Sophie Monet, Jewelry Designer

Sophie Monet brings new meaning to the term "family business." With woodworking skills and tools passed down from her artist father and business acumen from her boss lady sister all under one roof in Venice, California this young jewelry designer is raring to go. By combining sustainable woods and rare stones, Sophie achieves design that is both contemporary and naturalistic. Today Lisa Says Gah catches up with Sophie in her studio for a peek into the creative chaos. Enjoy!

Hi, Sophie! Tell us about your studio space, neighborhood and home.

Our studio in Venice is a special place. My dad is a sculptor and built the building in the early 80's when Venice was still pretty dangerous and seedy, and he’s been making art here ever since. I grew up coming here, playing in the woodshop, gluing scrap pieces together, building bird houses and exploring my creativity. Gold's Gym is our neighbor and has such a unique, classic Venice crowd. On the other side, there’s Google; It shows you how ever-evolving the neighborhood is. It’s amazing to see how Venice is constantly changing. I never thought I'd get to work here alongside my dad and sister and makes me feel so grateful and excited to show up every day.

What initially drew you to jewelry design/making?

I’ve always loved fashion and art. While I lived in New York, my friends and I would get dressed up after class and sneak into fashion shows in Bryant Park. We would walk in like we belonged and sit in the third row. Nobody would make us move! It was exhilarating, scary and so much fun. I think experiencing the fashion world in New York inspired me tremendously to start my jewelry line. Living there gave me to confidence to see that anything was possible.

How did you get started?

The summer I moved back to LA after graduating I had a few styling jobs and an addiction to thrifting. I pulled out my sewing machine and set up shop at the Rose Bowl flea market a few times to sell vintage dresses I would hem myself and little necklaces and charm bracelets I made. It was my first taste of entrepreneurship, and I loved it.

What inspired you to branch out and pioneer your brand?

I wanted to take my jewelry designs to the next level and honestly, it was an ‘ah-ha’ moment when I came up with the idea to make wood jewelry in my dad's workshop. I had studied sculpture, so I knew some fundamentals of woodworking and with his help and some simple designs we started to make necklaces and rings by trial and error. After I had about ten pieces, I put together a line sheet with the help of my sister who knew the “real” ins and outs of running a business from having a t-shirt line in high school, which she sold to Kitson and Fred Segal.

Who do you imagine wearing your designs? Do you have a muse(s) in mind?

I’ve always loved bold jewelry. Especially when it’s worn in unexpected ways, on strong, confident women. I’d love to see it on Cindy Crawford, Rhianna, Lana Del Rey and Daria Werbowy.

Can you describe the feelings you want a wearer to experience in your work?

I think wood jewelry has a very tactile feeling because it made from the earth. People who wear it should feel connected to it. They should know where it came from because it’s handmade and one of a kind. I want the wearer to feel knowledgeable about the wood. I manufacture everything locally in my shop, and I would love to inspire the people wearing it to think outside the box and buy more products that are artistic, unique and less mass produced. It’s jewelry you can feel good about.

How does your environment / community influence your art? Can you tell us about your process of designing a collection?

I’m inspired by the places I’ve traveled. I love creating a collection around that. My friends are a group of creative and inspiring individuals, and I love collaborating with them. We are constantly bouncing ideas off each other, dropping by the studio when we think of new possibilities, planning camping trips and coming up with far away dream locations for photo shoots. It’s a combo of the environment I live in and the adventures I go on, from there it all comes together.

Do you work alone? If not, tell us about your team.

My family is my team. My dad, John Okulick, is always making noise, welding a fence or sanding one of his wood surfboards (when he’s not helping me build a jig or come up with unique ways to craft something). My sister, Audrey, is a serious boss when it comes to fashion recruiting for her company TheWorkshop.LA. She is my business advisor, BFF and is not afraid to tell it like it is. We all have our own business running under one roof, but we come together and work as a team when we need to.

Where do you source inspiration and how do you organize it?

Inspiration is everywhere—in books, museums, flea markets, from the streets of Paris or a drive up the coast to Malibu. I make a lot of lists. It keeps my ideas organized; I always have a pen and notebook handy.

What themes are influencing your work right now?

Contemporary art continues to be of influence. Lately Georgia O’Keeffe’s colorful flower paintings for spring. I’ve always worked with very simple shapes and forms. Right now I’m evolving the jewelry into more fluid, natural shapes, softer lines, round and oblong with a modernist approach.

Can you tell us about your process of designing a collection?

It takes a lot of time to design and make one collection. Right now I’m focusing on creating one large collection a year and working throughout on multiple, exclusive collaborations. It's so fun to design with somebody and make pieces that have a special story behind them.

Materials obviously play a huge part in your line. Can you tell us about why you choose the ones you do?

I’ve always been attracted to the grain of the wood. I love the natural flow of lines and colors that appear when you sand and oil a piece. Right now, I’m using a lot of maple which has a nice sandy, white color and is one of the most sustainable woods you can use.

Describe the first year of going independent. What was your mantra to get through hurdles?

I think people hold back from starting a business because of fear of change and failure. I had a full-time job for the first two years of having my jewelry line. Going into the woodshop on Saturday and Sunday to fill orders and design new pieces. It’s hard to take that kind of leap and explore the unknown, but it's worse not knowing what your potential could be. I tell myself everything is temporary. This desk job is temporary, this collection is temporary, everything changes, so it’s just a matter of timing and believing in yourself.

As a business owner, what advice would you share with someone interested in starting a company?

Go for it, don’t hold back, listen to your intuition and don’t be late or too early!

What are a few things you love that have nothing to do with making jewelry?

Swimming in the ocean and my yellow lab Rocky.

Tell us a little bit about your routine. Five things for a stress-free day?

Early morning run to the Pier. Intelligentsia coffee. Make a list. Reggae in the woodshop. Lunch with family. Cross off that list.

Interview: Olivia La Roche  Photography: Louis Delavenne  Design: Alaia Manley

Interview: Olivia La Roche

Photography: Louis Delavenne

Design: Alaia Manley