This week I spent some time chatting with the lovely Noelani, owner of Noelani Designs on the North Shore of Hawai'i. I have been swooning over her jewelry lately, and it was such an honor to get to know her a little better! Read on!
Elise: Okay lovely Noe, tell us a little about who you are, where you are from and what are a couple things you are most passionate about in life?
Noelani: My name is Noelani Hails Love, and I was born and raised on the east coast, in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1983. My mother is Hawaiian-Chinese and my father is a good old southern boy from Georgia. In the summers, I would visit my grandparents in Hawaii for a month or so, and was always in love with the ocean! I remember learning to swim when I was about 4 years old and loving the freedom of gliding underwater like a fish! My grandfather would take me snorkeling at Poipu on Kauai and I'll never forget how entranced I was with ocean life. The ocean is definitely a very important aspect of my life, being in and around it makes me a happy woman!
Elise: Beautiful! When did you decide to start creating jewelry and at what point did you turn your passion into a business?
Noelani: Being able to live in Hawaii is such a blessing, and expressing myself creatively with my surroundings for a living is a beautiful thing. I enjoy sharing my love of the ocean with my son and his friends, building their awareness of the beauty of this place.
I started creating jewelry as a young girl when my godmother (Aunt Helene) got me a beading kit for Christmas, and enjoyed the challenge of putting different colors together to make adornments. I also made friendship bracelets (with knotted embroidery string) in 4th grade and kind of lost jewelry design as a hobby until it was rekindled in my highschool crafts class, when I began to work with wire a little, and then again in my sophmore year of college at Washington and Lee University in Virginia--I picked up the hobby while making gifts for my friends for Christmas. Shortly after, in 2003, I studied abroad to Costa Rica where my head wasn't into books as much, but rather experiencing the artistic beachy lifestyle there.I began making jewelry passionately during my stay in Costa Rica, and upon my return kept making jewelry for friends and then began selling jewelry to fundraise for a school humanitarian trip to Nicaragua. I knew that as soon as I graduated from school, I would start my business...I loved Costa Rica!!
Elise: Costa Rica is one of my favorite places in the world! Can't wait to go back.. inspiration is easy to find there! Where do you find inspiration for your pieces?
Noelani: I find my inspiration in the colors around me in nature, mostly the ocean it seems like these days. Or the varying hues of pinks and oranges in the sunset. My natural surroundings are so amazing, and I get to recreate the color schemes through my jewelry.
Elise: Of all of your stunning pieces, which is your favorite or “go to” and why do you choose that particular piece? And which piece in your collection is the most popular?
Noelani: Oooh, that's a tough question. It seems like it changes once or twice a month for me, my newest design is always my favorite go-to design! Right now, I'm loving my Pikake earrings in gold in the XL size. They feature semi-precious stones of apatite, amethyst and iolite, as well as a blue chalcedony drop inside of a handcrafted wire hoop. They are super lightweight and match everything! I am loving my Sirena necklace now, since I've been spending a lot of time in the ocean this winter and feeling like a mermaid...
I've been living in my Ellen bracelet and probably haven't taken it off in about a month. I even gutted a fish over New Years with my rings and bracelet on...my friend said we should have made a video as an ad for my jewelry...
Some of my best-sellers have been the Delia, Lehua, Kumi, Tammy, Laneika and Pere earrings, and the Lody, Krystie, Arlene and Alish necklaces.
Elise: Wow, durable too huh? It's hard for me to choose my favorite from your designs, they are all totally my style, and would go with anything! I’ve read that you have created special pieces for Hawaiian singer-songwriter Anuhea.. that makes me giddy just thinking about it! What was it like to create something that you knew millions of people would see and love?
Noelani: I so enjoyed having Anuhea come over to my studio- she is so down to earth and fun, and was stoked to be able to wear my jewelry at her first Kokua Festival appearance. I made a customized extra large leaf style for her so that the earrings could be seen on stage. I was very honored to have her represent my line on stage, and was able to attend the festival and watch. She has a magical voice and heartfelt lyrics of a woman coming of age. I'm excited to see what she comes up with in the next few years.
