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Popular jeweler Stefanie Wolf grew up in Connecticut, and after graduating from college, worked in a corporate job before returning to a love for jewelry-making that she discovered one summer on Martha’s Vineyard. She recently moved from her Arts District, Oak Bluffs location to a new studio and shop at 12 North Water Street in Edgartown.
What’s your background? I grew up in CT, went to college in MA, and spent some years working in a cubicle in corporate
America after college. I learned about business, marketing and innovation quickly, but got burnt out and had an early mid-life crisis at 25. I wasn’t finding gratification in my work or in my relationships and it turned out that my life needed a course re-direction. So I quit my job, said goodbye to my boyfriend and moved to Maui to crew on a sailboat. After that things really started to fall into place! I learned to surf, fell in love, re-discovered my passion for jewelry making, and re-directed my career path a bit. After finishing the education and training to become a Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of California (I had moved to San Francisco along the way), I dropped it all because my jewelry hobby had turned into a full-time career by the time I had completed my graduate degree. That was around 2005 and I’ve never looked back!
Where are you from? I was born in San Francisco, grew up in CT and have family throughout the North Shore of MA and in CT. I went to college outside of Boston.
When did you start making jewelry? I had a rock collection as a kid, and I’ve always been attracted to colorful shiny objects. I started making jewelry during my college summers spent on the Vineyard. I purchased my first bead stash from Beadniks and picked up some wire from Philips Hardware on Circuit Avenue and got to work! I spent my days at the beach and working at Saffron and The Last Mango (stores owned by the owners of Hannah B in Edgartown), and my nights serving at the Edgartown Yacht club. I dabbled in jewelry making in-between and actually convinced two stores along Circuit Avenue to sell my designs that first summer!
When did you go into business, and where? I started my jewelry business in 2003 in San Francisco. I was finishing up a graduate degree in Integral Counseling Psychology. I was training as a psychotherapist and I found jewelry-making to be my own form of therapy. Jewelry was a hobby and a small side business until I allowed it to take over as my full time occupation by 2005. In the early days I’d sell at craft fairs, home parties, at yoga studios, schools and offices.
What made you decide to move to MV? My husband and I met in Oak Bluffs when I was 17. He was born and raised on Island. We remained part of the same circle of friends for almost a decade, meeting up somewhat serendipitously in Hawaii in 2001. We were vacationing there separately, but decided to move there at the same time. We soon fell in love and lived for a few years in Maui and California before coming so settle back on island just in time for our daughter to be born in 2009. The Vineyard has always felt like home to me.
What was your first impression of the Island? My older brother used to take me on week-long vacations to the Vineyard when I was in middle school and high school. He’d let me bring a friend and we’d roam around the towns and beaches eating ice cream, boogie boarding, meeting other kids. It was heavenly! I’d beg my mom to let me spend my summers here and she’d say “Not until college”… So after my freshman year began my college summers on the Vineyard. The first summer I lived in a 3 bedroom house in Dodgers Hole with 8 women. That was insane! We had lots of fun.
Where was your first studio/place of business? My first jewelry studio was the desk in my bedroom of a shared flat in San Francisco around 2002. I soon moved into an apartment with my (now) husband and he allowed me to take over our dining room. I worked at a small desk and had floor to ceiling shelves full of beads.
Any near disasters? Oh my, yes! I think it was the summer of 2012… It was a day of summer thunderstorms and my elaborate and bejeweled display was all set up under my tent at the Artisans Festival outside at the Grange Hall. A downpour came as I was chatting with customers. The rain accumulated so quickly in my sagging tent top that the weight of the water began to weigh down the entire tent structure. By the time I addressed it with a long stick to try and re-route the water over the sides of the tent, there were gallons and gallons of water and it was too late! My friendly artisan neighbors came running to my rescue but we all reached the same conclusion. The only way to get this growing body of water off of my tent top was to poke a hole in the canvas and allow it to pour into the center of my display. The steel support structure of the tent was bending, swaying and bowing and we agreed it was destined to collapse at any moment! So…. I invited my customers out of the tent, moved my tables to the edges of my booth, and we used one of the long sticks to punch a hole beneath the largest pool above, causing a giant downpour in the center of my display. It was insane! I then had a giant muddy lake in my ‘shop’, a torn, bent and destroyed tent, and guess what? Customers continued to shop the full day. After the drama subsided I proceeded to have one of my best sales days ever. After the ordeal I felt a bit traumatized, and was very thankful to the other artisans for helping me out, and to my customers for making it “a great day” despite the weather.
