i am so excited to introduce you to sophia forero via an exclusive interview and share her beautiful jewelry. sophia is graciously giving away a ring to an ANC reader, so make scroll to the bottom to enter! and be sure to visit her shop and check out the unique, hand-crafted mosaic pieces she creates.
When did you start designing jewelry and how did you start your business?
I started designing jewelry when I was in grad school studying international relations. While working on my master’s thesis on South Africa (they were just coming out of Apartheid) I came across hundreds of pictures of indigenous people in their traditional dress and adornment. I had seen many pictures of regional dress when I was very young- my family is from Greece and I was always fascinated by the costumes from different regions there… a particular book, Africa Adorned, became one I thumbed through just about every day. I had no idea that the Maasai wore their beaded collars in certain color combinations for reasons, or that the Mandinka’s beaded corsets were also packed with symbolism, or that the Tuareg had been making silver jewelry for hundreds of years. In SO many societies jewelry is a symbol of marriage, or wealth, or social status- even in ancient cultures this is true. So I started to buy elements to make jewelry and try to create pieces myself. After grad school, I was in the US Peace Corps in Hungary- I travelled all over Eastern Europe and bought more materials to create- vintage Czech glass beads, beads from a Gypsy caravan in Vienna ( in some old art market I had stumbled upon), amber from Russia… my interest progressed and grew from there.
I started by business 10 years ago when I won a design contest with then Chicago department store Marshall Fields… I entered a design contest and got the chance to show the collection there. Within one year we were in 9 MF all over the Midwest.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I am constantly looking at books of art from a myriad of cultures. My heaviest inspiration comes from Byzantine Icons- in fact I got my idea for my mosaics while staring at one… I also love looking at jewels from ancient Egypt-Rome, the Renaissance… my latest inspiration are jewels from the Middle Ages.
Your designs are beautiful and so unique. Can you tell us a bit about the materials you work with?
Thank you! The castings are all hand carved by my husband and me- they are all cast right here in Chicago… we use faceted precious stones and sew them one by one onto fabric to create each one of our mosaics. My favorite right now is raw diamond- I just love the look of raw rock, and the diamonds shimmer.
For us local gals, where can we find your jewelry in Chicago?
Macy’s on State Street
What advice do you have for women looking to start their own businesses?
Feel the fear, and do it anyway (a quote I read somewhere)… Have patience (especially with yourself), create something that feeds your soul, and don’t EVER give up.
images courtesy of sophia forero