The holidays are traditionally a time of cheer and an exercise in the magnanimity of human spirit, but they can also be one long season of stress. But gift giving doesn't have to turn you into one big ball of resentment. Not sure what to get that one designer friend or artist family member? Looking for well crafted, thoughtful gifts? That's what this gift guide is for!
And to add that cherry on top, all items are handcrafted by local artists and makers who reside in the Bay Area!
Cup by Carole Neilson $34
With its smoky and earthen tones, this 16 oz cup is perfect for morning coffee on cold, winter mornings. Each porcelain cup is unique in form and color, with a matte texture that is soft to the touch. Carole Neilson studied ceramics at the Academy of Art in Mol in Belgium, allowing her to skillfully throw each cup on the potter's wheel and sculpt light but durable forms. Currently based in San Francisco, Carole originally hails from Alsace of Northern France, a region traditionally known for its rural pottery.
Vase by Melanie Abrantes Designs $110
Turned on a lathe and hand finished with mineral oil and beeswax, this buttery walnut vase takes modern craft to the next level. Simply put a sprig of leaves into the glass vial inside the vase to spruce up any room. Founder Melanie Abrantes strives to create eco-friendly and sustainable home goods that are equally beautiful and functional. This vase was turned from a solid piece of walnut hardwood, which means it's a handcrafted, heirloom object you'll want to hold onto!
Necklace by Olivia Shih $225
This black and gold necklace from the Raw Collection finds inspiration in concrete sidewalks and urban textures. Designed for the modern woman who speaks her mind and knows what she wants, this necklace speaks volumes, whether you're presenting a report at an all-hands meeting or wearing a slinky dress for night out with friends. Not sure if the necklace length is the right fit? Contact me at email@example.com to order a custom length chain!
Wallet by ODSY workshop $60
This cleverly constructed wallet is inspired by San Francisco's Lombard Street, famous for its sharp turns on a steep hill. Made with English bridle leather from Pennsylvania, each wallet is hand stitched with waxed thread and contains three card slots and one pocket in the center. ODSY workshop, which takes its name from the word odyssey, was founded by husband and wife team, Soojin and Yina. The couple not only create unique leatherwork, but also repair shoes in their Outer Sunset workshop!
Ring by Olivia Shih $95
A favorite among all genders, this Raw Ring was first carved in wax then cast with molten metal. If small, shiny jewelry just isn't doing it for you, this ring definitely packs more oomph! Each ring is finished and polished in my studio, which means that every ring will look slightly different. This ring is also available in sterling silver and oxidized silver and can be custom made in vermeil or gold.
Mini bowl by Zena Segre $35
Still looking for the perfect ring dish? Keep your stacking rings safe in this white and periwinkle bowl, made by hand and with great care. Each bowl is made with porcelain, which is a strong and durable material. Since this bowl is food safe and dishwasher/microwave safe, you can also use it to brighten your meals with a dash of color! Artist Zena Segre studied at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, where she honed her eye for color and dedication to craftsmanship.
Dessert bowl by MMCLAY $38
This lovely cream colored dessert bowl is overflowing with wabi sabi qualities. The nuanced variations in the glaze will complement any dessert, from ice cream topped with strawberries to a fresh green salad! Made by artist and designer Mary Mar Keenan, this bowl has a textured bottom that's delightlful to hold. If you think this bowl looks familiar, it's probably because many popular restaurants in California use MMCLAY tableware!
Clogs by Bryr $268
Bryr clogs are a dream come true for shorties like me! Made-to-order in the Dogpatch district, each clog is made with supple leathers sourced from US tanneries and European solid wood. Bryr believes in slow fashion and making things that last, so a pair of clogs will take at least a week to make. Isobel Schofield, founder of Bryr, worked 10 years in the fashion industry but quit her job as a design director to embark on a "creative walk-about."
Bookends by Hannah Beatrice Quinn $52
Made from scrap steel and architectural beams, these bookends are a design nerd's dream! Angle iron, square tubing, rectangular tubing, and I-beams are powder coated and lined with cork pads to prevent slippage. Reminiscent of grade-school letter practices or building blocks, these bookends also work as doorstops or mini sculptures. Hannah Beatrice Quinn, also an alum of the California College of the Arts, incorporates the idea of "play" into all of her work, transforming everyday objects into playful but functional art.
