Rachel Frank and Lori Berlinghof launched their handmade luxury jewelry brand, Elements Studio NYC, in 2015. With designs influenced by the earth’s elements, it’s no surprise that Rachel and Lori cast their pieces in recycled gold and only use ethically sourced stones. The design duo’s Bowie Collection was designed for and sold at the Brooklyn Museum David Bowie Exhibit in 2018. And the collection’s lightning bolt-inspired pieces continue to be best-sellers for the brand. The jewelry designers also produced a Studio 54 Collection for the museum in 2020.
In an interview, Rachel shared advice for creative entrepreneurs about having a strong story and knowledge of budgeting and scaling. Check it out below.
Artisan Joy: At what point did you know you had a jewelry business?
Rachel Frank: Approximately three years after we began designing collections!
AJ: How do you define success for your creative business?
RF: Our greatest inspiration is when our customers wear their stories, memories and symbols and share how our pieces act as reminders of their intentions.
AJ: What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you first started your jewelry business?
RF: We wish someone would have told us to design in wax or silver to make perfect pieces before creating or casting in gold.
AJ: What advice would you give to someone who wants to begin selling their creative product?
RF: Make sure you have a strong story and a strong knowledge of budgeting and scaling.
AJ: What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
RF: That we have bad days too. Everything looks shiny and fun on social media, but some days we struggle just as much as anyone else who is creating products for people to enjoy.
AJ: As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our products. How do you handle perfectionism?
RF: This is a tough question—we definitely suffer from perfectionism. However, I don’t think our pieces would have value if they weren’t perfect. We do have many pieces that are organic looking, but when something has diamonds and is meant to be smooth and shiny, it has to be perfect.
AJ: What’s something that surprised you about running a creative business?
RF: The amount of budget a brand needs for marketing and PR to really be recognized.
AJ: Running a business brings joys and challenges. What advice would you give to someone about handling the highs and lows?
RF: Stay positive, stick to it, never give up and drink wine!
AJ: Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?
RF: More so than criticizing our work, we used to get upset if someone didn’t like our pieces. But we soon realized that everyone has different likes and dislikes, and just because one customer doesn’t appreciate a piece, someone else will fall in love with it.
AJ: What’s a cause you are passionate about and why?
RF: We are especially sensitive to homeless women and children in NYC. Win provides family shelter and supportive housing in New York City. Learn more at winnyc.org.
AJ: Can you share the name of a supplier or vendor that you use for your business that you just love—one that makes running a business a bit easier?
RF: We absolutely love Rough Diamond World, as their stones are ethically sourced, and they are a wealth of knowledge that they share with the designers they work with.
AJ: And, of course, we have to ask you this: what brings you joy?
RF: Customer’s positive feedback and stories—we love to get photos of our customers wearing their pieces.
Thanks, Rachel! You can learn more about Elements Studio NYC at elementsstudio.nyc.
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited slightly for length and clarity.