SHK’s resident jewelry hunter, Emily Marucci, has once again found us a collection of beautiful, well-crafted dainty pieces. Below she interviews Gramercy Eight designer Rebecca Lewis… And believe us, the backbone of this girl’s story is sure to inspire. 

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EMILY: HEY GAL! IT’S EMILY FROM SHK.

REBECCA LEWIS: Hi, I’m available to Skype now if you’d like!

COOL YEAH, LET’S DO IT. THIS IS SUPER FUN AND OLD SCHOOL.

Confession: I still use AIM, or iChat.

AH RAD! ME TOO (SHHH!) THANKS SO MUCH FOR TALKING WITH ME. I LOVE YOUR WORK AND DAINTY LITTLE THINGS… I READ THAT YOU HAD A TRAGIC ACCIDENT AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR SHOP, WHICH YOU TALK ABOUT ON YOUR WEBSITE. CAN YOU SORT OF DIG INTO THIS? TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED AND HOW THIS INSPIRED YOU?

Sure. So February of 2012, I fell 30 feet, shattered three vertebrae and split my spine completely in half. I was alone on my neighbor’s balcony. I don’t remember how it happened because I blocked it out, but I do remember the entire fall and that I didn’t pass out upon hitting the ground. I was by myself outside for a while… Well, there is no way to tell. It could have been three or ten minutes.

Skipping out of the gory details and trauma-filled memories, I went into emergency surgery a day and a half later. Then I spent another three and a half weeks in the hospital where I learned how to walk again, and also discovered my newest limitations. After enduring about a month of daytime trash T.V. and catching up on seasons of Game of Thrones, I had to do something creative. Prior to the incident, I’d worked in Los Angeles as a fashion illustrator, but when I tried to sketch again during recovering, I realized it wasn’t the same.

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If you remember from last spring, the Friendship Bracelet Trend came back into style, so my mom bought me some string. I soon got over making Friendship Bracelets (however my first one hangs above my workbench as a reminder). Then I started researching jewelry and other things I thought I could figure out how to make. After all, I had nothing but extra time on my hands and wasn’t sleeping much, so I just put all the energy I had left into this. My friends would visit and drive me to the nearest Michael’s or Home Depot. One time, I stole pliers from someone’s garage and started banging on sheet metal trying to make a cuff (and much to my surgeon’s dismay, when he found out I was hammering with a new spine).

Everything just unfolded from there. When I got back to Georgia, I took a few silversmithing classes. Then I started going to the studio, teaching myself and figuring everything out. My sister, who is my best friend, pushed me to open an Etsy shop. Basically, I did all of Gramercy Eight either in a studio — where I visited twice a week — or out of my bed. (I was on bed-rest for about nine months.) As I continued healing, my jewelry collection and I kept growing. By the time I was released from bed-rest, we’d outgrown the bed so moved into our first studio space.

WOW… THAT’S AN AMAZING STORY. I DIDN’T REALIZE HOW QUICKLY THIS ALL HAPPENED FOR YOU. YOUR JEWELRY LOOKS REALLY WISE FOR IT’S AGE.

Thank you! That’s a rad compliment. We’re now a year old, and currently in our second studio space.

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My grandmother was an artist, and she loved nature. I think I inherited that love from her

WHO WORKS WITH YOU? YOU SAY “WE.” HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AT THE STUDIO CONTRIBUTING TO THIS PROJECT?

I have an office assistant. About once a week, she helps me with shipping and production. She’s a Godsend. I’m still in chronic pain, and although I push myself a lot, I am still unable to do a lot of things physically.

In all of this, my biggest challenge has been trying to keep up with the orders while also recovering and respecting my body and its limitations. It’s difficult for me to accept that I’m not as physically capable to do a lot of things as I once was.

THAT MUST BE REALLY FRUSTRATING AT TIMES, BUT YOUR FORTITUDE ALSO SHOWS JUST HOW STRONG YOU ARE. I’M NOT CERTAIN THAT I WOULD HAVE THE WILL POWER TO DO ANYTHING AT ALL IF I EXPERIENCED THE SAME PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL TRAUMA THAT YOU DID. WAS THE KNOT RING YOUR FIRST PIECE?