Now that we're at the end of the gift guide, have you decided on a gift yet? If you're having a hard time deciding, give yourself a few days to mull it over. Just don't forget, if you have your eye on a piece of jewelry by Olivia Shih, place an order by December 10th, so that your gift will arrive on time!
Having spent a good portion of my childhood on a subtropical island, I found winters in New York unbearably cold when I went to college. Frozen fingers and slipping on icy sidewalks were never really my thing! But if there's one thing I always look forward to in the winter, it's the opportunity to lavish gifts on my loved ones.
Now that I run my own jewelry business, I'm busier than ever during the holidays, and this means I end up finding the best gifts at the shows I'm a part of! So come join me in the Bay Area and see the marvelous gifts you can find for your friends and families.
11/28 Tis the Season Tuesday @ Intel (In-House Event)
November 28th, 2017
10 am - 3pm
2200 Mission College Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA 95054
11/30 Wunderfaire at IDEO
"Wunderfaire is back for its 9th year! Join IDEO for a night on the pier celebrating local crafters, artists, and designers. Enjoy 60+ independent vendors, food trucks, and live music from solo pianist, DJ Leibowitz.
SHOP – 60+ independent vendors selling crafts, designs, and delectables for men, women, kids, homes, and pets.
EAT – Enjoy food from participating food trucks, Tres Truck and Little Green Cyclo. Sweet treats by Civil Pops and Shades of Sugar Bakeshop.
DO GOOD – A portion of this year’s proceeds will be donated to La Cocina. La Cocina is a non-profit culinary incubator based in the Mission, dedicated to helping low-income food entrepreneurs—primarily women from immigrant communities—grow informal restaurants into legal sustainable businesses.
*Admission is FREE and open to the public, however, registration on Eventbrite is REQUIRED and tickets are limited."
November 30th, 2017
4:30pm - 8pm
Pier 28 Annex
San Francisco, CA 94105
12/3 California College of the Arts Holiday Fair
"CCA’s idyllic Oakland campus turns into a bustling arts bazaar for a day. The public is invited to shop for one-of-a-kind, handmade, affordable gifts created by the CCA community: paintings, drawings, prints, cards, jewelry, ceramics, hand-blown glass, clothing, photography, textiles, ornaments, and more. Discover unique gifts while enjoying live jazz music and holiday treats.
Admission is free."
December 2nd, 2017
11am - 3pm
California College of the Arts
Oakland, CA 94618
12/4 Holiday Artis Festival at the Richmond Art Center
"The Holiday Arts Festival is an annual tradition at the Richmond Art Center. For 55 years, artists and craftspeople have shared their best work with our community.Purchase handmade art, gifts, and food! Meet our Community Partners, who bring so much to the Richmond community and beyond! Celebrate the holiday season with us!
11am — 5pm
Special members' preview hour:
10 — 11am
Richmond Art Center
Main, South, West, and Community Galleries
2540 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, California 94804
12/8 Holiday Artisan Market at The Battery (Members Only)
"Join us as we deck the halls with holiday cheer at our fourth annual No Office Holiday Party and Market.
It’s like a boring office party, but not boring and not at your office.
Merrymaking with -
An artisan market featuring ver 30 vendors selling gorgeous gifts for everyone on your list
Live music by Nova Jazz in the Musto Bar
Make your own flower bouquets with Matilda's Magnolias,
Bearded Drag Queen Santa
Mistletoe! drinks! holiday treats and more...."
6pm - 10 pm
717 Battery St
San Francisco, CA 94111
This summer was truly a summer of firsts! I launched the Tuning Collection online, ushering in my first everyday, minimal collection. I also participated in not one, but TWO new shows. The Renegade Craft Fair was bursting with color and joyful noise and provided decent dog-watching opportunities, too. I also got the chance to showcase my new and improved displays.
I was also thrilled to be selected as an emerging artist for the Hip Pop mini-booths at the American Craft Council Show. The American Craft Council has been around for more than 75 years, publishing magazines, offering public lectures, and hosting high-end craft shows in four different cities. The best thing about ACC? Not only do they cultivate a culture of making, they are also committed to inclusion and equity.
