Meet Stephanie Moreau the maker and creator of Savage Salvage Jewelry.
A creator and maker whose background was similar to mine she honed her craft and learned the ins out outs of her business by working for some of the biggest brands we know in the market place before branching out on her own. She's redefined success, stayed true to her aesthetic, and juggles the demands of being a householder and mother. Why we love her jewelry? She brings a natural, post-punk vibe that we appreciate in a world of minimalism. She uses recycled, vintage, and found goods...and she's a bit of a goth - which we love (for those of you who would never guess, I am a closet Goth who listens to Sisters of Mercy real loud from time to time).
SR: Where are you from, and where do you live now?
SM: I grew up in Rhode Island, way out in the woods. I’ve lived in New York City and Connecticut but will always consider Rhode Island to be my home. I now live in Woonsocket, a lovely little city in Northern Rhode Island filled with old Victorians and lots of crumbling industrial buildings. I find it so inspiring!
SR: How long have you been designing jewelry and how did you begin?
SM: I started making jewelry back in the early 90s when I was in high school because it was a more enjoyable after-school job than babysitting. I made a lot of polymer clay beads and pendants and did intricate beadwork. I would sell my designs at craft fairs and in bead shops. Remember those hemp chokers with brightly colored mushroom beads that were all the rage?!?! Guilty as charged.
SR: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
SM: My husband once described my jewelry line as “Jewelry for grown-up goths”. I think that is a perfect description. I design things that I’d like to wear myself. My work is heavily influenced by Victorian curiosity cabinets, natural history, found objects, and rusty things.
Savage Salvage Horsehair and Porcupine Quill Earrings featuring nickle free brass and are ultra light weight. NO ANIMALS were harmed in these.
SR: You worked for large brands and businesses prior to going out on your own, can you share a little bit of your background with us?
SM: Absolutely! I worked in the fashion jewelry industry for 20 years. I worked mostly as a freelance designer for wholesalers. My accounts varied enormously. I’d be designing teen jewelry for mall stores one day (Hot Topic or Aeropostale for example) and high-end costume and bridal jewelry the next. There was never a second to get bored! But my absolute favorite accounts to work on were always Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. Those accounts allowed me to truly be creative with my ideas, and to make jewelry that I felt very connected to.
SR: When did you decide to go out on your own and what was the catalyst to propel you?
SM: At a certain point, I began to feel very frustrated with the constraints of materials available to our factories and the constant watering-down of my designs to meet lower and lower price points. I’d design something that I thought was fantastic, be thrilled to hear that it had sold in large quantities, then see it at retail and it would be a completely different piece, made with cheap materials, basically built to fall apart. That kind of thing slowly chips away at your self-confidence.
I started building my own line in my spare time back in 2007. I started with a little Etsy shop in 2008 and slowly started to put more time into my own line, and less into my freelance accounts. When the costume jewelry industry tanked a few years later (even design jobs started to be outsourced overseas), it was serendipitous timing. I had built my own safety net. I’m definitely living a simpler life now with less income, but I’m so much happier to be my own boss and to have complete creative control over my art.
SR: Can you tell us a bit about your process?
SM: I try to incorporate as many reused or recycled materials into my work as possible, so almost all new designs start with a trip to a dusty flea market or antique store. I like to spread out a bunch of inspiring tidbits on my tables and see what “speaks” to me. I find that I still design in much the same way that I did for the fashion industry. I create concept boards and layout 20 or 30 pieces at a time. Then I spend a few days assembling all of the designs. I tend to create in batches that way, in large chunks. So you’ll often see me list 20 new designs all at once. I’m terrible at pacing myself.
SR: Do you have any persona’s or muses? Who are they?
SM: Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith have long been fashion inspirations for me. But I’m lately finding myself obsessed with the style and jewelry that Lily Tomlin’s character wears on Frankie and Grace. She’s really got a “go big or go home” jewelry vibe! Those giant geodes and crystals…...Obsessed!
SR: What is inspiring you as a designer right now?
SM: Big Stones! See above about Frankie! The bigger, and more raw, the better!
SR: How would you describe your personal style?
SM: Lazy artist? Or goth mom? I tend to wear lots of black layers. The drapier the better. I’m a jeans under dresses kinda gal. With stompy boots. And almost everything I own has at least a little bit of paint or solder on it.
SR: As a creative small business owner can you share with us some of your biggest failures (aka learnings) and the silver linings that may have come out of them?
SM: Oof! So many glorious failures. I think one of the biggest mistakes I made early on was trying too hard to make items that I considered to be “sellable”. I so badly wanted the validation of quick sales, that I was designing a lot of stuff that wasn't true to my aesthetic. I’ve learned that if you are true to your artistic vision, authentic patrons will find you, and will be loyal followers in the future.
SR: What would you say is the hardest thing about what you do
SM: Working alone can be very isolating. Sometimes the only adult contact I’ll have for 10+ hours is my daily trip to the post office. I know I can set up home shipping software to save time and money, but I need that one daily errand to keep myself from going entirely feral.
SR: And most rewarding?
SM: Seeing my designs on real people, out in the real world. Living their lives, walking canvases for my art, creating their own magic. SO validating!
SR: What are you listening to these days in terms of music, blogs, or podcasts?
SM: Henric De La Cour’s album “Bloody Daggers” has been on non-stop rotation in my studio for the last few weeks. Blaqk Audio’s new release “Only Things We Love” has had me shaking my butt into the wee hours. Also loving Nicole Saboune of late. I’ve been gothing it up in the studio this winter!
SR: What parting bits of wisdom would you give for independent designers seeking to go out on their own?
SM: Get a good accountant, set up QuickBooks on your phone to track mileage, and save every receipt! Artist’s need to have the energy to focus on creating. Let someone else do the torturous admin stuff for you. It’s worth the expense! Unless you like that kind of stuff, then, by all means, go forth and calculate.