Yes! How did you know that?

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A PIECE YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF? 

I think the 14K Gold & Sterling Silver Spine Ring. One morning, I had the vision come to me. I just sat down and created the piece. That was a great feeling because I fully realized the development of my skill level. In knowing this, I could actually create more advanced pieces. It also meant a great deal to me because it was kind of a full-circle piece. Also, I love doing custom orders. I spend 88-percent of my time filling orders, so having the freedom of extra time to create something new is valuable and therapeutic for me. I love having the liberty to create when I doing custom or stone-setting orders.

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I DID A LITTLE STALKING. HAHAHA.

Haha, awesome. Yeah, I went into my friend’s father’s garage and found some of his pliers and wire, and just made it [the knot ring]. I shaped it around a Sharpie marker… And I think the “knot” meant something eternal for me, or recreated a sense of infinity.

THERE ARE ALSO SOME PICTURES OF YOUR BACK VIA INSTAGRAM, WHICH ARE DRAPED IN SOME OF YOUR CREATIONS. IT’S QUITE BEAUTIFUL WITH THE SCAR. IN ESSENCE, SHOWING THIS IN YOUR PIECES TELLS YOUR STORY.

Thank you. It’s great to know that you see it that way. Haha, I have a love-hate relationship with my scar.

WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR STONES?

Besides online vendors, I have one secret little shack up in the mountains, and this slightly crazy 80-year-old ex-Marine who fought in Vietnam owns it. Somehow, he got into rocks and crystals. He’s amazing — terrifying and creepy, like the perfect old man. I have become this crazy crystal and stone geek! I’m so bad that I’ve stopped buying shoes and just buy crystals and stones that I never have time to set

WHAT IS YOUR TYPICAL CUSTOMER LIKE?

I think I have a very broad customer… I like to think the majority of my pieces are extremely wearable, especially the Stacking Rings. Also, as of this past January, I’ve sold jewelry in every continent and in almost every major city worldwide (aside from Antarctica, of course, lol).

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IS IT SORT-OF WEIRD CREATING THESE THINGS AND THEN SENDING THEM OFF TO OTHER PEOPLE? DOES IT FEEL LIKE YOU’VE LOST SOMETHING?

Well, not really. It’s kind of incredible, actually. I didn’t really process it at first because it all happened so fast. My sister was like, “Do you realize that people are wearing your creations around the globe by choice?” In response to that, I was like, “Whoa.” Everything developed so quickly, and I was going through (and am still going through) so much. I’ve really had no time to mentally process my success.

I somewhat feel like this…

“Did I Do That?”

WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR BRAND?

I got into fashion at an early age. I dressed my mom or my sisters and observed how a good outfit boosted their confidence — i.e., make them feel like they could take on the world. Moreover, I love being able to make people feel that way. I want people to feel beautiful or extra special in my pieces. I care about all of my customers because they are supporting my recovery emotionally by ordering my work. Each order is like a little reminder that there is a reason I survived my accident. Did I mention that know one has any clue how I’m not dead/paralyzed since my spinal cord was the only thing holding me together? Through my work, I was able to give that miracle back.

For my pieces, I like to be very organic because I am inspired by nature and shapes, such as the sky and the flowers. My grandmother was an artist, and she loved nature. I think I inherited that love from her as well as from my childhood. I especially love when men wear my jewelry too because I like to think that there is a little something for everyone in my work.

HAHA! CAN YOU TELL SHK ONE THING TO SEE: HEAR: AND KNOW:

SEE: The good in everything.

Hear: The natural sounds of your environment, whether you’re in the city or the forest.

&

KNOW: Your life can literally change in an instant, but there’s beauty in everything.

…By the way, your website is amazing.

THANK YOU! BY THE WAY, YOU AND GRAMERCY EIGHT ARE AMAZING, TOO.

 

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