ACC designed lightweight, easy-to-assemble cardboard shelves for the Hip Pop booths. It took a few more hours than expected to figure out how to work with cardboard, but I got everything set up right before the show. I also revealed this one-of-a-kind pendant at the show.
Last but not least, I'll be adding these oxidized beauties to my shop soon, so stay tuned!
The traditional diamond ring might simply not be you, and that's ok. Diamonds come with baggage, from conflicted sources to rampant overpricing, and even as a jewelry designer, I'm terrified of carrying around something so small and expensive. The good news is, showing your commitment to a loved one doesn't need to be weighted down by these worries.
Lily of Leela Threads recently renewed her marriage vows with her husband on her 10th wedding anniversary, and the lovely couple decided to mark the occasion with a gorgeous photoshoot!
The photoshoot was an incredible collaborative project, with photography by Ashley, haircut and color by Zhanna Koryaka, lush blooms by Blooming Mira Designs, lashes by Natalie, and original wedding dress modified by David's Bridal. Lily even modified her original wedding dress for this rocking bridal shoot with an attitude!
Instead of wearing diamond bridal jewelry like most brides, why not go with lightweight acrylic jewelry? The truth is, you can choose to not worry about losing overpriced diamond jewelry or getting irritated earlobes from wearing heavy earrings for a whole day. If you're looking to make a statement with bold, eco-friendly jewelry, the Black Gold Collection is for you.
And here is the happy couple photographed against the backdrop of Sacramento Midtown before sunset. Happy anniversary, Lily and Nick!
I was recently interviewed by the Metal Arts Guild in SF as their Featured Member in March, and they've graciously allowed me to repost the interview here!
Tell us a little about yourself.
Born in the US and raised in Taiwan, I’m an artist, jewelry designer, and writer currently based in Oakland, California. In my conceptual work, I explore the imprint of sexism on our daily habits, often through alternative materials paired with metal armature. Questioning the construction of gender and reinterpreting feminism are the driving forces behind my work.
I know some artists say they aren’t interested in political or confrontational issues, but identifying as an artist is a political act in itself. Instead of valuing the financial stability and familiarity of a 9-to-5 job, an artist might choose a part-time gig with little upward mobility in exchange for more creative running room. The artist values flexibility, creativity, and ultimately, freedom of expression, which is intrinsically political.
As Aristotle aptly puts it, humans, by nature, are political animals.
Your recent jewelry collections are a big departure from your conceptual artwork. What’s the story here?
At this point, I feel as if I’ve been in school for too long, and I want to explore the world outside of academia. My jewelry business is one of these ventures, and although there is no apparent link to feminism, the business is inspired by inquisitive women who speak their own minds. The carved acrylic collections, in particular, inject an undeniably bold presence into everyday life.
Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?
With my conceptual work, I enamel white tiles and secure them to metal armatures with grout. Mass-produced tiles were the texture of my childhood in Taiwan, and I’m fascinated by its conflicting nature. Tiles were introduced to Taiwan as an implementation of modern hygiene; it is an uniform and easily cleaned surface–the visual equivalent to white noise. Due to humid weather and frequent earthquakes over the years, these tiles have peeled off or gently bulged out on walls, taking on almost human characteristics.
In my jewelry business, I utilized the belt sander in carving wax, moved onto carving wood, and ultimately, to acrylic. The more I work with acrylic, which is a type of plastic, the more attracted and repelled I become. Plastic has permeated every aspect of my life. This material is alluring in its shiny, bright newness, its ability to be molded into practically any object, but plastic also converges into floating islands in the middle of the ocean. How should we react to this addictive material?
How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?
After I got my bachelor’s in creative writing in New York, I realized that I never felt like I belonged in that city. So in 2012 I pivoted and headed to the west coast, where working in metals really grounded me. Making an object with my hands gave me focus, and the bay area gave me an open-minded and welcoming community. It surprises me to this day how supportive and sharing the people in the metals community are!
What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?
Make mistakes! If you never melt a bezel or overfire enamel, you will never know what the limits and potential of these materials are. As my professor Deb Lozier says, if you can repeat a mistake to create a consistent result, the mistake becomes your technique.
