Through mutual friends I found HARP. Designs Instagram feed and fell in love with how the jewelry was both bold and simple; statement pieces that don't overshadow your personality, only heighten it. When I choose jewelry I am looking for something I could wear to work, wear to the park with my kids or wear out to dinner, and HARP. has all of that and more.
HARP. is handcrafted, artisan jewelry, designed and fabricated in Oakland, CA and uses recycled and local materials as much as possible. I particularly like how designer, Shelly Harper, embraces the fact that each piece will not look the same. The beauty of each piece is unique and only yours.
"Each HARP. piece is made by hand with much care and intent, from materials and objects of high quality, cultural significance, and historical intrigue. One of the most intriguing features of HARP. jewelry is the hand-forged technique used in its production, where tool marks are highlighted and showcased, imparting unique qualities and details to each piece of HARP."
Want to know more? HARP.'s Shelly Harper shares with us how it all started and what inspires her designs:
Where you always hands on when you were younger? What clues did you have about your natural tendencies that led you do be a Creative?
“Hands-on” is an understatement. I was constantly “inventing things.” I had a very unconventional schooling when I was young and a large portion of my learning was facilitated through art, building, creating. My mother is amazing. She was so encouraging. Every little thing I made she treated like it was a masterpiece. Also, she’s quite a creative spirit herself and we often worked on projects together. I think it was pretty obvious that I would end up doing something creative for a living from a pretty early age.
When did you decide to start your own business? And why this business?
I actually started my first business with a friend selling hand-dyed silk scarves when I was 10, followed by collaged greeting cards, and beaded jewelry. About a decade later, I decided to go to enroll in the Graduate Jeweler Program at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
At the time, I was mainly focused on learning how to fabricate jewelry. I didn’t necessarily think of it as my projected career path. Post graduation, I began to really hone the very technical skills I had acquired, and began to experiment in new materials and with design (which hadn’t been taught in my program).
I set up a DIY workbench in my closet (shout out to my mama for those building skills), which had a big window, and started grinding away. Literally. In the beginning I was making jewelry and selling and gifting to friends. Then I started doing small trunk shows. I started selling to stores, moved to a studio space and it very organically became a full-fledged business. I feel a bit like it chose me. I just followed my passions and the rest started falling into place.
What was the best piece of advice you were given as you were starting out?
“It’s going to be really hard work. So be sure that this is something you really want to do” So true!
What do you do behind the scenes?
Have a lot of solo dance partied in my studio.
What is your inspiration for your work?
It so hard to narrow down!! I am inspired by so many things! I love 1970-80 fashions. I love high-karat gold, ancient metal works. I love street style. That’s very intriguing to me. I think so highly of those who create a look with very few resources. Fashion is not just for those who have access to designer labels and trends. Fashion is so much more interesting to me when it breaks free from the “uniform” of socially approved and proscribed aesthetics. I think that’s why I’m so in love with Iris Apfel. She is a hero in the art and fashion world. And a major inspiration.
What is your goal during each project?
My goal when I’m designing something new is to make a piece that I want to wear, a piece that feels good to hold and is comfy. Heft and comfort is so important. And I try to create something that is fresh and timeless at the same time.
When I’m reproducing, my goal is to make it as enjoyable as possible. Production can be monotonous; especially after I’ve made 1000 others just like it. So I try to think of ways to tweak my process to become more efficient or more enjoyable. Sometimes I just need to remind myself that I love working with my hands, and I’m quite privileged to be doing so.
What are a few things people don’t know about you?
I love me a good muumuu. I have an extensive collection, but I rarely wear them out of the house. I think that may change soon though...
I eat every couple of hours. I have a HUGE appetite.
I love the sun, although I have never gotten a tan. My sister calls me “pigmently challenged.”
I love to thrift store shop (i.e. aforementioned muumuu collection). It’s like a big treasure hunt.