How did you become a jewelry designer? What was it like in the beginning?
I've always painted and worked with metal, but about four years ago I started Monica Squitieri as a business. Within two months of creating a handful of pieces and starting a website, I got my first wholesale order from a shop in Los Angeles. I was like, "Oh! I guess I'm a business!" I was working out of a closet in a 500 square foot trailer in Santa Monica. I worked out of that closet for two years even though those were some of the largest orders I've ever received. It wasn't a closet space just for jewelry. It had tons of motorcycle gear, tons of books and who knows what else. I have no clue. It made me realize I can work almost anywhere. As far as what it was like in the beginning? I was excited. I didn't have expectations except to make things. I didn't have any guidance. Honestly I had no clue what I was doing. But I learned fast. I'm still very much learning. It's one thing to make and create, but it's a whole other beast to do that stuff and try to buy groceries and pay vet bills off it etc. I'd say the one thing I have (and thankfully still do) is the support from others to keep creating. I can't tell you how important positive support is when diving into something new and daunting.
We know how much you love music, and you site music as a big influence on your work. In what ways does music show up in the jewelry you make?
Oh yeah. My first album as a kid was the Grateful Dead. Dylan, Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Zappa and Pink Floyd were top contenders. I felt so rad when I got my first pair of headphones. I could be in my own world. Getting drowned out by the sounds was critical for me in my painting and creating growing up. Going to shows added a whole new element of inspiration to my process. As an adult, it's literally crucial for me to see music for my spirit and for my work. I've been wanting to make pieces for musicians for a couple years now. I never got around to it till recently. I got lots of help designing guitar slides and picks from master guitar shredder Neal Casal. I’m pretty pumped with how they've turned out. Making these things is much more complicated than jewelry. You wouldn't think so because at first glance the shape is so simple. But trust me. This was difficult.
The slides have been really well received and I'm starting to make them in pewter, a metal I've never worked with before. This will make them much lighter in weight for folks that are used to jamming with glass. The thumb picks are loads of fun to make and people seem to really like them, which makes me happy. I make a few different thumb pick shapes. With both the picks and slides, I'm super happy that I get to offer them customized with my etchings and gemstone groupings. There's more coming soon from me with regard to musical objects. I'm so happy to see this collection grow.
Is there something you’ve always wanted to design and make but just haven’t gotten to yet? If so, what is it?
I've been wanting to create various objects for a while now, tiny, metal sculptures. I'm starting to get into that a bit now. I've been carving out designs. Usually when I have ideas, I wax them out. I've had some waxes sitting around for years. I'm almost there. Hopefully you'll see them soon.
What kind of advice do you have for people who want to start their own business as a designer?
Oh man, owning a business is hard if you love what you do, because you'll be thinking about it 24/7. There's a lot that goes into the "everyday" stuff. From my perspective, if you're an artist and you love 100% making and creating and putting out those vibrations, then go for it. But my advice is to do it like there's no turning back. Give it your all. People will feel that. And the energy from others’ excitement for your art will feed you to keep going.
Follow Monica (and her adorable dog Noe) on Instagram.