We love seeing the craft and creativity produced from the tools we sell and decided to begin a Jeweler Spotlight series. In this new quarterly series we will be featuring different jewelers making cool things and exploring what inspires their creativity. We’ll also be asking what some of their go-to tools are and any tips or tricks they’ve learned over the years.
For our very first Jeweler Spotlight installment we are thrilled to be highlighting Brooklyn-based jeweler Ope Omojola, founder of the handmade jewelry collection Octave Jewelry. Ope’s work features beautiful, hand-cut raw stones, paired with gold and silver that both have a sense of playfulness and sophisticated elegance.
Where are you from and how long have you been making jewelry?
I was born in Nigeria, grew up in the midwest, and have called New York home for about 12 years. Jewelry has been a lifelong love of mine! When I was 12 or 13, I made beaded necklaces and bracelets using buttons, beads handmade from paper and mod podge, that sort of thing. I took my first silversmithing class in 2014, and that was the beginning of the work I make now.
What drew you to begin making jewelry?
My first experiments were all about finding and defining my personal style. I made things because I couldn’t see (or couldn’t afford) what I wanted to wear, and making it myself gave me freedom.
What are some of the first pieces you started making and how have you honed in your creative practice?
When I was a teenager I worked in a bead supply store, so I would get these amazing discounts on strands. I made myself a lot of “cluster” earrings, just assemblages of tons of colors and textures that I liked. I loved the sense of movement and the subtle sounds they’d make.
When I started working in silver, I wanted to bring a similar sense of movement and play to what I made, and that still guides my design process. I think the first pair of earrings I made in silver that really felt like “me” were the Washer Hoop – they were an experiment born of pieces from the scrap bin, and I was also trying to give myself a soldering challenge and refine that technique.
What inspires your creativity or has helped your creative practice evolve?
I love exploring techniques and new materials, and the process is usually the same – learn as much technical stuff as I can, play as much as I can, then try to figure out how the material can relate back to what I currently make. Repetition has also been key to my creativity! Each time I make the same form, I learn something new, think of a new direction to take it, and note those lessons for later experiments.
Have you ever gotten in a creative rut and if so, what has helped get you out of it?
Of course! I have a pretty hard time making space for my creative mind when there’s a lot of practical stuff to deal with, so busy or production-heavy times are creatively depleting for me. I usually get inspired by changing my context or moving my body. Going for a hike or long walk, taking a trip, hanging out with close friends, and leaving work alone are all super helpful. Because I’m a very tactile thinker, sometimes I’ll battle a creative rut in one discipline by digging into another. If work is getting me down, I might sew something or make myself an elaborate dinner, and those processes can loosen me up.
What has your experience been like as a jeweler living and working in NYC?
I’ve lived in New York my entire adult life, so I’ve only had the briefest glimpses of what it’s like being a jeweler somewhere else. The convenience of having the diamond district and tons of creative resources nearby has been so important as I learn more about the jewelry world. It also makes it easier to experiment – if I don’t know how to do something, I can almost certainly find someone who does. I’m a horrible planner, so it means a lot to be able to pop uptown and get what I need. The friendship and community I have here is also incredibly important to me. But New York is a really stressful place, and maneuvering life here can sometimes detract from work; when I visit other places or see images of people’s workshops outside of the city I really wonder about possibilities elsewhere.
What are some of your go-to favorite bench tools?
I’m biased of course, but I love my lapidary machine. Does that count as a bench tool? I’m always amazed that these dusty rocks have these sleek glowing forms hiding inside them, and working in stone is one of my favorite parts of each day. Aside from that, my most-used tool is my flex shaft – it’s key to every step of my process. Oh, and skinny sharpies – I can’t go a day without them.