Didn't 2020 feel like it was just yesterday? The pandemic definitely changed most of our lives but it's weird because I feel like we're now looking forward so much to recovering our time that we forget that it actually passed.
The beginning of 2020 was completely different though. I remember telling myself not to hype the year up too much, just coz we were entering a new decade, and the numbers of the calendar looked good. Before the world went batshit crazy the year 2020 was lauded to be the best year of our lives. I believe reading about System of a Down and Rage Against The Machine announcing going back on the road and touring and I told myself hell yes I'm going to see them in my lifetime.
The picture painted in my last post was me looking around my home and rediscovering my jewelry storage boxes. Full of materials, full of promise, full of hope for me.
However I don't think it was just the boxes that moved me. I found this note with this pair of earrings a customer made for me a few years back, and together with that I found the reason why I needed to do this again.
I look pretty amiable in person and Im able to socialise but if you know me I can get pretty introverted (I think my personality test is a mix of extro and intro.. if it helps I'm also a Gemini lol?) So comments, notes and letters like these really get me deep and I'm ever thankful for a community that's grown with me and sees me.
My first few drops in 2020, I wanted to continue drawing heavily from SSEK Jewelry's essence: signature brass pieces, affordable handcrafted pieces that were different yet fit into wardrobes with ease and comfort.
In Bloom, April 2020.
Incredibly proud of these two magnificent beaded earrings. I'd like to think these were an evolution of the Kula earrings-- incorporating beaded fringes in different configurations. I loved seeing movement in my pieces, and at one point I felt like I was engineering: figuring out what should stay static and what should move.
Using glass beads was fun and expressive as always, using colours to set a mood and elevate any gemstones used too. The brass plates and shapes lent me the gold warmth I wanted, while keeping them looking contemporary and chic.
Size wise, everything was still pretty long and wide. I was aware that petite pieces were in high demand, but for beaded canvases I needed some kind of space to work with.
I gave myself the freedom to create some very experimental and statement pieces too. Really loved the colours and textures, a complete sensory experience imo. A lot of time sewing and gluing and making sure they were sturdy enough to be worn.
This was a collection quite close to my heart, but I understood it wasn't for everyone.
Shortly after that I started conducting workshops because our borders closed and everyone was finding things to do. It was honestly a great way to meet people (I met so many!!) and carve out a safe space for peace, quiet, creativity, growth.
Around this time I got a message from the DC Edit team (@thedcedit) under @dreachong, asking me if I have a holiday collection for Christmas and they invited me to do a video shoot for their content.
Bro I couldn't believe it haha
As a non-influencer creator from nowhere I thought omg this was going to be my big break. I was thrilled, beyond thrilled that someone possibly thought I was good enough to be featured as an artist on their page. What more, an audience as wide as theirs.
I didn't have a Christmas collection just yet, but I knew I had to reverse engineer this. I knew I needed to cater to a different audience, and create things that would be easy to love. Of course they needed to have SSEK Jewelry's signature style embedded in them.
Before this I never really considered bringing in supplies like paved crystal charms, or gold plated charms and components. I was too scared that they might not live up to my quality standards, or worse, my customers'.
As a jewelry brand, I guess it's either source for suppliers or source for manufacturers that can produce what you desire. And I guess it depends very much on your volume and how much you can commit. I play it safe and source for suppliers that have well designed and well made items, ready to ship.
Maps to Atlantis, 2020.
Some of the charm intensive pieces from the collection. While it's no secret the charms aren't created or designed by me, it unlocked a new way to create. Designing things was essentially a sort of arrangement, a curation, to fix things together and create something new. And I loved it, no matter the form or material.
I worked incredibly hard for Maps to Atlantis. Bringing something new to the table was fresh, but I knew I had to elevate everything: concept, photos, presentation, people to rep them (all my favourite local makers and inspirations hello!!)
Expectations for the collection to do well was off the charts, too. Purchasing this much gold-plated supplies was costly, and I had just come back to SSEK Jewelry full time with no investors, no back ups, just my savings.
These 18k gold plated pieces lived up and beyond my ideals though. Some of them (coz I barely touch them but they've been around since 2020), still have their gold shine still well intact. I knew they were a good value for their quality, and I still use them regularly in my work today.
Ultimately it didn't really matter what materials I used, it was also how I told its collective story. How the visuals were taken, the colour palettes, its terrain, its journey. Maps To Atlantis marked another milestone in my life as a designer, and it would see me continue weaving in charms and manufactured items into my stories.
2020 and beyond
The introduction of new materials opened up a new section of the universe I always dreamed of, and the pandemic shaped the life I have now. Most of my hours are spent at my desk, working on fresh designs, sourcing for new gemstones and crystals, photographing progress and final products, painstakingly logging costs and figuring out prices.
Even as I work on getting the new collection to you, the pre-collection vibes stay the same, too. Inertia, anxiety, managing expectations. That same girl who reduced her prices to $18 for a bracelet is still me. However I hope through sharing these snippets of my journey, you can see that at the end of the day-- I really just wanna make pretty things, and you've given me a reason to keep doing that.
You guys have loved so many designs and it's no longer just you, too. Y'all consider SSEK Jewelry for gifting, you graciously give me space to tell my stories, you also express your thoughts and communicate your soul back to me. This I never expected, and will always be grateful for.
Till the next one,