My second piece of advice is to try everything. This means interning at a gallery, working as an artist’s assistant, volunteering at a conference, etc. Each opportunity is a chance to see what truly fits you. Think of it as trying on a ring. You won’t know if it feels right unless you try it on. Taking on different roles in the metals field will also give you a feel for how the industry works and where your niche is.
What are your plans for the future?
Right now I’m focusing on building my jewelry business and writing for Art Jewelry Forum, but I might consider grad school in a couple years. It would be incredible to return to an environment custom made for explosive creative growth!
The season of giving is upon us, but before you purchase from a big box store or e-commerce giant, consider shopping small this year! Here are 5 good reasons to shop small and local:
Keep the dollars in your local community
When you shop small and local, the sales tax goes back into public schools, parks, and roads in your community. As a small business, I also put my revenue back in the local economy when I shop.
Better product diversity
Unlike big box stores, small businesses cater to the interests and needs of their local customers and niche markets. Olivia Shih Jewelry offers custom jewelry services, too.
Buying a Christmas gift from a local business means less transportation and fewer long distance deliveries, and this translates into a smaller carbon footprint. Olivia Shih Jewelry also uses acrylic scrap and recycled materials whenever possible.
Instead of dealing with a customer service representative, you receive genuine attention from small business owners and their team. Have a question? You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking for something fresh and new? Entrepreneurs are the people who take risks, innovate, and bring creativity into our lives. Your support means the world to me as I tackle the life of a solopreneur!
This holiday season, Olivia Shih Jewelry will be popping up in Oakland, Richmond, and South San Fransisco! Visit us at any of these events to receive a holiday surprise!
11/5: Lucente Studio Pop-Up
"Featuring limited edition and on-of-a-kind jewelry, textiles and accessories form our favorite independent designers. These gorgeous goods are perfect for holiday giving or getting. Drop by, enjoy a glass of wine and put a dent in your holiday shopping list."
11am - 4pm
187 Utah Avenue
South San Francisco, 94080
11/25: First Friday @ OMCA: Black Friday Edition
"Enjoy the best street market in the Bay with OMCA and Off the Grid! Savor California beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages around the Koi Pond at the Blue Oak beer garden. Enjoy half-price admission, live music, hands-on activities for kids, a pop-up art market in the Redwood Burl area, and extended OMCA Store hours. Bring friends and family for a taste of local music, food, and culture at the Oakland Museum of California!"
1000 Oak St
Oakland, CA 94607
12/3: California College of the Arts Annual Holiday Fair
"CCA’s idyllic Oakland campus turns into a bustling arts bazaar for a day. The public is invited to shop for one-of-a-kind, handmade, affordable gifts created by the CCA community: paintings, drawings, prints, cards, jewelry, ceramics, hand-blown glass, clothing, photography, textiles, ornaments, and more. Discover unique gifts while enjoying live jazz music and holiday treats."
11am - 3pm
Oakland, CA 94618
12/4: Richmond Art Center Holiday Arts Festival
"The Holiday Arts Festival is an annual tradition at the Richmond Art Center. For 54 years, artists and craftspeople have shared their best work with our community.
Purchase handmade art, gifts, and food! Meet our Community Partners, who bring so much to the Richmond community and beyond! Decorate your own canvas tote bag, perfect for carrying gifts and art supplies for class! Celebrate the holiday season with us!"
11am — 5pm
Special members' preview hour:
10 — 11am
Richmond Art Center
Main, South, West, and Community Galleries
2540 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, California 94804
Hope to see you there!
Recently, I sat down with April Higashi, founder of Shibumi Gallery in Berkeley, California. Founded in 1993, Shibumi Gallery is known for its uniquely curated space and for showcasing contemporary jewelry, fine art, and textiles. The phrase "shibumi" is a set of Japanese words that imply an "aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobstrusive beauty" (1).
April Higashi, 2016, photo: Cynthia Wood
Olivia Shih: April, you have been working in and with contemporary art jewelry for over 20 years, but I would love to hear how you began your affair with jewelry.
