’ve ever wondered how it is, exactly, that talented women like these end up in the art and business of crafting and hawking tiny, beautiful treasures, you’re not alone.
Localwise caught up with Solee to learn more about her foray into jewelry production and her work life at Crown Nine.
"Real objects made by real people"
Style and fashion have long played an important part of Solee’s life. On the spectrum of beige to untameable, she tends toward the wild side. Solee jumps for colors, prints, unusual shapes and cuts, and the all-important factor for non-bag-carriers: pockets. She prefers handmade items because she loves to wear “something that someone has made or has some kind of history or life to it.”
Life before jewelry >> a path to design
Before jewelry wound its way into her life, Solee worked in retail at Therapy on Valencia St. and was a receptionist at a salon. Then she lived in Mexico for six months and was introduced to metalsmithing at theSterling Quest school. When she came back to Oakland, she knew she needed to continue on through this new portal. Without a ton of experience, she dropped her resume off at Crown Nine — she was already an Instagram fan — and was excited when she got the chance to learn from Kate.
Kate Ellen with a new project in the works — no hints!
A little autonomy goes a long way
Because there are only three of them, Solee says “it’s like a super intimate little family of ladies that we’ve built here.” It’s also an environment where she has lots of room to develop on her own and gather the wisdom of her work family. Solee describes Kate as less of a conventional boss figure and “more of a mentor. She gives me a lot of freedom to learn and she understands that I’m an artist. It’s hard for me to come somewhere 9-5, so she’s super flexible.”
A quick stop above the shop
On a regular basis, Solee is at the studio above the shop, finishing, adjusting or repairing pieces of jewelry from her bench. “And then Kate will usually check in and tell me what she needs me to do, whether it’s ordering materials or running into the city to pick something up. I’m pretty much here to catch whatever she needs me to do.”
In the end, it's all about your team
It can be difficult to find the right position in the right company—especially for artists and the creative-minded—but Solee reminds us that it’s important to stretch yourself and be on the look-out for the right people to work with.
“It’s very rare that you’ll find your dream job sitting on Craigslist. You’ve got to be meeting people and seeing what’s going on in your community. Don’t be afraid to apply, even if you don’t necessarily think you’re qualified. Just be open to putting yourself out there!”
The journey to finding a voice
Solee is happy with her position at Crown Nine because, not only does she learn about business from Kate, she gets to hone her jewelry techniques. Even after two years, she admits, “I’m still a baby jeweler in a lot of ways. I’m trying to take in as much as I can.”
It can take a while for any artist to find her own particular voice, and Solee is still on her journey there. “It’s easy to see what other people are doing and how successful they are, and you know, it’s easy to emulate that, but it’s harder to know precisely what you like and what you want.”
Jim "The Dude" ~ Crown Nine Shop Dog
Written by: Kamala Puligandla
Photos by: Alaia Schwegler