Elise: What an honor! What advice could you give to anyone aspiring to be a jewelry designer as successful as you have become?
Noelani: I think the best advice is to follow your heart and be persistent. I got rejected so many times at first, and now I have a hard time keeping up with the demand. Keep being persistent, as well as patient, and create a good design and product.
Elise: Let’s change direction a little, you are a full time momma too! What is it like balancing your job as a jewelry designer and business owner with being a mom?
Noelani: It's a tough balance, and fun at the same time. I have to always remember to be flexible, because at the end of the day it all boils down to our health and happiness. Luckily, I've set myself up so that my commute to work is minimal (a 3 block bike ride away), and my son's school is one street away, so I only get in my car 3 times/week maximum. I'm able to be very interactive with my son since I am my own boss. I am really fortunate to have such a great community of friends here on the North Shore, so my group of mommy friends and I have formed a coop of playdates, where we switch off days of caring for the little ones. My son is 3 and loves playing with his friends, and it's more fun when they are all together, so I enjoy my day with them as much as I enjoy my time off. We usually go to the beach or go on a hike. I have set up a pretty good schedule as far as getting enough time to work and play. It really takes a village to raise a child. My son does come to my jewelry studio with me often, and he is just now wanting to sit on my lap and make jewelry with me, so it's fun to watch him want to get involved and help out!
Elise: I love that you ride your bike to work! That's one of the things I adore so much about North Shore living.. you hardly need a car! You sound like such a fun and radiant Momma! What music are you listening to lately? Any new artists you have recently discovered?
Noelani: My brother introduced me to Ratatat and Yelle, along with Edward Sharpe. I like the new age style, but am also really into calming meditative music, and starting to listen to more Kirtan. I love any music with culture, especially the PutoMayo Productions.
Elise: Nice, I love the energy you feel when listening to Kirtan! Great for creating! So, we know you are a gal who basically lives at the beach, so tell us..what do you carry in your everyday bag?
Noelani: Hmmm...well I usually take my pink backpack that my friend from Japan gave me...it's easy to tote around while I ride my bike to and from work and the beach. I always have my journal with me (for my constant stream of thoughts and ideas) and I've got to have my Pure and True Organics lip balm, as well as my reusable glass water bottle (gotta stay hydrated), a pareo and a swimsuit. I usually have an extra pair of clothes for my son too- he always seems to soak his clothes, whether in a mud puddle or in the shorebreak...I like to keep it pretty simple because I don't like to dig around too much for my things. Lately I've been taking my GoPro camera with me everywhere too, and taking short films of my son. The life of a 3 year old on the North Shore is pretty rad...
Elise: I bet it is! What a fun way to look back later too, our GoPro is one of my favorite cameras in the house! Any big plans for 2012?
Noelani: Ooooh...the big question. I'd like to see some more growth in my company, and hopefully some more international traveling. I'd love to start sourcing more of my beads through travel. I'm not going to claim anything and keep it a surprise...there's something exciting about a mystery...
Elise: Looking forward to keeping up with your designs this year! Last but not least by far, what do you think people remember most about you, and if you could tell the world on thing.. what would it be?
Noelani: Hmmm...good question. What do people remember about me? I've been told my smile is unforgettable. I must thank my orthodontist, Dr. Webb:) I do smile a lot, because no matter what language you speak, a smile is universal. And...why not share a smile? Everyone has a light to shine!
Elise: Well, I've got a huge cheesy smile on my face, it's even universal through the computer! ;) Thanks so much for spending time with me and letting us peek into your world!
Noelani has graciously offered a 15% discount code through January for her collection especially for our readers! I can't wait to spend some more time on her site NoelaniDesigns.com. Just enter 'SALTWATER2012' at checkout! Woo hoo!!
I think I am really digging the Momi & Pikake earrings.. in large 14kt gold of course!