When I first heard that Sarah Greenberg, the designer extraordinaire behind Sarah Swell Jewelry, was set to open a new showroom and studio space in Sausalito, California I found myself wishing that I lived in the Bay Area—that and the winter in Chicago was extra long this year!
Read on for a virtual tour of Greenberg’s new design digs and the inside scoop on how she started her line of well-crafted line of beautiful Sterling Silver and 14k Gold jewelry.
Rebecca Mir Grady: First and foremost, congratulations on the opening of your new showroom. It look amazing. How was the opening?
Sarah Greenberg: Thank you! The opening went well. The community and many of my fellow Bay Area jewelers came out to celebrate, which was really wonderful.
RMG: Can you tell me a little bit more about the space? How did the showroom come about? Is your studio on the premises too? Are you selling other goods in addition to your own collections?
SG: The space itself has a slight industrial feel and I’ve decided to keep the aesthetic modern & natural. The front has great light and houses the showroom portion. I restored an antique case to display my jewelry and I also have a beautiful old farm table that serves as my work desk/checkout station and for client and custom design meetings.
The back of the space is my studio, separated from the front by a half wall so that the clutter stays hidden, but I can keep an eye on the shop. I have also brought in some select personal and home accessories to sell alongside my work.
I wasn’t actually looking to open a retail space yet, but after trouble finding an affordable studio just North of San Francisco (Sausalito) I stumbled on this space. I knew it would work perfectly and it made sense financially, so I jumped in!
RMG: When did you start your jewelry line? What lead you to jewelry making?
SG: I started my line in 2008, but began my career in jewelry much earlier. I attended the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston, but studied painting. I had been feeling like something wasn’t quite right, but it was only after taking a metalsmithing class on a whim that I knew I had found my calling.
I dropped out of Art school to pursue my new dream of having my own jewelry business. I worked in every aspect of the industry that I could. I’ve worked as a bench jeweler doing repairs, retail, design, marketing, and managing a jewelry studio. I moved to San Francisco to attend the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts and ended up staying in the Bay Area.
RMG: How did you get exposure for your line early on?
SG: I was really, really hungry to make my collection successful, but didn’t have much money at all to invest in it. I did a lot of cold calling/emailing to press outlets and stores that I hoped would stock my work. At first, I had to be very careful with cash flow, so I let my business grow slowly and organically over time.
RMG: What lessons have you learned over the years? Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
SG: If possible, work for someone already running a successful business. You’ll get to learn the ins and outs of running a business in general, as well as the little nuances of that specific industry. I worked for jewelry designer Sarah Graham before starting my business and it was an incredibly valuable experience.
Most importantly, don’t give up!
Sure, you have to be willing to take advice and rethink your approach from time to time. Be open to changing course if necessary, but keep pushing forward. I think the business owners that survive are the most persistent. When people tell you it’s not going to be easy, they’re right!
RMG: Being from Maine myself, I was intrigued to read that you grew up in New England. What part of New England are you from? Did growing near the coast influence your work? Does the California coast that you’re now living and working in inspire any of your jewelry?
SG: I grew up on Cape Cod. Really, spending my childhood and young adult life there entirely shaped my design sense. I cannot imagine living away from the coast, ever. There is such a living, breathing element to the Ocean and I find comfort knowing that it is nearby.
I lived in San Francisco and then Oakland for many years and just recently moved closer to the water because I wanted to reconnect with the very thing that inspired me to create in the first place. The Northern California coast is wild. That, along with the lush redwood and fern filled forests have captured my heart. Plus the food, it always comes back to good food!
All photos: Eva Kolenko, courtesy Sarah Swell Jewelry.
“R&Design" is a monthly interview series that features jewelry designer Rebecca Mir Grady, who launched a debut jewelry collection under her eponymous label in 2013, in conversation with new and established designers. The monthly guest column is a platform for the exchange of ideas, advice, and fashion-focused research and development strategies. This post first appeared on Past Fashion Future .com