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Meet Trailblazer Carly Cooke

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carly Cooke.

Carly, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I didn’t consider myself to be artistically inclined until I took a ceramics class in high school. I discovered a love for building things by dipping my hands in big sloppy buckets of clay, learning wheel throwing techniques, and experimenting with glazes. I had arranged my schedule to graduate a year early, but instead decided to stick around and spend my senior year taking advantage of the incredible art department at my high school. Ironically, I took a jewelry making class and dropped it after two weeks because I found it incredibly frustrating!

I decided not to attend college right away because I wanted to travel, and was wary of debt since I was set on pursuing art instead of something more financially reliable. I packed up a backpack and spent the next few years wandering around Australia, New Zealand, Central America, and Mexico with little more than one pair of shoes and a towel before landing in Northern California where I had some family roots.

For a while, I lived in a trailer with a potter, his two friends, a cat, and a pug, spending my days doing pottery and slinging it at the local farmer’s market while my friend and landlord did palm readings and sold his landscape painted mugs. Later, I met another local potter with a studio in town who let me rent space to experiment further with glazes and forms on the wheel.

Eventually, my desire to be closer to “my people” (I wasn’t much of a west coaster it turns out), led me back to Maine, where I did an amazingly enriching apprenticeship with ceramic artist George Pearlman.

Wait, isn’t this chick supposed to be a jeweler? Yes! My pursuits took a turn when I attended a class at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in jewelry making, just to try something new. I was so instantly obsessed that I didn’t make another pot for 8 years. I gathered all of the basic tools I needed to set up a tiny studio space in my apartment. I hungrily read books and took workshops to learn more while working in restaurants before landing a job at Folia, a beautiful jewelry shop in Portland, ME.

I learned an incredible amount over the following couple of years including the jewelry design process, repair, fabrication, pricing, and sales. While my skills were improving steadily, I still felt that I needed a bit of formal education to fill in the gaps. I found a year long jewelry design program in Florence, Italy and set off to learn gemology, CAD, rendering, wax carving, stone setting, and the history of jewelry in an incredibly inspiring artistic city.

I returned home to Portland and continued to work at Folia as a manager and bench jeweler for a few more years before gathering the nerve to set out on my own. I knew that there was no moment that I would actually be “ready” and that taking the plunge was risky but necessary for my growth as an artist. I officially started my own business, Flux Jewelry Studio in March of 2018!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Although I gathered so much valuable knowledge working at Folia, when I started my own business I really had no idea what I was doing! Bookkeeping, product photography, styled shoots, marketing, and building my website were all things I was clueless about going in, and am still learning to improve upon daily. Luckily, I have a generous network of friends and professionals that is constantly growing, and so far no one has said to my face that they’re sick of lending a hand.

My business is very new but the best piece of advice I could give at this moment is to reach out for help and feedback. It can be incredibly refreshing and valuable to get a new set of eyes on something that you’ve been thinking about and looking at for days or weeks. I don’t think it’s possible to truly be a one person show and do it well. Reach out to your people!

Also, make sure to say “yes” to every opportunity to collaborate. Some of my most fortunate connections have been born out of being at the right place at the right time, which is never going to happen if you don’t leave the house. For many artist types, it can be tempting to dive into your work and isolate, but you will lose invaluable opportunities in doing so. Find a balance that feels right to you!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Flux Jewelry Studio – what should we know?
My favorite part of crafting jewelry is adding the final details that really set the design off and make it pop. Most of my jewelry is fairly small but there’s usually a lot of detail! I like to use techniques like decorative engraving to add a shimmer effect or unique texture. Making jewelry is very technical, and it’s painstaking and humbling to be constantly learning. I really believe that there’s no way to truly master this craft, and that’s part of what I like about it!

I go through phases of what I’m most interested in making, but my specialty is custom work. I love working with people to create something unique, whether it’s a small token of affection to mark a special event or something as important as an engagement or wedding ring. There is no project too small! I really enjoy the whole process of hearing people’s ideas and making drawings, to actually building and presenting the piece. It’s incredibly rewarding to make something that someone will love wearing themselves or are excited to give away.

A small collection of my fine jewelry can be found at Folia and Devta Doolan Studio. I recently launched a new line of fashion jewelry in which 20% of the proceeds go to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Both collections can be found on the Flux website.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Katelyn Mallet Photography, Annabel Powers, Mary Forst, Kate Mess

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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