April Higashi: I was actually working at Esprit de Corp in the textiles department but ended up working at a computer most of my work day. I needed to work with my hands again, so I found myself at a jewelry class at San Francisco City College. Although I had always loved making in general, metal arts was very challenging--the thought process was so different from textile and fabric, and this drew me in. The medium was an endless source for learning, so here I am still!
April Higashi, Furattā, 2015, 22k yellow gold, leaded enamel, black onyx,
steel chain, 2 7⁄8”Pendant, 33" steel chain, photo: Shibumi Gallery
OS: Is there an artist or a few artists who influenced you the most, whether it be in jewelry or life?
AH: Yes, a few people in particular have greatly inspired me. June Schwarcz, who passed away this year, was a strong influence both in the way she created work and the way she lived her life. She not only created amazing sculptural enamel vessels, but she surrounded herself with beautiful things and creative people. I was her assistant for a few years, and we remained friends until she passed away at 97 years old. Susan Cummins, who isn’t an artist per se but owned The Susan Cummins Gallery, was a mentor. I worked for her when I was 25. She taught me that you not only have to have a strong vision that is unique to yourself, but also that your business needs to make money to stay afloat. I learned so much, watching her form a strong community around her vision.
OS: Both June and Susan are innovators in the contemporary jewelry field, but have you ever been inspired by artists in other mediums?
AH: When I was younger, I’d have said Frida Kahlo. I finally got to visit Casa Azul in Mexico City this past year, and I was reminded that she was a true individual. She created her own style and community of creative and intellectual people. She didn’t have an easy life, but it was definitely interesting and inspiring. She loved, lived, and created. She knew what she wanted and went after it, even if she didn’t always get it.
April Higashi, Ambā Ki, 2015, amber drops, 4.64 ctw diamonds,
18k and 22k gold, 2”, photo: Shibumi Gallery
OS: I love that. It's clear to any visitor that Shibumi Gallery is a work of labor and love. What was your vision for the gallery when you first opened?
AH: As I mentioned, I had worked for Susan Cummins at her gallery. I’d also been one of the early artists at Velvet da Vinci and had done display work for De Novo Gallery. What I took away from these experiences was this: show work beautifully. Show new work that hasn’t been seen by everyone. Show work from colleagues you respect and from upcoming talent you feel have unique vision. Show artful but wearable work. Always pay the artist before you pay yourself. Make the clients feel comfortable and welcome in your space. Connect them with the right piece that looks good on them. Listen to who they are. Share the things in life you love.
April Higashi, Matte Black Onyx and Bronze with Black Diamond Bead Necklace,
2015, black onyx, bronze, black diamonds, 19”, photo: Shibumi Gallery
OS: Those are inspiring values to live and work by. You’re currently based in Berkeley, California, right? Can you describe what your environment is like and how it influences your life and work?
AH: I am an extrovert inside an introvert’s body. I created an aesthetic environment in the gallery where I hope the beauty will draw one in. I want the space to speak for itself, so I don’t have to. The jewelry is usually displayed with twisted branches and driftwood and metalwork by my son’s father, Eric Powell, who is a metal sculptor and made all of the displays and the gallery doors. My gallery is connected to my studio and a larger design open space where my six year old son loves to draw. There is a modern earthy flavor to the space with organic elements--accents of walnut, steel and art that I have collected or traded over the years. I’ve been told that the space seems creative and considered. I love that description.
Furattā II, 2015, 22k & 18k gold,black onyx, diamonds, 1 5⁄8”,
photo: Shibumi Gallery
OS: Shibumi really does resonate with Berkeley, with its respect for slow, considered craft and embracing nature. What is a working day at this East Bay gallery like?
AH: Every day is different. If I’m lucky I’ll go for a short run or go get my new favorite coffee drink, a Gibraltar. Then I’ll do a few emails, check the calendar for client appointments, then browse and post to Instagram before heading to the gallery. Once there, I check in with my goldsmiths, look over and comment on completed work, and go over the day’s priorities to form a game plan.
OS: And that’s just your morning?
AH: Yes! Afterwards, I’ll check in with my staff who has usually set up the gallery and is working away. I might see clients, do custom designs or quotes, work on new pieces, check in with galleries or artists, or work on upcoming shows. It’s never dull. Somewhere in there, I am usually doing a little coordination for my six year old son, and there you go. My day in a nutshell as jeweler, gallerist, and mother.
