Who's That Gal: Sophie Hughes, Jewelry Designer and Sustainable Metalsmith


Age: 30
Occupation: Independent Jewelry Designer (and maker, and store owner)
Hometown: Kennebunk, Maine
Current ‘hood: Fort Point, Boston
Favorite autumn activity: Hiking!
Currently reading: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

How did your journey of jewelry making begin?

I was fortunate to grow up in coastal Maine town that offered a high school metalsmithing class. I had always felt creative, but recognized that my drawings and paintings were a struggle and weren't as strong as my artistic peers. Making jewelry, however, instantly resonated with me. My metalsmithing teacher helped me get an apprenticeship with a local jeweler, and by the time it came to applying to college, there was no question what I was going for! I went on to MassArt (Massachusetts College of Art and Design) to earn a BFA in Metalsmithing. I opened my first studio in SoWa shortly after graduating in 2008, and kept working for other jewelers (who were hugely supportive and influential to me, and I'm incredibly grateful to) until my brand was strong enough for me to shift to full time. Fast forward a few years of slow build on the brand, and I opened my storefront on Dartmouth St in the South End and moved the studio there - lofted above the shop. And that's where the journey currently continues!

You hand­make every, single piece using ethical materials! Do you have a favorite piece? Do you have a favorite tool that you use?

I am so in love with my vintage hammers. I just went to Brimfield for the first time (I know, sorry!), and the booth I spent forever in was this one with old, rusty tools. I was caressing them, completely enchanted by the beautiful rusted textures on their faces. The only thing I might love more than my hammers is the newest piece of jewelry I’ve made. I fall in love for a moment just about every time at that moment of completion, and then just as quickly I have to let go so it can move on into the world! Whenever I have a chance, I wear our samples of the newest pieces, so I can extend that “moment” with them. Until I fall for the next newest piece. (Thank goodness I’m more loyal in my personal life!!) I’m fully committed to using ethical materials though. It’s not a question: recycled metals and reclaimed stones.

We love your philosophy of creating for “sophisticated, fearless wearers,” exactly how do you describe this Boston gal?

She’s a woman who lives with intention, is ambitious, and isn’t afraid to pursue what she wants. She’s got eclectic style and is a bit edgy, but in a restrained way that comes across as “refined creative” perhaps. I think SH wearers want a visual expression of their values ­sustainability, uniqueness, directness, strength, and appreciation for simple, wabi­sabi beauty. I find jewelry to be a badge of strength, feeling instantly empowered when I put it on, and I imagine that experience being true for my clients too.

COURTESY OF SOPHIEHUGHES.COM

COURTESY OF SOPHIEHUGHES.COM

As an entrepreneur, you have to tackle the time ­consuming process of creating your own brand. What was this process like for you?

It’s been a natural evolution; although I would say I’ve developed it on the fly as needed, I think that truthfully, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s been within me all along. The development has been completely authentic, and the challenge and the joy has been discovering that it’s not something to be fabricated, but rather I need to look internally to really define what’s important to me and what I want out of life. Those standards need to be articulated for others to relate to and translated into a visual presence. I’ve really had to be in tune with balancing myself and what my audience responds to. And every time I think I’ve hit on “it” ­ the perfect articulation and visual representation of the brand’s essence ­ I soon find again that it’s a constant cycle of revision and is ever evolving.

Tell us more about ethical metalsmiths ­ what does this mean? How do you source materials?

We source our metal from a refinery in Virginia called Hoover and Strong. They’re an industry leader for sustainability. Basically, they collect and melt literally tons of precious scrap, re­carat and mill it, so when it arrives in my studio it’s a pristine sheet of metal. Our diamonds are reclaimed, which means that they’re salvaged from discarded heirloom jewelry as it goes to the refinery. We joined Ethical Metalsmiths so that a third party could vet us and affirm our sustainable standards and processes, and to be part of a community of jewelers who hold the same believes and are working towards the same goals. Twenty tons of earth need to be moved to mine the metal for just one ring? We’ll recycle, thank you. We hold human and environmental well­being at the forefront of all we do, and strive for quality not only in the materials we use but in the lives and world of the people who supply them.

courtesy of sophiehughes.com

courtesy of sophiehughes.com

Onto more honors.... Our readers most definitely know your name from being awarded Best of Boston three (3!) years running now! How has this shaped your business?

It’s been incredible, and I am so humbled. I can barely believe that it’s been three years running! I think the most significant influence we see from the award is referrals. We hear all the time that they found us through Boston Magazine’s “Best Of” ­ and often those clients are shopping engagement rings. They do their research first with such a significant purchase, and they come in knowing what their options in Boston are and feeling confident that there’s a reason we’ve earned a strong standing.

What has been the toughest challenge as a business owner? Biggest pay­off?

