I was first introduced to Nichole McIver of Acanthus Jewelry through our mutual friend, Jen Comas Keck — author of Beauty Lies in Strength (a GREAT health and fitness blog). You may notice by the number of jewelry giveaways we’ve hosted so far that I’m a huge fan of handmade wearable trinkets, but I’m also extremely picky. Basically, if something shows up in the form of a feature or giveaway, it’s because we absolutely love it and would (and often do) spend our own money on it. This brings me back to Nichole and Acanthus. When Jen sent me a link to check out Nichole’s work, my jaw dropped. Her creations are such a beautifully unique mix of feminine, edgy, modern, minimalistic and earthy. They have so much character while remaining truly versatile, and the quality and craftsmanship of each piece is out of this world. Needless to say, I could not wait to do this feature, and I’m so excited that she’ll be giving away a $175 gift certificate to one lucky o+i reader AND a special 20% discount code for everyone! Keep reading for an interview with Nichole, a casual autumn look with one of my favorite Acanthus necklaces, and the giveaway/discount details.
In this post, I’m showing an outfit I put together with the Silver Arrowhead Pendant. This necklace is a perfect example of the wearability and timeless style of Nichole’s designs. I’ve worn it almost every day for the last week. It went beautifully with outfits ranging from jeans and a simple tee for lounging, to wool tights with a skirt and blouse for a night out, or a casual button-down with jeans and the adorable Calistoga Tweedy Cloche from Anthropologie (shown). To complete this look, I would throw on some great low-heel ankle boots like “Crazy For You” in Whiskey from Seychelles, or dress it up a little with the “Storytelling” leather wedges in Black or Green (also from Seychelles).
Now for an interview with the lovely Nichole!
What’s the inspiration behind Acanthus?
I have my Master’s in Art History and my focus was Medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts. I was always drawn to the books that had these beautiful, scrolling leaf forms in the margins. Acanthus is a type of leaf motif that has been seen consistently throughout art history in every period since Ancient Greece and Rome (example here). In addition to being a beautiful form in and of itself, to me “Acanthus” represents continuity and timeless design. I’m also very influenced by ancient jewelry and the way it’s refined, yet rough and worn with age. I love that juxtaposition.
When did you realize you wanted to become a jewelry designer?
About 5 years ago while living in DC, I was working a couple of jobs that were vaguely related to my degree. One of them was in an art gallery that also sold jewelry, and looking at it one day I realized, “Hey, I can do that!”. The more I considered what jewelry-making involved, the more I realized that it would combine many of my interests, strengths and passions into one.
What is your studio/workspace like?
I work at home in an upstairs loft over the living room. It’s not a beautiful studio space like many other people have. It is small and very cramped. My work surface is typically a chaotic tornado of tools and materials. I’d love to say it’s an inspiring zen-like area, full of picture-worthy nooks, but I prefer to keep it real! Someday when I can move to a larger space, that will change. But for now, I’m just grateful I’m not at my coffee table.
What is a typical work day like?
I still work a day job 30 hours a week (Monday-Wednesday) and I have a 3 1/2 year old, so I definitely don’t have a typical schedule. On days that I’m at home with Liam, I can work during his nap for a few hours in the afternoon. I want to make sure we all spent time together in the evenings when my husband gets home from work, so I don’t work again until after they go to bed which is usually after 9pm. There’s never enough time to take care of everything I need to, so I have to juggle priorities constantly.
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome since the launch of Acanthus?
Wow, there have been lots of challenges and I still face them each day. The biggest hurdle that I still struggle with is not giving up. Starting the business was not as hard as trying to continue it and make it grow. I have financial limitations, time limitations, etc. — so I have to do the best I can to get eyes on my work and make sales. There are a lot of times when I’m feeling really discouraged because of rejection or whatever, and I want to throw in the towel…but at the end of the day, I just want to keep creating and make all the ideas I have stored in my head come to life. So I hang on.
At what point did you realize Acanthus was a success?
The most exciting and successful moment was when about a year after I started, a pair of my earrings were featured in Martha Stewart Weddings in an article about “Handmade Details”. It was so exciting to see something I did by myself recognized like that, and it really helped me get going.
Do you follow runway trends, or do you like to set your own pace with each new collection?
I have all sorts of ideas stored in my sketchbooks and in my head for different collections that I want to create, so I’m usually just waiting until I can get to the next one. Sometimes my ideas align with what happens to be trending in fashion, like the snakeskin textures and black and gold of the Hathor Collection, which I’m seeing a lot of this year. Trying to follow trends too closely would probably lead to work without a passion behind it, which is the opposite of what my standards are for Acanthus.
What’s your favorite piece out of everything you’ve created so far?
Oh, that’s a tough one! I am really connected with every piece I create since I really pour my attention into each one individually. I’d have to say that my handmade lockets (example here) are a personal favorite though. I’ve loved lockets since I was a little girl, and there’s a deeply personal aspect to having a piece of jewelry with a special reminder hidden inside. Once I decided that I wanted to make them 100% by hand, it took a lot of learning and trial and error before it worked. I also love that I incorporated engraved messages inside of them that are taken from medieval poesy rings, which are little messages of love between couples.
What’s up next for Acanthus?
I want to make more collections and learn new processes. I’m trying to get more people to discover my work, get my collections into more stores and possibly a showroom somewhere. I’m just going to keep moving towards my goals of being able to work full time on my line and keep creating beautiful and personal pieces. Now that I’ve fallen in love with making jewelry, I can’t see myself doing anything else.
The giveaway! To win a $175 gift certificate to Acanthus Jewelry (good for anything on the site), enter using the Rafflecopter widget below! This giveaway is open internationally, and you must be 18 or older to participate.
The discount code! Enter “INSPIRED” at checkout on AcanthusJewelry.com to get 20% off your entire jewelry purchase! (This code will only be active for the duration of the giveaway, so get shoppin’!)