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Meet the Maker: Erin Young of Cyllene Jewelry

I recently had the opportunity to pick the brains of one of the most talented jewelers I know, Erin Young of Cyllene Jewelry, for a peek into her process. Our interview took place via email over the space of a few weeks, and she was kind enough to share some photos of her work and workspace.

How long have you been working with metal, and did you take any courses or are you mostly self-taught?

It depends on how you define working with metal. What I made in the beginning I wouldn't really consider metalwork. Stuff a bead onto a headpin, loop that, plop that onto an earwire,! I messed around a little with metal clay, and the occasional glass engraving, but the majority of my early items involved attaching things to other things with those "Economy 3-pack pliers" you get at a craft store.
Erin Young early work 
The shop was set up in late 2010 as a way to sell my little bits and bobs, and contribute financially. We had moved to NC from CT and I could not find full-time work. There's only so many times you can clean an 800-sq ft rental. Of course, I had no clue what online selling really meant (those early pictures make me cringe), but I did make a few sales here and there. Every-time I sold something, I used a little bit of the profits to get better materials, or more tools. 
Beaded dangle earrings
In early 2012 we moved to a place with more room. I wanted to expand my skills further, and I now had a small space where I could set up. I started forging (shaping metal with compression using a hammer or a die) heavy-gauge wire to create the framework for wire-wrapped items. I did that for a few months and loved it, but I was still very limited by that technique. 
wrapped earrings
I learned how to braze metal, successfully (!) that fall and refined my skills over the next few months.
Erin Young early work
Most of what I do now involves forging, cutting, brazing, setting stones and finishing (polishing, oxidizing, brushing, etc.). So, the short (ha!) answer is - I've been working with metal for about 5 years, and am mostly self-taught.
Metalwork jewelry
Eventually I would like to get into lost-wax casting, but that's probably a few years away still. That's one of the things I love about making jewelry, though - there will always be something new to learn. A new skill to perfect, different materials to work with, new tools & equipment... 


What is the oddest and/or most painful injury you’ve sustained in the course of your craft?

I don't know about the oddest, but one of the more "memorable" injuries involved a 2lb brass-head mallet, a steel bench block, and my finger. My finger lost that battle, and I temporarily lost a good portion of the nail.


Describe your workspace to me, what kind of work went into it?


We live in a big metal building. Inside is the house, which runs the entire length of the building on one side; and on the other side, tucked into the front-corner, is my workshop - roughly a 15' x 11' space.

Shop space

The workshop was originally a beige box with those buzzy linear fluorescent "contractor special" lighting fixtures, and some flimsy shelves. I removed the shelves, painted everything black (*cue death-metal), installed non-buzzy lights, stainless shelving, and work-station lighting. I'm actually pretty proud of the lighting over the benches. I searched for weeks to find fixtures that would mount to the front of the shelves, provide bright focused light (but not blind me), and ideally swivel. Track lighting was way too expensive, so I ended up using plant up-lights with the bases removed - $17.00 ea. 

Shop space after renovations
I also installed pegboard for my ever-expanding collection of hand-tools, painted black of course; and wall-mounted storage bins for little bits and bobs (gemstones, findings, etc.). There's always more work to be done, of course. At some point I'd like to get some more shelves & finish the floor. For now it's organized, well-lit, and clean. 

What are your experiences selling live, or do you at all?

I only sell online at the moment. I may eventually look into it, but I think a stand-alone site needs to happen first. I should probably also figure out what the heck Instagram is.

You started Beryl and Bronze with your husband last year, motivated by a common interest. What was that brainstorming session like? Did it just occur to you or had you been talking about it a while?

Seth is also someone who needs to create. We had been talking about opening up a shop for him for a while, but didn't really flesh out the details until after he got laid off. Financially, we were okay, but I think he was starting to get restless just as I had been. We're still figuring out the direction for that shop, so it will probably evolve a few times before it settles into it's groove. He's gone back to working a full-time job and hasn't had much time to get on the lathe, but there are a few projects in the works. 

Corkscrew and stopper
What is something you wish people understood about your art? Do people get what it is you do?
To be honest, I don't really worry if people understand my process. The important thing is they get a piece that they're happy with.

I think some people just have an innate need to make things with their hands. Even if I was some eccentric millionaire, and I never had to work again - I would still be doing this. 
Rose gold pieces
Shield necklace process
Shield necklace complete
Aside from your crafts, you both have “day jobs”, what else do you spend your time doing? Are you outdoorsy types or do you sit around and read books together (nerds like us), what is a sort of typical day?

He has a day job, but I'm currently just working on the shop(s) and the house. During the week, I fill orders, make and list new items, clean, cook, run errands, and complete home-improvement projects (with moderate cussing). Weekends are mostly spent relaxing - hanging out, talking, catching up on sleep. We like sleep. Sleep is good. 

Seth reads a lot more than I do. My attention span is not great for those types of activities, so I have a tough time sitting still and focusing long enough to get into books. We both ride motorcycles, so we do a fair amount of exploring together. Apart from that, and sitting outside to watch the occasional meteor shower with a glass of wine, I wouldn't really consider us outdoorsy types. 


What sort of involvement do you have in your community?

We donate to local charities as much as we can. Typically food, clothing, personal hygiene products, school supplies, etc. to local shelters & food banks. We also donate blood on a fairly regular basis (you get cookies and apple juice!) and support fellow small business owners. 

Apart from that and largely due to the rural area we're in, "community involvement" is mostly catching up on gossip with Lisa from the PO, and polite chats about the weather with the guys at the dump.

Thanks so much Erin!

You can follow Cyllene Jewelry on Facebook or click either link above to visit the Young's Etsy shops.

1 comment

  • Thank you so much!

    Erin Young

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