1. Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What's your educational background? What are your general professional and non-professional interests?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, a wonderfully vibrant city. I received my BA from the University of California at Santa Barbara (USCB), where I majored in Dramatic Arts, French, and minored in Ethical Philosophy, spending a year studying Philosophy and Art in Paris France at the Sorbonne. I’ve also always been a huge believer in Service, helping others who haven’t had the opportunities I have had, so, after graduating, I spent two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA, which is the domestic version of the Peace Corps. I was placed at a middle school in Crenshaw California where I served as a College Advisor and created a Community College Center, showing kids that higher education is accessible and that they can do and be whoever they want. My time serving as a VISTA was both extremely challenging and overwhelming rewarding; I bonded with my students in extraordinary ways, experiencing for the first time in my life what it really is like to be economically poor. The ideals I learned from these children about sacrifice and hope are a big part of the person I am today and continually affect me in my art. Right now I am finishing up my MFA (Master’s in Fine Arts) at Northwestern University in Screenwriting and Playwriting, which is what I hope to do with the rest of my life (besides for making jewelry, of course!).
2. What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is… whatever you want it to be. It’s the inherent knowledge of one’s body and the ability to dress that body in the most flattering way, regardless of size. I always say, I don’t care about the size of my clothes, but rather how they fit. I also have this really love/hate relationship with trends, which really are such a big part of the fashion industry. I’m always interested in knowing what’s current and “in” because it plays such a big part in consumer mindset, but I don’t like to look like I’m a template for the current season. When people go into a store and see summer clothes in oranges and pinks, that influences the rest of their style consciousness, so as a designer it’s important to be aware of these trends without sacrificing artistic integrity. I think I personally always stay true to my own likes (I will NEVER think Cardigans are out of style; they’re too comfortable!), while at the same time adding to my wardrobe new “trendy” items that I think can be turned into timeless pieces. My favorite pieces of clothing that I collect are Emilio Pucci dresses, a perfect example of something that’s both trendy and timeless.
3. How would you define your city's fashion?
LA is a VERY laid back city, a jeans and t-shirt kind of town, which is, I think, very influenced by the beach. When I moved to Chicago, every hairdresser I went to tried to convince me to cut my very long curly hair, but I refused because it’s such a reflection of my inner California Girl, a little bohemian, but also very sexy and glamorous. Hollywood is also a very big influence on Los Angeles fashion; everything is about seeing and being seen. Lots of gold and silver, jewels and bright, hot colors. And super high shoes with short short dresses. We’re not New York, Paris, or Milan, but that’s ok, because when we’re not working, we’re out at the organic farmer’s market, or surfing at the beach, or going to a special screening of some new film.
4. When did you realize you wanted to become a fashion jewelry designer?
I’ve been making jewelry since I was about 8-years old. Of course, my designs and technique have matured since then, but for the longest time I only made pieces for myself and my girlfriends. Many of those fabulous friends had been pushing me to sell my designs, but I never seemed to have the time. Finally in the Fall of 2009, I opened up an Etsy shop, but because of my studies, never actually listed anything. In January 2010, I became very ill, and finally decided that I needed to start my jewelry line, even if just a distraction from everything else going on in my life. It’s sad that being sick is what finally pushed me to begin, but I couldn’t be happier with the way things have gone.
5. What do you love most about designing and creating your own jewelry?
I LOVE jewels. Diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies…. The list goes on and on. I remember as a child window-shopping with my parents on Rodeo drive every Sunday, and I would always stop in front of Tiffany’s and Chopard to stare at the jewels. There’s something so intriguing about the way they shine, I don’t think that childhood interest has ever left me. It’s just so much FUN to mix different stones and metals, to create something with my hands that I can wear. It’s everyday art.
6. What are some of your favorite materials to work with and create with?
If you’ve ever looked at my shop, you’ll see that I am a huge fan of turquoise. I’m a child of the Southwest, and there’s a mysterious quality to these aqua blue stones. I’ve also really grown fond of gold. I went through a period as a teenager where I would only wear sterling silver jewelry, but I think that as you get older, there’s almost a regal appeal to gold, something reminiscent of Cleopatra and dynasties past. I also love amethyst and rock crystal. I could go on and on…
7. How did you get your start in jewelry designing and what have you learned over the course of being a designer?
I’ve really learned that it’s important to take risks, matching stones and metals that may not at first seem aesthetically pleasing. There’s something very refreshing in taking risks, always pushing you to discover new things. And there will inevitably be someone out there who likes these different looks as much as you do. If anything, it makes you more individual.
8. If you could sum up your look and aesthetic in three words, what would they be and why?
Chic: I lived in Paris for a year, which really helped to define my style. Parisian women always look so put together and there’s a very innate sexuality in that. It’s a sort of confidence without regret.
Highbrow/lowbrow: I am a handbag whore. When I visited Milan (both times), I HAD to go to the original Prada store (yes, I saw DaVinci’s “Last Supper” too). Louis, Gucci, Fendi, Pucci… the list goes on and on. So no matter how cheap my cotton t-shirt or jeans, I always wear a nice bag.
Comfortable: I hate being uncomfortable in clothes. Anything that restricts my ability to walk, or sit, or whatever is a no go. I think that all women should feel beautiful for who they are not what they wear, and if it doesn’t feel good, then it can’t possibly look that great either.
9. What are some of your accomplishments as a designer?
I think my biggest accomplishment to date is bringing in repeat customers. I pay close attention to detail and want my buyers to have confidence in their products; having customers return for more is the surest sign that I am doing my job to the best of my ability.
10. Where can readers buy your jewelry?
Readers can buy my jewelry via my webpage on ETSY: www.etsy.com/shop/sonjafive20. I’m always excited for custom orders, so if you see something you like but want it in a different color, shape, or size, or if you want to work on a completely custom piece, I’m always up for the challenge.
11. How long have you worked as a designer?
I think I’ve always been designing in some way or another, but I’ve been selling my designs since January 2010.
Also, the code you can give your readers to use for the 15% discount on my site is: MINTALAMODE15, which is valid until April 11, 2011. They can redeem the coupon on any purchase placed on my Etsy webpage @ www.etsy.com/shop/sonjafive20. I also have a facebook page that they can "like" to always receive at least 5% OFF of any purchase: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/California-Chic-and-Sexy-Jewelry/141641012560623.