I’m going to start with the positive: the biggest pay­off is the freedom of my schedule. I work a ton and I work hard, but being able, as they say about entrepreneurs, “to choose which 14 hours in the day I work” is invaluable. Toughest challenge...time. How does that work?! I don’t have the answer, but it seems to me there aren’t enough hours in the day! Also it’s been really tough learning to run the operational end of the business over the years. I don’t have any business training, so I’ve had to figure it all out as I go by trial and many errors. Getting there, though.

We just have to know; any favorite celeb clients?

I wish I could tell you that I get to meet these ladies in person! But alas, we have teams between us, and they’re still cloaked in mystery to me. That said, Taylor Schilling also grew up in Maine, so hands down she’s my girl.

You offer custom engagement rings. What does this process mean to you as an artist?

Making custom engagement rings is completely rewarding and challenging simultaneously. A person comes to me with their dreams with and for their partner, and I’m tasked with designing something that their partner will wear (and love!) daily for the rest of their lives. I listen really closely to the client’s desires, and try to balance that with the desires I imagine of the partner I haven't met. Is this a person whom, based on what I gather of their lifestyle, I interpret may want a flashy statement ring; or is this someone who prefers a more practical piece? Are they a rose gold, white gold, or yellow gold person? We look at pictures of the “intended” (and maybe their Pinterest!), ask questions about who they are, what matters to them, and how they live their life, and try to conceptualize a ring that will be everything they could want. The rewarding part comes when we get it right; incredibly, so far we’re all wins!

Your location is a dream spot for a boutique! Was this the “I’ve made it!” moment?

I adore my space: we have the studio lofted above the retail store, and a “behind the scenes” team office a floor below. Small in terms of square footage, but the way the areas are broken up is fantastic for work flow, and the huge, myriad windows are a dream! It absolutely was the “I’ve made it!” moment...for a moment. I have a tendency to kick the goal post forward every time I’m within reach of my goal, so I’m never satiated and always pushing farther. It’s completely unintentional, but I feel like it’s this nature that keeps me engaged in the business (rather than design) side of things.

What is next for Sophie Hughes Jewelry?

We just this past weekend debuted a new collection in NY. It was so well received by press and by wholesale buyers, and I’m really excited about it myself! I think it’s a strong, beautiful collection; I’ll be making just limited editions of 25, to keep it really special. I’m so looking forward to hearing first­hand feedback from clients in­store and seeing in the coming months which new styles people are most attracted to. Looking further ahead, I’d love a second location, possibly in Brooklyn ­ but that’s the dreamer in me and not necessarily what’s actually “next”!

Local Gem: Pure Glow Tanning

Long gone are the days of traditional tanning beds (cancer machines) and lying out in the sun wearing nothing but SPF 4 (why does that stuff even exist?). What isn't gone? Our uneven skin-tones and the blueish red hues of being Irish/Scottish decent through long Boston winters and sunburning summers. So, what's a pale gal to do when she wants to spice up her look for an upcoming event? 

THE GEM

Meet Pure Glow Tanning. This Newbury Street gem provides an organic sunless tanning alternative. The JUGs have tried spray tans in the past with mixed results, and with our commitment to clean beauty, we kinda gave up on spray tans a while ago since the formulas aren't always the most transparent. Luckily for us, Pure Glow solves both of these problems by offering a nontoxic (EcoCert) formula that looks natural (really). 

THE SCENE

The space is simple, crisp, and relaxing. We love the spa vibe and the clean look is reflective of their clean tanning formula.  And if need be, they'll come to you, so don't panic if you can't get to Back Bay in time for your big event. They offer a variety of pricing packages depending on how much of your body you want tanned and how often you'd like to be tan. After our experience, we're prob gonna go for a multiple session pack to save some $$ and get a glow as we ease into fall. 

WHY WE LOVE IT

Ok gals, here's the real deal. The left is my "before" photo (note: I'm wearing makeup in both photos...obviously brighter lipstick in the right photo). And in the right photo, yes, I've got a Pure Glow! My close friends who know I don't get tan gave me lots of compliments and people I didn't know as well just thought I had great skin and spent a little time in the sun. No streaks (though you def need to moisturize on the 4-5 days because it can rub off a bit in areas that see a lot of friction ---- I'm talkin to you underwire!). No orange. No hesitations...we'll be back! 

The Week of September 19

Around Boston

Join us this Thursday for (free) Ladies Lounge on personal branding!

SF favorite Philz coffee is coming to Boston!

Be still our hearts!  Rob Lowe was in the North End this past week.

Upcoming flick, Live by Night, a la Ben Affleck features familiar North End scenes!

Around LA

Grace Bonney's In The Company of Women book tour (check out Boston dates, too!)

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios - we think this looks terrifying but the American Horror Story version would be worthwhile!

Check out the 32nd Abbot Kinney Festival.

And shop the LA Mart for great items for your hubitat

Career & Finance

How one gal tripled her salary in just 5 years!

