Meet the Designer: Carolyn Keys

Designer: Carolyn Keys Hanisch

Location: Kintnersville, PA

How did you get started making jewelry?
I actually dabbled in jewelry at a young age working with seed beads, and making my own beads out of glass with a lamp working torch. Though my current collections have little in common with those first experiments, I think I’ve always been drawn to the idea of adornment and the small scale of jewelry.

Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
Yes, it was either that or working with animals, which is my other passion. I love the problem solving aspect of design. I actually studied interior design and worked as an architectural designer for 10 years before I moved to jewelry making full time.

How long have you been in the trade?
3 years

What does your business look like now, versus when you started?
My business has been constantly evolving since the moment I decided to dive into it full time. There’s been quite a learning curve all along the way since I’ve had no previous experience in this industry, but it’s been very exciting and rewarding to see the business slowly grow. This year my focus has shifted away from selling my work at retail craft markets and toward partnering with beautiful boutiques like Shelter that do such a great job at showcasing my work.

What’s the most challenging part about being a jewelry designer?
Right now, I’m a one person show, so juggling all the day to day tasks involved in producing the jewelry and also running the business can be challenging. That said, I never have a boring day!

What’s your favorite part about being a jewelry designer?
My favorite part of being a designer is studio time, whether I’m working on production or designing a new collection, and getting lost in my own little world.

Who is another jewelry designer that you admire/do you have a mentor in the jewelry industry?
There are so many great designers I follow, but some current favorites include Ariana Boussard-Reifel, Sarah Swell and Annie Costello Brown.

Do you have a favorite piece that you have made? One of my first designs is still the one I personally wear the most - the Punk Earrings. For me they have just the right mix of edgy and bold.

Do trends in the industry effect the way you design a new collection?
Yes! I keep an eye on trends and try to make sure I don’t create work that looks like anyone else’s. Having a distinctive style is so important to my work.

What’s your favorite piece of jewelry from your own personal collection?
I’m a big fan of vintage jewelry and I have a few family heirlooms that I love. One of those pieces is my engagement ring which is over 100 years old. It’s from such a different era and is beautifully crafted. It’s fun to think about all the family history it’s been through.

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