Maker Interview - Angela Monaco

When we met Angela Monaco at a Renegade in Seattle we had that instant sense of recognition. Angela is our kind of people. She is the owner of one of the most beautifully designed stores that I have ever seen, Ritual in Philadelphia. Beyond the shop, she also is the designer of her own line Angela Monaco Jewelry. Owning a shop and creating your own line is akin to doing 8 different jobs at once. Clearly, we had met a kindred spirit. 

Every shipment from Angela is like unwrapping a treasure. Her jewelry is finely crafted, classy and stylish. These pieces are special and will be loved for a lifetime. We had a chance to ask some questions and get to know her a little better and we're pleased to share the interview with you here!

Left to right: Herkimer in the Rough, Passage RingKey to the Unknown 

What inspires you? Which artists you draw inspiration from and why?

I am highly inspired by crystals. Sounds cliche since I am a jewelry designer but they literally fuel everything for me. I have been collecting them and making some form of jewelry since I was a little kid. I aspire to study at  the GIA and become a Graduate Gemologist one day.

What’s integral to the work of an artist, and to you personally, what is art meant to accomplish?

I think you have to be wildly passionate about what you do. It's not easy being a maker, artist or entrepreneur.  I think a lot of my initial success happened because I was willing to take big risks. I really just go for things and try not to think about it too much. You also really have to want your own art. I design for what I currently want to wear.  

How has your practice changed over time? Any mistakes that you have learned over the years, and what advice do you have for new artists?   

My practices are changing daily. Lately it's been a lot to keep up with. I feel like there is never a second where I'm not being pushed to learn something new or implement new systems. I have made so many mistakes, not only in jewelry production but also financially. Along with some of these mistakes has come the opportunity to learn lessons in setting boundaries with myself and others. My advice to creatives is that you just have to start, put yourself out there, see how people respond. Learn from the feedback you get from customers and friends and just keep pushing. If you never give up then someday you will look back and laugh at how far you have come. It's hilarious to me when I find an old business card or run into someone that is wearing my jewelry circa 2005. I don't feel connected to those old designs or even how I was living my life back then but if I would of never started I wouldn't be here now.

What is your creative process? Any rituals?

This past month I have felt like a creative tornado.  I’m a Taurus sun (supposedly grounded so my friends say) but I feel my intense Gemini Rising come through and I feel like it's a lot of organized chaos.  Sometimes I don't even realize how many new designs I have in the works until it's time to photograph them and I realize I made a mini collection. I’d like to be more grounded and  improve upon how and when I create. Lately my main focus is creating custom engagement rings. I have anywhere from 5-10 custom rings going on at a time. It's a true exercise of project management and tracking numbers. Lots of moving parts with a lot of room for error. As for rituals at home to keep my sanity, I love taking baths. The second half of the day all I can really think about is how I can't wait to get in the bath! I love listening to my favorite astrology or tarot readers on youtube and self reflecting with a lot of epsom salts and essential oils.  Mornings with my dog are also really special to me. I’m someone that needs like 3 hours in the morning before I have to deal with the world so my dog and I play and clean up my house and make lots of coffee so I can get in the groove of my day.

What have been your favorite projects recently? Why? Any personal creations that hit close to home?

Most recently I made a guide to getting custom engagement rings made.  It was very important to me because it’s a layout of literally everything I have learned along this journey of creating fine jewelry.  It’s all the questions that I was ever asked and most of them I had to figure out one thing at a time. It was a really hard project to complete and it took me about a month longer than I would have liked but I’m super proud of it. If anyone is interested to learn more about it, there is a link here to see it!

What is the best advice you have for navigating creative lows?

I love this question. It can be so hard to feel in the lows but there's so many types of creativity that we are doing all the time. It’s not always what we think is our favorite thing to do but even business is creative. Our brains are not built to just always be in the flow of producing art so I think it’s just important to notice what you are pulled to work on in that moment and don’t judge it. I’m a big nerd and love the back end of business so sometimes me feeling creative is creating spreadsheets to track my gemstone inventory.  Sometimes it’s putting down everything and going out dancing! Being in nature is always a good way to download more creative energy and recharge when you feel burnt out.

How do you motivate yourself when you're your own boss?

 I definitely have a tendency to overwork myself so it’s almost a fine line between not giving myself enough time to rest or spreading myself too thin.  I have a hard time focusing on one thing at a time and that has been my new goal. Needing to make numbers for rent and payroll is a sure motivator. I really have only ever worked for myself besides a couple restaurant jobs in college. It’s been such a big lesson in getting to know myself. I still have a lot of work to do around having acceptance for where I’m at and not always wanting to do more.

What challenges have you faced through your work?

I think the biggest challenge for me was really dipping into a life of workaholism. I struggled with addiction in the past and after I got sober from drugs and alcohol, I really picked up the working.  I didn’t let my body rest and felt like I was in survival mode for many years of my life in business. Last year I found out that I developed an autoimmune disease. It was a huge wake up call to slow the F down and stop making work the most important thing in my life. I still struggle with it but I do a lot to take care of myself throughout the week. Acupuncture, yoga, meditation, massages, play time with friends; these are all a must for me or I burn out quickly and my health follows.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue, but haven’t yet?

I have so so many things on this list.  I think number one is I want to learn to play piano and sing like my Grandma.  She is such a boss and still can play the most complicated classical music pieces and shes 93!  Next up I would love to learn Spanish, and learn how to build furniture so I could make my own displays and be more handy with building my shop out.

What is your best advice for staying sane in the age of social media? 

Ooof there’s no staying sane! We are all doomed! Haha It’s a daily reprieve of not getting stuck comparing myself to others or just aimlessly looking at stories. The biggest thing I can do is just be easy on myself when I don’t go on it for a few days. Sometimes I just really need a break! Some people are able to always be ON with it but like I said before I don’t want to burn out so taking breaks and hiring help if you can.

You can shop the rest of her stunning collection here