What’s your favorite color? Turquoise blue.
Is there anything in the Vineyard landscape that inspires you? Where DO you get inspiration? The ocean. The waves. Island living. The way the people, the lifestyle, the energy is just different here. The way I can watch the sunset every night over the lagoon and it’s a whole new experience each evening.
Any gratifying stories ? Michelle Obama will be receiving a very special gift from me this summer. Mark my words! To date… My jewelry will be featured in the UncommonGoods Fall catalog, of which I’m very proud. This is a big step forward for my wholesale business. We’re talking now about including it in their Holiday catalog as well. It’s also on the UncommonGoods website now and getting a good response so far http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/mosaic-necklace .
How much do you work in the summer? More than I’d like to, but it’s inevitable here because that’s when my retail business happens. I try to get at least one nice beach day in per week. My goal for the next few years is to build such a solid team of employees that I can enjoy the summer season more. Can you check in with me about that in August?
What’s your favorite day-off activity on MV? My dreamiest summer days involve dropping my daughter off at camp, grabbing my husband, our beach chairs and some lunch and high tailing it up to Aquinnah for a big day at the beach. He and I are truly beach bums at heart. Our marathon beach days have changed a bit now that we’re parents, but we milk them for all they are worth! Sometimes we will take two cars so only one of us needs to leave mid-afternoon for kid pick up, and the other can soak it in a tad longer. He usually lets me stay.
Do you have any work quirks? As much as I love my small team of amazing employees, I treasure my alone time at the studio. I find that I need space and time to be creative and things flow more easily for me when I’m alone. As my jewelry business has grown, I’ve been increasingly challenged with how and when this coveted alone time happens. In my new studio we actually have several rooms so it is much easier to get some space. Though I must admit, that I still love coming in after hours or on days we are closed just so I can have the place to myself. This alone time is when I feel free to let my new designs happen, experiment with new ideas or rearrange the jewelry displays or the furniture.
What’s the most dangerous part of your job? Overpromising and underdelivering.
What advice would you give an artist who wants to start a new business on MV/sell their works here? 1) Find a way to appeal to locals, not just visitors. 2) Start small… i.e. pay for a small table at a flea market before you commit tens of thousands to a downtown lease. Prove your concept first and grow slowly, adjusting your course along the way. 3) Be kind and respectful to EVERYONE. This island is way too small to do otherwise.
Do you use social media? Yes, of course! Social media is an important part of my marketing. I’m loving Instagram these days, I always post everything on Facebook, I’ve been playing with Twitter and I have a bunch of boards on Pinterest.
Facebook Stefanie Wolf Designs (www.facebook.com/pages/Stefanie-Wolf-Designs/134641419897169?ref=hl)
Instragram stefwolfdesigns (instagram.com/stefwolfdesigns#)
Pinterest stefwolfdesigns (www.pinterest.com/stefwolfdesigns/)
Twitter @stefwolfdesigns (twitter.com/StefWolfDesigns)
Where are you located? Please come visit me in my brand new studio space and shop at 12 North Water Street in Edgartown. I’m on the 2nd floor of the beautiful historical Preservation Trust building, right next to Boucle Salon & Spa. And always online at: stefaniewolf.com.
Please join me for my Grand Opening Celebrations, Thursdays, July 24 and August 7, from 6 – 8 pm, concurrent with the Edgartown Gallery Strolls.
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