June 05 2016

In the Studio with Roxann Slate


Roxann Slate is a Brooklyn based artist and jewelry designer working in glass since she was 16. She struck the perfect balance between design, craftsmanship, and price point and we can't seem to hold on to her pieces for very long. Light and versatile, whimsical and thoughtfully designed, Roxann's jewelry exhibits some of the most enchanting qualities of glass. The clean craftsmanship of her work can be attributed to her years of dedicated practice, starting her first line of jewelry when she was only 7. We're proud to be her primary glass studio in Brooklyn and learn more about her process and inspiration as a glass artist. 

Do you have a collection of art jewelry? What's your favorite piece?

I spent years working in fashion jewelry so I have an immense collection of the most random jewelry. I have everything from an old vintage mosaic pendant, to plastic bangles with glitter suspended in them. I have a lot of weird vintage animal pins. It's sort of a personal "cabinet of curiosities". I have a cool sterling silver frog pin. I also have this plastic ring I bought at the MoMA Design Store that's a bubble level, like the kind they use in construction.

You grew up in a family of glass artists, in what ways has your family influenced your work?

My parents have been immensely influential. Managing a studio, making art, and running a business at the same time is a huge endeavor. My parents show me how to do a little bit of everything and still make sure you're growing as a craftsperson.

Did you always know you wanted to work with glass?
For me glass has been a bit of an arranged marriage. Most people in the glass world have these amazing stories about when they were first exposed to glass. A trip to Italy or someone making figurines at a state fair, and how they were totally mesmerized and fell in love with the medium of glass. I'm lucky, because I've always had access to glass. I worked as a technician at The Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass for two summers, where I met glass artists from all over the world. I've gone back and forth about how consistently to pursue glass, but I've always kept one foot in the door, teaching flameworking and selling at art fairs. In the past few years I've turned my attention to my glass more seriously than before.

Who are some of your favorite jewelry designers?

The past five years I've been working in the private label fashion jewelry world. I worked with factories overseas to make jewelry for other people's brands such as Anthroplogie, Sundance, and Ann Taylor. It was my job to look at all the jewelry my mind could handle--trendy, high-end, low-end, vintage--and think about how it could be mass manufactured and meet target price points.

That whole experience taught me to skip brand names and formal categories such as fine jewelry, juniors jewelry, craft jewelry. I'm always on the lookout for jewelry that seems to be the best use of its medium. Does it makes sense that the piece was made out of glass and not ceramic or plastic? Does that piece of jewelry sit well on the body? Or from an insider perspective, I admire someone who can take an inexpensive material and infuse it with something new or innovate and make it look expensive.

When did you start your jewelry line and what was the first piece that took off?

When I was a little kid, about 7 years old, I bought these glass fish beads that were made in China. I crocheted them into necklaces which sold for $7 each. I continued to make them for years. It was my first experience designing an item and continually producing it. I was able to track my material cost and make mental notes about who was buying my work. From the beginning my customers were other kids, ladies with eccentric taste, hippies, and people who wanted to support the creative and entrepreneurial endeavors of a little girl.

When I was about 16 I started working in borosilicate glass and making my clear glass jewelry. My first designs were the round chain earrings and the triangle chain earrings. The triangle chain earrings were my favorite at the time and my enthusiasm for them probably made them my best seller.

I've noticed how much your clear pieces resonate with our customers. How did you decide to put down the color, and work entirely in clear?

Clear glass is elegant. I have another line of sculptural glass animal beads I make. This is where I can play with color and texture.

Who would you most like to see your jewelry on?

I'm proud of the fact that my jewelry looks good on everyone. Clear goes with everything. I enjoy working with my customers to help them find the right pair of earrings that works with their haircut or shape of their face. Between the variations in styles and price points I strive to have something for everyone.

What are you most inspired by as a jewelry artist living in Brooklyn?
Living in Brooklyn is simply the best. NYC is the center of the universe and that's an addictive feeling. I love having access to any food I could imagine and so many cultural institutions. But the most inspiring thing for me about living in Brooklyn is the people. New Yorkers are some of the most passionate and intense people. New York is a tough place to live so you have to be ambitious and industrious to make it work.

Are you working on any new designs?

I just finished a few new earring designs. They are still in the prototype phase. With all my designs I prefer to wear them a while before selling them. I want to make sure they're comfortable, look good, and are well made. There are also earrings I plan to continually produce, so I want to make sure I can provide my galleries and customers with a consistent product. Luckily, since I'm not working on the fashion world calendar, I can produce and sell new designs whenever inspiration hits.

You can view our entire collection of Roxann Slate's jewelry here or come see them in person at the UrbanGlass store.

-- Tina Tacorian