Have you ever heard of vintage neon jewelry? I didn’t think so, me either. And when is the last time you met a native New Yorker? The latter probably happens more than vintage neon jewelry but still a rare find. Natalie Jacobs of Etymology Jewelry is a native New Yorker creating vintage neon jewelry out of Brooklyn. Starting as a hobby and inspired by her love of art and fashion magazines she created Etymology Jewelry. The name Etymology (which means the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history; don’t worry I had to look it up too) was inspired by her first pieces, which were made from Boggle and Scrabble letters. The pieces have since evolved but the name remains. Natalie swears by her bead board, “it’s like a blank canvas for my jewelry where everything comes together.” She lays out her materials and components and lets the contrast of vintage pieces, glass, brass, gold, silver, neon, recycled vinyl and whatever else might catch her eye come to life. Etymology was featured on Nylon.com and for only being in business for one year I would say thats a big feat (The Nylon story later in this interview)
I got to sit down with Natalie in Union Square and talk to her about her experience as an emerging designer.
What has been your biggest feat and your biggest struggle while starting your own brand?
My biggest struggle would be time; to source, make the pieces, figure out orders, be creative and getting the business acumen to run my business. But time mostly.
My biggest feat would be my feature on Nylon.com
The Nylon Story
First I need to say that as an emerging designer if you don’t proactively go and approach companies and say hey, this is my work, this is what I am, nobody is going to seek you out because emerging designers, as myself, are small. So I emailed Nylon my etsy site, without pictures attached because it automatically goes to junk mail (fun bit of advice). It was a Sunday night and I get an email back that same night and they asked me to come in the next day! They visited my website told me what specific pieces to bring in, photographed each pieces a small write on for the site and featured the following week. I was also featured on their Instagram; Instagram is such a great tool, don’t be afraid to hashtag everything!
Hashtag 400 things because each hashtag is an opportunity.
You mention what etymology means, would you ever start using boggle pieces again into your newer pieces?
I got to a point where I felt using the Boggle and Scrabble pieces was limited but jewelry making was not. As of now I am not moving in that direction, but thats a great idea and I wouldn’t say that it’s not out of the question but as of right now no.
What or who inspires you, brings on new ideas for new pieces or collections?
I am inspired by art and various designers all the time. I love Vera Newman, she was a textile and fashion designer in the late 60s and her work is extremely vibrant and colorful. I’m inspired by her specifically because we’ve had very similar career paths, she started in art school with art and design and built her brand after she left.
Explain your tag line “because jewelry should be playful”
It was a play on using game pieces at the time. It has obviously has evolved since my brand has and I try to keep my work fun exciting and playful by using new materials all the time.
Do you make everything yourself or do you have a manufacturer?
I make everything myself, I source supplies in new york where I live.
I took classes on all different techniques but if you don’t have the money or means to take classes I recommend youtube for how to do anything. And there’s also apps on phones for “nerdy beading techniques.” If you’re interested in anything whatever it may be, seek it out however you need because its there to #befound”
All my suppliers are in the U.S. to name a few some of my Internet suppliers are…
– FireMountainGems.com is a company based in wahsington opened 50 years
– Etsy for supplies too…. epoch beads, yummy treasures, lots of vintage
Do you believe that your pieces mean more to your customer because they are handmade by you?
Yes. There is a face behind the work it’s not anonymous. it has a story, and its engaging. I think that makes the piece mean something more.
Who is your target consumer? What kind of girl is she?
She is someone who, maybe no age limit because great style can be true for any age, but someone who appreciates vintage pieces, not afraid of color or the accessories she wears.
What is your favorite piece of jewelry to wear personally, and that you’ve made?
I have this little vintage charm, its the simplest thing in the world, that i found at a thrift store in New Jersey, it’s a little horse shoe with a four leaf clover inside. I love to wear it because its super simple, but more than anything, what it means to me is that when I’m working on my work its a tiny bit of luck because you never know what’s around the corner.
I love making all of my pieces. Some pieces evolve as you make it. When one thing can start out as a bracelet it can change into a necklace and then there it is, it has practically made itself!
What is one piece of advice that you could give any starting out designer that maybe you wish you had known before you dove in?
Get a tax ID! You will save a lot of money on supplies, that would have helped me so much in the beginning when I was getting everything to start out. Don’t be afraid of anyone, reach out to anyone no matter how big thats how I got NYLON!
How has Brooklyn Night Bazaar helped out your brand?
I’ve got to meet people that I normally wouldn’t meet behind a computer screen, because most of my business is online. I’ve made connections with so many people like stylist, you, and anyone I’ve encountered l wouldn’t have encountered online.
What are some big struggles you’ve had along the way?
Theres so much to maintain besides the actual jewelry, such as going to the post office, connecting with customers, keeping up with social media.
Why Etsy, over maybe a personal e-commerce website, what are some of the benefits you’ve gotten using Etsy?
I mean they’re immeasurable. I started with Etsy when they first started I’ve grown as they’ve grown, and I have such personal connection with the ppl that are administrators on the site. I know the face behind them, they know the face behind me. They’ve featured me on the site and they encourage my business to grow and connect me with larger clients that I wouldn’t normally have an introduction to. For example, for the first time Etsy is getting a booth at NY Now trade show so essentially what it’s going to do is unite designers like me to bigger clients so my business can grow and Etsy is going to make that introduction.
What is something maybe your customer doesn’t know about you, like a little personal trait or something, i.e. spare time…
I am a huge thrifter, I think it goes with my love of all things vintage. I see a thrift store I’m in it, I’m all about it.
Etymology has only been in full business for a year, yet Natalie has learned so much so fast in such a small amount of time. From looking at hashtags as opportunities for her business to reaching for the stars contacting Nylon and getting much more than just a response. When starting your own creative fashion business Natalie has remained positive and continues to do so in her hustle. We look forward to seeing what she’s up to next, and thrilled to be putting Etymology on the radar. You can find her stuff on Etsy.