The rugged Maine coastline is the home and a source of inspiration for The Ropes designer Shana Ready, who creates her jewelry line from boatyard materials, including colorful ropes and hardware. With a J. Crew collaboration under her belt, Ready shares thoughtful tips on how to be successful in a fast-paced fashion industry. Ready’s handmade lanyard bracelets reference her life on the water. She is originally from my hometown, Kennebunkport, Maine—a fact I was excited to learn.
Rebecca Mir Grady: It’s always nice to meet a fellow Kennebunkporter! How long have you lived in Maine?
Shana Ready: Yes, what a small world! I definitely consider Maine my home; I grew up in Kennebunkport, and now live just outside of Portland, [Maine] on the coast.
I went to college at the Rhode Island School of Design and spent the early years of my career working in apparel design in New York City and Boston. These are times and places that I cherish and that informed who I’ve become both as a designer and a person, but ultimately I felt drawn back to my home state.
I think there is enormous freedom here to create the life and career you want, to work for yourself, to realize your own vision, your own destiny.
RMG: Your bracelets definitely call to mind summertime on the Maine coast. Are you inspired by life on the water?
SR: The Ropes was born out of the Maine coastline and the deep inspiration I draw from it. There is, of course, the stunning natural beauty of it, and there is also the beauty of the human interaction with it.
The communities, traditions and way of life that make up the working waterfront are hugely significant in my work.
I am interested in jewelry that tells a story, which is why all the rope I use is authentic dock line, quite literally the stuff you would use to tie up boats. The clasps are also marine hardware. You could walk down to any marina and you would see these materials. I think there is enormous beauty in utility.
RMG: Can you tell me a bit more about starting your line? When did you launch?
SR: It’s funny I never consciously set out to start a line, it happened almost by accident. Ever since I can remember I’ve been drawn to weaving and beading. So since elementary school I’ve been making jewelry for myself and for friends, but it was just a hobby that I never thought much of.
Then one snowy winter day I was fooling with some of my husband’s lobster gear that was lying around the house and made two bracelets, that would later become the Kennebunkport and Portland styles. I started wearing them around; my friends loved them and encouraged me to approach local stores. The Ropes launched officially in 2010, we will be five this year!
RMG: What lessons did you learn in the beginning? Do you have any advice for designers just starting out?
SR: I learned so many lessons in the beginning and continue to learn new lessons everyday. Here are a few.
1. In the fashion industry things move very quickly, in Maine I am a little more removed and can do things at my own pace and I think that’s a really healthy way to work. So seek out an environment that is conducive to how your work best, its not the same for everyone. For me, good design needs to be thoughtful and takes time, when I gave myself the space and time the rest took care of itself.
2. Don’t be concerned about what everybody else is doing. Easier said than done, I know, but for me all the best choices I’ve made as a designer have been heartful, not strategic.
3. Don’t be afraid to fail, a failure is never a loss it is a lesson learned.
RMG: What are you working on right now?
SR: With our Fall Holiday line we just released a new style called The Camden, a lighter, slimmer, more delicate take on the classic Kennebunkport. I believe this style rounds out the entire collection and am thrilled to install it as an official style in its own right.
In general terms, I am constantly working on new ideas and concepts for The Ropes, some of which I use right away, some of which I hold onto for years. I like to have a full arsenal of new ideas on hand, it feeds my creativity.
RMG: What is your studio/workspace like?
SR: I have a studio at my house overlooking the ocean; so, when I glance up from whipping a bracelet I am immersed in my original inspiration. This is hugely helpful in the day-to-day business of running a company. It keeps things in great perspective.
“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