An Interview with Erica Weiner

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Lovely New York-based jewelry designer and shop owner, Erica Weiner, recently launched the second installment of her fine jewelry line, 1909. I love her design work, her taste in stunning antique jewels and the beautiful way she has executed her vision for her brick and mortar shops and online. A little while back Erica opened a sister location to her beloved Elizabeth Street storefront in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood. I can’t wait to check it out next time I get back East to see friends and family–it looks gorgeous.

Erica was kind enough to let me ask her some questions about her jewelry inspiration, favorite pieces, day-to-day operations, her favorite music, some of her favorite spots in NY, advice for others looking to start their own business and what her gumptious grandmother might advise. Now–on to the interview…

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Can you tell us a little about your inspirations behind your new 1909 designs?
There is kind of a story for each piece, at least a story I’ve imagined. Each ring or pair of earrings is based on a historical piece of jewelry, an antique that’s come through our shop. I really am inspired by vintage jewels and I can only make up possible scenarios about what the makers were thinking when THEY made the original piece. In the 1920′s, jewelry was influenced by what was happening in the world at the time: the discovery of King Tut’s Tomb, the development of Art Deco style architecture. I studied Art History in college and was fascinated by fashion trends throughout time. (Read each description HERE)

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What’s your favorite piece of jewelry that you own? Why is it special?
I have a Victorian ring that’s an Ouroboros–a snake swallowing it’s own tail. This is a symbol that has shown up in many cultures, but the basic idea is that there’s a circle of life. Originally, this piece has a teardrop-shaped piece of turquoise mounted the head and diamonds in the eyes. I replaced the turquoise with a deep red ruby, which kind of looks like a drop of blood. It’s a reminder to me, after a somewhat difficult year personally, that all things must pass.

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Are there any gorgeous antique pieces that you kick yourself for selling?
Yup, one was an opal and platinum ring that we had early on that kind of looked like a bow tie. We would have reproduced that for our 1909 line–if 1909 had existed three years ago. We also sold it for WAY too cheap to some lucky online customer.

What does a good, productive day at work look like for you? What’s your process?
Every day is so different. How about I describe today? It’s a strange day because I’m working from home, which I almost never do. In the morning, I answered emails, watered my garden and fed my dog. I then started comparing prices for health care plans because I just got a notice that our rates are going way up. Again. I hate this part of the job. Then I paid some biz bills online, ate breakfast, cleaned the house in preparation for a magazine feature shoot that’s happening here in the afternoon. I also did a lot of back-and-forth about an upcoming staff meeting and scheduling, answered more emails, did some research for an upcoming trade show we’re doing, talked with our PR director about what’s happening next month, did a little searching for a new shop-girl and I’m doing this interview now. After the shoot I am forcing myself to road-test our new POS and inventory software so I can give our programmer notes on it. BORING. More emails too.

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Is there anything you wish you had more time in the day to do?
I hate commuting and feel like its a huge waste of time. Cook? Yoga? Design jewelry as opposed to spending time doing business-y admin finance things.

What do you love most about owning your shops?
The shops were SO much fun to decorate. It’s like having a second (or third) home in the city. I got especially creative with the Brooklyn shop–there’s a tropical-plant-70s vibe in there. Also, now that we have a wonderful general manager who takes care of the shop nitty-gritty (scheduling, inventory, etc). This means that my biz partner, Lindsay, and I don’t have to be in the shops every second–we have a lot more time to go shopping. These next months we’ll be looking for treasures in Paris, London and California.

Are there any places that you like to go to clear your head?
Outside of NYC! The older I get, the more NYC seems like a place that is too noisy, too dirty, too much chaos and stimulation. I like to seek refuge in the woods. A few of my friends have houses in the Catskills and I’ve been lazily searching for one myself.

What are your favorite local haunts? (restaurants, cafes, bars, retail shops, etc)
I live in the Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn, so my local places: Fort Defiance, The Good Fork, La Slowteria, Area Yoga, Fairway, Gowanus Nursery and Chelsea Garden Center for plants and gardening stuff. By our Elizabeth Street store, Mother’s Ruin is a great bar. Peels is a restaurant our go-to spot for lunch meetings by our studio. Also, Cocoron Soba is around the corner from the Nolita store. Yum! AND The Butcher’s Daughter for fresh juices.

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What a few albums could you not live without?
Roxy Music “Country Life“, The Kinks “The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society“, Cat Stevens “Tea for the Tillerman“. Recently, I’ve been listening to Loretta Lynn, Frank Ocean, and Daft Punk.

Watching anything good lately?
The Walking Dead! Also, Family Tree–Christopher Guest’s new show.

Reading anything good lately?
I shamelessly love Us Magazine. Why? Maybe because I grew up in New Jersey.

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Who are some of your favorite designers past or present?
Claire McCardell. Madeleine Vionnet. Rei Kawakubo. Louis Comfort Tiffany. Frederick Law Olmstead.

Can you give some words of wisdom to other ladies looking to start a business? Your 1909 collection was named after your grandmother, Mollie’s, birth year. What do you think Mollie’s advice might be?
Follow your heart. Nothing is permanent–if things don’t work out, you’ll deal with it. Be prepared for a LOT of hard work.

Anything new coming up that we should know about?
We’re doing a wonderful pop-up shop at Beam & Anchor in Portland, Oregon from October 3–10. We’ll be setting up a mini-shop with antiques, a selection of stuff from our collection and our 1909 line. We’re really excited about it. (Editor’s note: More details to come!)

And a little Erica Weiner breaking news
If you are in NY–stop by Erica’s Nolita studio from this Friday, Sept 20 (4–8PM), Saturday, Sept 21 (12–7PM) and Sunday, Sept 22 (12–5PM)! Erica will be opening up her LES studio space for a MASSIVE sample and moving sale. She’s jumping ship for a sweet new space at Dobbin Mews in Brooklyn. There will be one-of-a-kind samples and one-offs, research books, fantastic vintage supplies, findings and charms. MORE INFO.

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PHOTO CREDITS: 1, 3 and 6–10 are by Michelle Smith McLaughlin. Photos 2 is by John Durgee. Photos 4 and 5 are by Amelia Alpaugh for Refinery 29.

Comments
2 Responses to “An Interview with Erica Weiner”
  1. allison b-t says:

    i love the 1909 range and am planning on a purchase or two next year when my spending ban is up. thank you for this interview, it was a great read! especially as an ex-jewelry designer thinking about getting back into the game.

  2. Cool interview. And what utterly gorgeous jewels. Also, I learned a new word, hurrah (ouroboros!)

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