Simplicity is Beautiful: Alison Blair Studio
If you want to get to know Firefly Handmade, a good place to start is with some of our veteran artisans. Alison Stern of Alison Blair Studio embodies the hard work, creativity, and fun that Firefly tries to capture with each unique market. After all this time, Alison keeps returning to Firefly, showcasing new jewelry styles and capturing new audiences.
A longtime Boulder local, Alison etches, saws, solders, and forms metal into unique jewelry designs and accessories. Mountain necklaces, whimsical dog-themed accessories, geometric earrings, and sometimes slightly-political statement pieces are just a sampling of what you’ll find in Alison’s collections. Alison’s goal is to capture a moment, a place, or a feeling – one that will emotionally connect with its wearer. What could be better than that?
Alison Blair Studio is part of our Firefly Handmade Spring Market lineup on May 18th and 19th. If you want to learn something about the beauty of simplicity and creative evolution from a true boss babe, read on!
You’ve recently started designing collections—tell us about how your design process has changed over time and what inspires your collections!
My designs change with the wind, which pretty much reflects my personality. My friends tell me I should be less eclectic in my designs and stick with one style, but it just isn't me. I get so inspired by new textures, materials, and compositions, that I need to express my enthusiasm for it.
Could you tell us more about your technique?
Right now I'm spending a lot of time on the oxidation process. I love dark vs. polished, with a stunning contrasting stone, like ruby or diamond, popping out. Oxidizing—or blackening—lends to such a stormy, dramatic effect and people are really responding to that.
Do you do any custom work?
I do a lot of custom work. Because I make each piece myself, really all of my work is custom. But I love getting input from customers and creating a piece that is exactly what they want. Often a customer will ask me for a custom ring or necklace, then ask me to actually design what I have in mind. This is such a compliment to me, that they trust my process to bring them a unique piece.
Are you self-taught? Did you go to art school? Continuing studies?
I'm mostly self taught. I took a handful of metalsmith classes with a teacher who ended up becoming a wonderful friend. But mostly I work in my studio, checking in on YouTube if there are techniques I don't know how to do. I intend to take some courses this summer, as I think there's so much to be said for being in a class with other people and learning from great artists.
What are you most proud of in your handmade journey so far?
My journey began a long time ago, in a completely different medium. I was so taken by metal smiths and so really intimidated by fire. I'm really proud of myself for "jumping into the fire" so to speak, and learning this medium. I have so, so much to learn, but everyday is truly a new revelation and I'm proud that I have taken this road.
What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?
That I can actually create some cool stuff.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
My dad has always said, "Simplicity is the key to beauty." It really is true for me. I love small, delicate, minimalist pieces and I find that when I know when to stop, I create some of my favorites.
What designs are most popular lately?
Mountain motifs are pretty big right now. I have a collection of mountain rings and necklaces, where a nice thick gauge silver is overlaid with a mountain profile, then oxidized to give some sense of depth. These are really popular, yet I have to say, that my most loved pieces are my small matte-polished 14KT gold necklaces with just a small offset diamond. Again, simplicity.
Could you tell us about any special projects you are working on for the upcoming market?
Im continuing to expand my "Midnight Collection" of oxidized silver pieces with gemstone accents.
What has been the biggest challenge of starting and sustaining your business?
As a small business owner, maintaining all aspects of business is nearly impossible. Social media is so important these days, and keeping up with instagram, updating your website, maintaining your books, and creating new pieces is a lot of work. My biggest challenge though is getting my damned taxes done!
What excites you for the future?
New tools. I am building a new studio and already have in mind some extravagant tools I would like to furnish it with.
You keep returning! What do you like about being a Firefly Handmade artisan?
I love Firefly for a lot of reasons. Mostly, the promoters are so tuned into the artists. A lot of shows lose sight of the customer—the artist—and produce shows that don't serve the maker. Firefly hasn't lost sight of that. Firefly buyers are also really special. They return over and over because they also appreciate the quality of Firefly artisans and the hard work put into Firefly venues. That circles back to the artists because it keeps a really nice group of our customers coming back.