April Higashi, Topography Rings (Women’s), 2015, Silver, 18k,
mackel diamonds, 4mm & 2.5mm, photo: Shibumi Gallery
OS: What are the most difficult challenges you have had with being an artist and gallery owner?
AH: Honestly, finding the right mix of talent for my staff and building a creative team where the dynamics are in sync has been the biggest challenge. I feel like a conductor for an orchestra. Everyone needs to work together and understand that we are a creative whole. That said, when the dynamic is good, we can create anything, and I feel so fortunate to do what I’m doing. Every day is a challenge, and I feel lucky that I can juggle it all. Some days I do better than others. I just consider myself fortunate that with my work and the gallery I can support myself, my son, my staff, and the artists I show.
OS: I have no idea how you do it, but you pull it off so beautifully. It’s been such an insightful interview, and thank you for talking with me.
April Higashi, Topography Ring ( Men's), 2015, silver,
mackel diamonds, 10mm, photo: Shibumi Gallery
Shibumi Gallery, 2016, photo: Cynthia Wood
Find out more about Shibumi Gallery and its founder, April Higashi, here.
(1) Wikipedia contributors, "Shibui," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shibui&oldid=730217827 (accessed August 10, 2016).
In my studio, I recycle precious metals and use eco-friendly chemicals when possible. And my acrylic comes from scrap and end cuts from a local plastic business. Ethical metalsmithing is important to me as a maker.
But what exactly is ethical metalsmithing?
To me, ethical metalsmithing means choosing socially and environmentally friendly metalsmithing practices. These include:
-recycling the metals I use
-using secondhand gold and gemstones
-opting for cultivated diamonds instead of mined diamonds
-supporting local businesses and services
-practicing eco-friendly studio methods
When I was still a student at the California College of the Arts, I learned from visiting artist Gabriel Craig that gold mining and the sourcing of precious gemstones such as diamonds can create ethical dilemmas for metalsmiths and consumers.
Something as small as a 18-karat gold wedding band can leave behind 20 tons of ore and waste rock. Gold mining also kickstarts chemical reactions, which result in acids or toxic chemicals that seep into the groundwater. Diamond mining, on the other hand, is less destructive than gold mining is but can lead to violent conflict and forced labor.
Everyday, we make choices as consumers, and our choices have lasting impacts. As both consumer and maker, I try to make choices that align with my beliefs. Although practicing ethical metalsmithing means spending more time researching suppliers, using slower processes, and spending more money on recycled metals and ethical gemstones, I believe it's worth it.
Did you know that cultivated diamonds are more perfect than mined diamonds are? Mined diamonds always have flaws, such as small inclusions, but a cultivated diamond can literally be perfect.
As you probably know, I launched my online shop in September last year, and since then I’ve been hard at work scrutinizing, changing, and building my one-person eponymous jewelry business, Olivia Shih. It’s been a bit of an identity struggle, especially since I went to art school with the intention of becoming a jewelry designer and graduated from art school as a bright-eyed jewelry artist, invested in thorny subjects like gender issues and alternative jewelry materials such as reclaimed plastic.
After graduation, I found myself struggling to reconcile the gap between “real life” and “making a living off of my art.” Like any sensible, aspiring artist, I hunkered down and found two-part time jobs.
With two part-time jobs and my own jewelry business, I was too busy to stop and consider exactly who I was becoming. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I could see myself as a creative entrepreneur—someone who handles all aspects of her creative business, from designing to making to marketing to accounting. The truth is, the well-trodden career paths for artists and jewelers simply don't cut it anymore; as essayist William Dereseriwicz puts it: the birth of the creative entrepreneur has been the death of the solitary, genius artist. And so cultivating the skills to run my jewelry and art business has become incredibly important to me.
Left: Vinyl banner for craft and art shows.
Right: The beginnings of my wholesale catalogue.
So here's my challenge to myself: I want to invest time everyday into learning about how to run a business and into building eficient business processes the first time around. If you're also amid the chaos of starting a small jewelry business, I would love to get coffee with you and brainstorm!