Seashore Design Studio – Ilana Mele
As part of our series featuring “Mama Metal” jewelry, we are showcasing products and interviewing the artisans creating the jewelry.
Ilana was kind enough to provide photos of herself, her daughter, and her workspace, and answer interview questions for us. Ilana is the artisan behind the company Seashore Design Studio.
We have featured some of Ilana’s handmade jewelry in a prior post.
Today, please enjoy a peek inside Ilana’s head, as she speaks about her work, art, and life! These images of Ilana were taken by her husband (not Carefree Cocoon).
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CC: Tell us about your family. Significant other? Children’s names and ages?
IM: I live with my husband Frank and my little girl Lily, who will be 2 this summer.
CC: Where are you currently located?
IM: West Babylon, New York. We are on the south shore of Long Island.
CC: How do you pronounce your name?
IM: ih la nuh. This seems like a silly thing to note, but my name is ilana – people often think it’s two L’s rather than an i.
CC: Tell us about your work space. Do you create items in your home? A separate studio?
IM: My husband and I have a shared home office which doubles as my studio. We each have a computer desk and bookshelves. I have a workbench where I keep my fusing/soldering station, pickle pot and supplies. I do a lot of crafts, so the room is pretty packed with art and craft supplies.
CC: What is your best time of day to get work done?
IM: It depends. Sometimes I work after my daughter goes to sleep. Her daytime naps are brief, so my best bet is catching her in a good mood and working while she plays in the office with me. She likes to copy me, so I sometimes give her my rubber mallet, benchplate and some scrap pieces and let her “work”.
CC: Anything special about your business name?
IM: I’ve always loved the scallop shell design and have used it as a personal marker for many years. Living close to the ocean and identifying with this seashell design, Seashore Design Studio just seemed to make sense.
CC: How long have you been in business as an artisan? Making mama metal?
IM: I have only been making mama metal style jewelry since September 2015. Previously I ran a little jewelry design business which I officially opened in 2007, though I was casually making jewelry prior. I did mostly custom sculpted items and got to ship to 30 countries! It became too labor intensive once my daughter was born and I have since move on from that project. I have also worked as a production assistant for a handmade jewelry company which is stocked in stores around the globe. This gave me an opportunity to get into the swing of bulk production without ever compromising quality.
CC: What drew you to enter this field of work?
IM: I’ve always been interested in actual metalwork but never got around to it until now. I consider this the next step in my jewelry making journey.
CC: How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?
IM: I seem to be drawn to simple, organic shapes with meaning. I love pieces that have great flow and movement, which can be interpreted different by different people. Most pieces I make of my own design (as opposed to custom designs) are not very pictorial; instead they rely on basic design elements.
CC: What mediums do you work with?
IM: My centerpieces are largely 14 gauge fine silver, with other gauges sometimes used for accents. Chains and associated findings are sterling silver. I add small gemstones and pearls to some chains.
CC: What inspires you in your creative work?
IM: There’s no one thing that inspires me. Sometimes it’s my daughter or something I see, something in nature, or something that just pops into my head!
CC: How has your work / practice / design changed over time?
IM: I’ve increased in skill and I’ve gotten used to the finer points of metal design the more I’ve practiced. I’ve begun looking more at the mechanics of a piece and how it will move, rather than first flush aesthetics.
CC: What kind of experience do you want a viewer or user of your art to walk away with?
IM: My hope is that customers will enjoy a well-crafted piece of wearable art that makes them feel good and can be worn for years to come. For moms of young children or other caretakers, it’s that pretty piece that makes you feel fancy even when you’re at your most casual. These can be worn long after the little ones have outgrown them as a sweet reminder. For others, it’s a fun and stylish mix-and-match option that can be tailored to your moods and needs. I love the versatility of these pieces and I hope that wearers can appreciate how many things can be done with them.
CC: What risks have you taken in your work, and what has been at stake?
IM: I’m actually very shy, and it’s always been a struggle to share my work. Even things that I really am proud of, I shy away from sharing publicly (this makes face to face sales REALLY hard for me). This has helped me come out of my shell a bit.
CC: Fill in the blank: Motherhood is _________.
IM: Awesome. Being a mom isn’t always easy, but I really like it. I love spending time with my little sidekick.
CC: How has being a mother changed you?
IM: I think that it has amplified a lot of my qualities. It’s also given me a very real sense of perspective, and helped me see “the bigger picture”.
CC: What is something your daughter has taught you?
IM: Lily has taught me to go with the flow. I’m very much a planner, and I appreciate precision. Trying to work from home with her has given me the best and worst of both worlds. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but I’ve had to let go of preconceived notions and constraints and go with the flow. So far, we’re doing pretty well.
CC: What does your daughter do that makes you laugh?
IM: With less than 20 words and a few ASL signs, my daughter is a very, very good communicator. She cracks me up with the details she notices, mimics and communicates. Also, her laugh is infectious. Even when she’s being difficult, if she’s laughing about it, it’s very hard not to laugh myself.
CC: What is one piece of advice on motherhood that has helped you?
IM: Before my daughter was born, I was talking with a friend about things I wanted to do. She looked at me and said, “Let your child be your teacher.” I thought that was very powerful. Looking back, I see exactly what she meant. Every child is different, and by following my daughter’s lead I’ve been able to build a very strong, trusting relationship. We are able to stay quite in tune with each other.
To purchase jewelry made by Ilana, visit our shop!