This week we caught up with the lovely ladies behind one of our favorite jewelry brands in shop, Forge & Finish! Carly Mayer, Emily Kane, and Desiree Casimiro are the three designers that make up this Philadelphia-based brand that boasts architecturally-intriguing silhouettes. Scroll on to read more.
Can you introduce yourself for us - who you are, where you’re from, what you do?
We are Forge & Finish, three female co-owners living and operating out of Philadelphia.
Carly Mayer: I am co-owner at Forge & Finish, mama, wife, maker (not necessarily in that order). I studied jewelry design and metalsmithing at Tyler School of Art of Temple University. Along with designing and fabricating our jewelry production line, I am the Social Media and Public Relations manager for our business, as well as, events coordinator and email correspondent. I enjoy snowboarding, hiking, kickboxing, cooking, singing and dancing. I’m from South Jersey, but have lived in PA for more than half of my life.
Emily Kane: I am a female identifying artist/ maker living in Philadelphia, ⅓ of the force behind the brand Forge & Finish, a mother, and a Sagittarius sun & moon with a scorpio rising. I have been working in accessories for the last 19 years. Whether selling, designing or making, you could say I am of the thought that it is all about the accessories. Fashion to me is an inspiring artistic medium, an accessible art form, and a great vehicle for self expression. To me jewelry is the KWEEN of the castle. I grew up on the main-line just outside of Philadelphia.
Desiree Casimiro: I’m pretty shy when it comes to talking about myself, and really respect quietness & privacy in this aggressive world. It’s no wonder I’m most natural in more behind-the-scenes roles for Forge & Finish. I have a knack for organization and implementing structural support systems that lead to growth for our business. Executing a visually intuitive and functional spreadsheet is as equally satisfying to me as designing jewelry collections. Since I was a kid, I took comfort in being alone & letting my imagination take me places. I continue to relish in daydreaming and exploring new landscapes. I flock to the sea and live for underwater escapes.
What are your zodiac signs?
I am a libra (Carly)
I am a Scorpio (Desiree)
I am a Sagittarius ( Emily)
What's the story on how you all came together to create your business?
Initially, we shared a studio space where we designed in various art forms independently. The decision to merge came about after showcasing our jewelry work together and realizing that we complemented each other. We made the commitment to share the responsibilities of running a business based on our individual strengths. Forge & Finish officially formed in 2015 after a year-long trial run as a collective.
How and where do you find inspiration?
Desiree loves the visual timeline that is drawn from one’s past by looking back on collected objects that captured energy, provided comfort, and remained to hold a story. Jewelry has always been a tangible source in piecing together her history and she’ll never tire of the versatility and casual mobility of this wearable art form. She looks forward to creating more jewelry to share, meeting other jewelry designers, and acquiring their works to build upon her life collection.
An artist and maker of things since childhood, Emily most enjoys working in the space between functional and conceptual art. Designing and manufacturing jewelry over many years has allowed her to play with color, shape, and context in a wearable and expressive form. Entrepreneurship has afforded her the opportunity to expand and exercise many of her interests in concert with her creative drive.
Although painting was Carly’s first love and introduction to the arts, she has been an admirer of jewelry and adornments for the body all her life. It seemed the most organic path for her to study jewelry design and metalsmithing because it has always been the art form with which she chose to express herself. Deeply inspired by music, narrative and travel, she uses these muses to create collections that hold a higher meaning than pure aesthetics.
What’s your favorite part about the jewelry making process?
Carly: My favorite part of making jewelry is the tactility of the metal. I feel empowered when I strike the metal with a hammer and bend it to my will. This feeling is what led me to work in metals. Metal is forgiving but only to a certain degree and I respect that about this material.
Emily: Broadly I enjoy designing. More specifically, I really enjoy figuring out the most effective way to manufacture in multiples, thinking about building things and how things work is something that transcends jewelry but that I find to be a joy of mine. I often have dreams where I am making things and figuring out how best to put them together. I would say that functionality of the piece is something I enjoy putting a lot of thought into as well.
Desiree: My favorite part about making jewelry is the inception of ideas, especially when it hits me like a sudden flash of imagery. During the day, I tend to ponder, drift, and move at a comfortable pace. But ever so often I wake up in the middle of the night with a flood of images that I need to get out as quickly as possible. I call these times (usually around 4a) my witching hour. There’s something alluring about the moonlight meeting dawn that stirs my mind and makes me productive. Capturing the flash can be elusive & challenging, but the exhilaration of bringing a vision into fruition is the absolute high.
How has the pandemic changed your processes?
Carly: My process has been changed not only by the pandemic, but also by motherhood. After we realized that this Pandemic wasn’t going to be eradicated quickly, I had to figure out a way to keep up with my production responsibilities without going to the studio. So in early April I decided to set up a space in one of the vacant apartments in my house to be able to work from home. I am fortunate to have had this availability as it not only allows me to transition easily from motherhood to work hours, but it saves me over an hour in commuter time. As a mom of a young child I have to be sure to give my son the attention he needs while also making time for my studio practice. Keeping a schedule is key, if Isador doesn’t nap, that means I don’t get to work. However, when things go as planned I can be very productive in just three hours a day, thanks to Desiree who arranges a production schedule for the business.
