Meet Your Maker Monday: Charlotte Elliff
Stepping into Houston's Bead Shop is all it took for Charlotte Elliff to realize that she wanted to make jewelry. Read what it's taken to achieve that pursuit, what keeps her going, and what gives her new ideas in her craft. And the name behind Hermitess Jewelry? She answers that one too.
What is your name, company, URL, and social media links?
Charlotte Elliff; Hermitess Jewelry; www.hermitessjewelry.com
What do you make?
Feminine, vintage inspired jewelry. As a studio jeweler, I design and fabricate pieces in-house from start to finish using a range of traditional jewelry techniques. I spend a great deal of time researching jewelry history and have fun incorporating what I learn into my work.
My current collection looks like you raided your great-grandmother’s jewelry box. It’s a fun, affordable take on the amazing jewelry produced during the early 1900’s.
I’m using high quality cubic zirconia stones in old-fashioned cuts like rose and old mine set in sterling silver. The pieces are quite versatile and look great whether you’re headed to the alter or the park. My favorite stone to use is a beautiful blush champagne color. It goes with everything!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I grew up working in my family’s factory in downtown Jackson, Mississippi, so it feels very natural for me to pack a sack lunch in the morning, head to my studio in the warehouse district, and make something.
During a typical week, I try to spend at least 5-6 hours a day at the bench. Fabricating jewelry at the bench is very peaceful. I actually love to do all the things people complain about… sawing, filing, sanding. I’m a perfectionist, so the bench is where I can reconcile my ideals with my reality. My motto is “perfecting imperfection, one day at a time.”
In the evenings or on weekends, I use my small home studio. This is where I design and render. I also have a bench set up exclusively for wax carving.
Why did you start your own business and why Houston?
After moving back to Houston from New York in 2006, I planned to go to graduate school but wasn’t passionate about any traditional fields of study. Fortunately, I walked into The Bead Shop and that was it. First I beaded, next I enrolled in jewelry classes with Mary Rogers at The Art League of Houston, and then onto Glassell School of Art.
I spent a summer at Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco taking classes. It was amazing how much I learned in such a short time. I feel so fortunate to live in a time when master jewelers are willing to share their knowledge so openly and patiently with novices. I’m always on the lookout for a good jewelry class and have repeated quite a few because the first time didn’t seem to take.
My husband’s nickname for me has always been “The Hermit” since I gather a lot of energy and creativity when I’m by myself. That said, after work, I’m very social.
What are your inspirations and how do they guide your work?
History. The history of jewelry reflects the history of the world, so there is always something new to learn from books, jewelry instructors, museums, and archeological finds.
Travel. No matter where I travel, it always opens my mind and jumpstarts the creative process when I get back to work.
Girlfriends. They have kindly test driven my jewelry over the years and are not shy about feedback.
Special earrings. I recently inherited a pair of earrings from my aunt who had cancer. They are from the 1880’s and originally belonged to my great-great grandmother. They are very simple and have the most graceful ear wires. I had been struggling with my ear wire design, and these earrings gave me the solution. I’m the fourth owner out of five generations of very strong women, so I’m going to do my best to wear them well.
What’s next for Hermitess Jewelry?
Retail! I am strictly wholesale because this allows me to stay focused on design and production. I’m working with a local retailer who will introduce Hermitess Jewelry to the market this spring.
What do you want people to know about your work?
A truly special piece of jewelry takes time, patience, and human touch. This is what gives my creations warmth and charm.