Check out these seven apps to be productive for fall.

And more productivity tips, from Rachel Roy

Health & Beauty

Great article on anxiety & intelligence.

Looking to detox?  Try these tips on a daily basis.

Interesting read on millennials and having kids.

Style & Decor

There's nothing easier than whipping up your vanity than with these surface organizers.

Nancy Myers-ify your home, aka the dream.

 

You're Invited: Desire Map Retreat + Workshop

Join "who's that gal" alumna and wellness guru Ashley Maina for a 1-day retreat in October! During this 1-day Intensive, participants will begin with breath and movement, connecting to their physical, emotional, and energetic selves. Next, in this sacred space, the small group will travel through The Desire Map process and learn from each other to uncover deep wisdom and true desires. 

The Desire Map begins with getting clear on what you already have in your life, what you are grateful for, and where you are dissatisfied. You’ll get clear on the root of your desire and create a map of how you desire to feel in five areas of your life. From that place of clarity, you’ll be guided to discover and declare your core desired feelings, all while being supported in a sacred, loving environment of other soul-seekers. 

WHAT

+  A Full Day of Guided Facilitation through The Desire Map Process

+  The Desire Map Workbook

+  Guided Movement (Feminine Centric Yoga)

+  Guided Breathwork + Visualization Practices

+  Intimate Community of Like Minded WomenYou will walk away, not only knowing how you want to FEEL ... which is the most potent form of clarity, but with new tools, strategies, and potential friendships that will nourish your daily life! 

WHEN

Sunday Oct 16th
10:30 am - 6 pm

WHERE

715 Boylston St, in Copley Sq

Space is limited so reserve your spot now (early bird pricing available until tomorrow at midnight!). Imagine how good you will feel after spending a day on YOU!  

Who's That Gal: Alice Rossiter of Alice's Table

Age:  26
Occupation:  Entrepreneur, Founder of Alice's Table
Hometown:  Chicago
Current ‘hood: Chestnut Hill
Favorite autumn activity:  Cooking! Who doesn't love a home cooked meal
Currently reading:  The only thing I am reading these days are my google analytics! 

Your background is in art business and consumer psychology, quite a pairing!  How did you curate the philosophy behind Alice’s Table?

Since I was in college I was thinking about a new lifestyle business. I knew that with current technology and social media that the lifestyle industry was going to shift dramatically from the days of Martha Stewart. It wasn’t until I was working long hours at a tech company that the idea for Alice’s Table was really solidified. I realized how many women are seeking flexible and creative careers. Talented women that step out of the workforce to have kids or fulfill other dreams. These are women that when given a flexible opportunity are able to thrive and succeed.

Wow, your team is one impressive, well-rounded crew!  Tell us about the process of your growth from day 1 (which wasn’t that long ago, by the way, right?!)

Yes, we have just celebrated our one year anniversary!! Growing a team is a constant focus. When you are building a start-up at such an early stage, the needs of the company change by the hour. One of the most important things is to put together a team with diverse strengths and strive for versatility. I try to hire swiss army knives - the knife might be the best tool that they have but all their other tools are perfect in a pinch! 


How do you go about collaborating with local restaurants and venues for events?

We love to work with new people. Finding restaurants and other venues to partner with is awesome as it keeps the business fresh and creative. Each partner we work with has new ideas or ways to market the events. That is what makes our business so much fun! 

We love that you cover both bases of corporate and friend groups.  Any major differences in how clients interact in these different settings?

Yes we love working with both client bases. Surprisingly we dont see a major difference in how people interact, I think companies have become more friendly recently. The only time it is a bit different is when it is a client entertaining event and not everyone knows each other. It is such a fun company event, we have had phenomenal success working with companies like CBRE and HubSpot.   

What has been your most attended event thus far?

Many of our events have sold out! Our corporate events tend to be the largest as companies can use large meeting spaces and bring many clients or co-workers together. 

As an entrepreneur, you have to tackle the time-consuming process of creating your own brand.  What was this process like for you?

Creating a brand takes time, you have to work at it each and everyday. And as the brand grows the time commitment gets bigger and bigger. First and foremost brand is about creating a recognizable aesthetic. And from there we have committed to creating a brand that focuses on community, so for me brand building is a lot of interacting with others. Talking to people and writing articles - really engaging with the people around us.  

What has been the biggest surprise for you as a business owner?  Biggest challenge?

There are so many surprises when you start a business both good and bad. I think the best surprise for me has been how many people have reached out and said that they have been following along. It is nice to hear from friends you haven't spoken to in a while! 

There are challenges every single day when building a business. I cant say that one challenge has been the biggest but a few things that stand out to me are, hiring, figuring out the appropriate marketing mix and building the strategy for geographic growth. 

What is next for Alice’s Table?

Rhode Island, New Hampshire, California and Chicago - and by that I mean many giant cups of coffee!