Emily: The pandemic hit when I was 6 months pregnant, being that I was considered high risk, the pandemic stripped me of my ability to work in the studio. It was really hard in the previous months before my son was born, I really struggled to find purpose in my days so I began working largely in paper which is a medium I truly love. You can find cards that I have made on our website. Today with a newborn in tow the pandemic has taken away my physical studio practice completely, which has shifted my focus to a more digital role in the company. I am putting my effort into sales in between caring for Charlie who is now 3 months old.
Desiree: The pandemic hit me like a Mack truck, and not the kind that Cardi B refers to. The blows from absorbing the daily news, facing heightened levels of racial division in my neighborhood and beyond, continuing to work while the majority was keeping safe & isolated had me wrought with anxiety that I struggled to articulate. I was caught off guard and perplexed by my erratic emotions and downtrodden mental state. My energy levels were depleted, and my creative drive suffered immensely. Frankly, I’m still on the mend and figuring out ways to cope, be present, and feel like what I’m doing is relevant amidst the bleak realities. People talk about getting back to normal, but my concern is that I don’t revert back to my ever-busy, pre-quarantine self, because that person didn’t uphold necessary boundaries to better nourish my personal well being above all. I want to give my rest button the value and respect it deserves, so that I can take on whatever life brings next with a lucid, fortified mind and body.
Who are some other artists/designers/brands you look up to?
Carly: Right now I am very inspired by Tobe Nwigwe. He is a rapper and visual artist. I really love how he took this pandemic and turned it into a reason to be outspoken for injustices in our society with a minimalist approach from the comfort of his home. Although he was supposed to be touring during this pandemic, he still found ways to market and grow his brand, very admirable. As for Jewelry designers, I am consistently awe struck by anything James T. Merry churns out. He started out as an embroidery artist and now makes exquisite headpieces using silicon, metal, beads, and pearls. I am also eternally jealous that his primary client is Bjork!
Emily: I am inspired by the apothecary line by Kindred Black. They put a lot of focus on sourcing the ingredients from the origin source of each herb, growers who have a heritage crop. Each tincture is put in a gorgeous hand blown glass vessel, certainly something aesthetically pleasing to both look at and enjoy.
Desiree: Li Ziqi—film director/chef/gardener/traditional handcraft maker of textiles, furniture & more—has recently become a heroic figure for me. She is well-known for her short film series shot at home in Mianyang, China. In 2012, Li moved from the city to the countryside to take care of her grandma. She began filming & sharing YouTube videos of her rural lifestyle to show children (and adults) where their food came from. The videos are awe-inspiring and soothing to watch-like therapy. Without any words, pure messages are conveyed through nature’s landscapes and a lifestyle committed to living off the land. By the end of each clip, it’s difficult to not press “play next.” Before I know it, hours have slipped away, but there’s zero remorse about lending my virtual time to this platform because I’m gaining such rejuvenation with every viewing. Li’s videos are a peaceful escape from a fast-paced, modern world. They’re an impressive link to her beautiful Chinese heritage & guide to true sustainable living. I admire Li’s seemingly endless skill sets, her dedication & discipline, and perfect execution on each project down to the smallest details. I see no higher power than the level of self-sufficiency that Li achieves, nor a richer lifestyle than the one she leads. Especially, when she sits down to share her creations with her favorite person-Grandma.
Any words of wisdom for fellow makers or peers looking to get their business off the ground?
Carly: Be prepared for failures and don’t let them deter you.
Emily: Something that I insisted on from the onset of Forge & Finish is to set up the foundation of business as if it will succeed into a larger business, I wanted us to be ready for rapid growth. We always collected sales tax and kept careful records of all of our business practices, we have gotten much better at this along the way but I attribute a lot of our success to being organized and legitimate from the get go. So my advice is to make room for your ultimate goal by setting up your business to allow for growth in whatever direction you’d like it to go.
Desiree: “Neurologists studying brain scans discovered that our biggest “aha!” moments occur when our brain is at rest. Creativity takes a back seat when you’re constantly busy; rest moves it into the driver’s seat,” - Hannah Sullivan
What is a dream project/goal for you?
Carly: To make custom jewelry for Bjork
Emily: Most recently I have been wanting to make a jewel encrusted keepsake box
Desiree: Before quarantine, I was making plans to take specialized jewelry classes in ny. I can’t help but feel that I missed out on valuable teachings having been predominantly self-taught. I want guidance and expertise from a disciplined mentor. I want the experience of being immersed with other artists of different backgrounds from whom I can discover other art processes. I’d like to get back on track to furthering my education and expanding my practice.
Your top 3 Ritual Shoppe picks?
Desiree: I basically read the entire Holly Simple children’s book, “What I do When I Have Feelings” , the last time I visited Ritual. I bought it without a kid in mind, and just might keep it for myself for a while. Always crushing on Chloe Keene’s Mini Good Friend Smile Pendant in solid gold. My OG Wolf Pack Ring by Angela Monaco never goes out of style.