Style Talk: Michelle Salz-Smith of Studio Surface

Studio Surface Michelle Salz-Smith

I am so excited to bring you a very special Style Talk with interior designer and AphroChic sponsor Michelle Salz-Smith of Studio Surface.  Michelle is an interior designer with a passion for working in her local community, and creating unique designs.  She has stopped by today to share her new jewelry collection made from locally harvested wood.  Working with her husband Jake, this creative duo makes hand crafted pieces that are truly works of art.  But that’s enough from me.  I’m excited to have Michelle tell you all about her work. 

What first inspired you to become an entrepreneur?  
I have always wanted to own my own business after I became an interior designer but I didn’t know it would be a reality for some time.  I worked for other design firms to “learn the ropes” and gain as much experience as possible.  When I ran the West Coast office for the previous design firm I worked for,  I saw a glimmer of what it would be like to own and run my own company.  That opportunity came in 2009 and I founded Studio Surface LLC.  And of course it has been more than what I ever expected.   

How did you find your way to jewelry?
Our jewelry portion of the company actually came about because of our wedding!  Growing up, Jake learned woodworking and carving from his father and became really good at it.  I wasn’t aware of this until he created beautiful wooden rings and bracelets for my bridesmaids.  One of my bridesmaids and closest friends, Beth Dotolo of Hello Splendor, started the conversation about “what if” we started a business around it?  And so Jake and I and Beth and her husband Kevin created a small business and it was a success.  As time passed each of us began to develop our different goals and pursuits, and the four of us became two.  Jake and I decided to continue with his art under the Studio Surface brand.  Since then we have held onto some of the original creations and built new collections and we now design and create the pieces all from our home and shop in Del Mar. 

Studio Surface Jake Working

Studio Surface is committed to eco-friendly and sustainable design.  How do you work locally to develop your products?
When we are creating our accessories, we use what we have and what we can get our hands on.  We love working with our local suppliers and shops to help support our community.  Our metal comes from a woman who Jake grew up with and who remains a neighbor.  She owns a great bead and metal shop on the beach where we live. Our wood is purchased locally from a store that owns and supervises the responsible and sustainable harvesting of the wood.  We also use reclaimed wood whenever we come across a great piece.  We use absolutely everything including the remnants so nothing is thrown away.  
We have developed relationships with the local community and so our designs are truly collaborative beyond the work and energy that Jake and I have invested in them.  In a sense there are lots of people that have contributed to these treasures.
Studio Surface_JEWELRY_41

In a world where so much is manufactured from artificial materials, what do you feel is the value of pieces handcrafted from wood?
There is something really special about owning and wearing a piece that hands have made.  I watch Jake cut and chisel and sand and polish the wood and am continually amazed by how talented and patient he is.  A lot of time and love goes into each piece.  Wood is an organic, living thing often with a mind of its own.  Each species has very individual characteristics and we respect and showcase that to make each piece unique.  Not one is the same.  It’s a great thing to see a block of wood be transformed into a piece of art.

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Can you tell us a little bit about your design process? 
I nag Jake until he does it.  No really, we sketch and sketch and pay attention to other jewelry pieces and styles out there.  We are inspired by other materials as well and often try to translate them into wood.  Then Jake sets up shop and we select the species of wood and the actual piece of wood we have on hand that we believe would work best for the design we envision.  Depending on the style of the piece, it can take a few hours or even a few days to complete it.
What do you hope is the lasting impact of your designs for those who wear them? 
I hope that when someone wears one of our pieces, they feel the care and commitment that went into the piece.  Again, a lot of steps and community relationships go into the little treats that we create.  I hope the person wearing our items feels they own a piece of wearable art and sees that handcrafted jewelry can be modern and stylish.

Studio Surface_JEWELRY_01

What’s next for Studio Surface? 
Oh goodness.  There is so much I want to do!  With my interior design portion of the company, online shop, upcoming potential retailers, blog, and teaching, it can be overwhelming at times to think about “what else?”.  But I feel the happiest when I am busy and creating.  So we do want to build our “objects” and create home accessories and more furniture to round out the Studio Surface offerings.  I also want to focus more energy on the interior design portion of my company and dig into some fun projects.  It’s going to be exciting to see what the upcoming months bring!!

Thank you so much Michelle!  We are excited for you.  AphroChic readers stop by later this afternoon for an exciting announcement from Studio Surface.  I promise you are going to LOVE it!

{Profile image: Kelly Zhang; Jewelry images: John Ibriks

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