It’s been a minute since I did an interview in my #ofthemomnttalks series so I’m super excited to post this interview here with the founders of Electric Picks Jewelry, MJ Barton and Chantel Gia. They started with guitar pick jewelry and have moved on to now having a full line of amazing beaded and leather work. Not only are they talented, but I can personally attest to how supportive these ladies are of other women doing cool things in fashion. Read below about how they got started and their advice for young designers. Also, see two of my favorite pieces featured on me: the bolero necklace and the cactus bracelet. Find them here on their website.
AK: Where are you from?
MJ: I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. My love of travel has made me a bit of a gypsy though. I’ve lived in Chicago, Arizona, Dublin, Miami and now I’m in New York City.
CG: I was born in Connecticut, lived there for my early childhood, then moved to California, Florida and NYC… I’m back living in Southern California, which really is my favorite…
AK: Where did your learn to make jewelry?
MJ: I started making friendship bracelets in 3rd grade. I’d come up with all these different designs and colorful patterns and sketch them out. I’d take orders for them at my daycare. I’d take the orders Monday and have them ready Friday. So I guess I’ve been perfecting this craft for a long time!
CG: I bought my then 5 year old daughter (she is now 12; unbelievable!) a book on how to make seed bead and wire rings. While she tossed it aside uninterested; one day I picked it up and was totally mesmerized by all the really awesome tutorials. So I sat down and made every single design in that book and after I was done I was completely hooked! I became obsessed with learning everything I could about jewelry design and all the different techniques used. That book changed my life, literally.
AK: When did you start your line?
MJ: I started the line in 2012. I was living in Miami at the time and going to concerts every chance I could. I had a stack of guitar picks from them on my desk. One night I had a dream that I punched holes in the picks and made them into bracelets, and that’s where the idea for Electric Picks started. Chantel helped me with designs from the very beginning and we officially partnered in 2013. Working with my best friend is one of the best parts of Electric Picks!
CG: We partnered back in 2013 (wow I can’t believe it’s been that long!) single best decision of my life!
AK: Have you had any other lines or worked on designing anything else before Electric Picks started?
MJ: Besides my 3rd grade day care business nothing official. I worked for Ocean Drive Magazine and had an event planning business before starting Electric Picks.
CG: I always thought I’d be a fashion designer, even have a Fashion Design & Merchandising degree, but once I discovered jewelry making I just knew I had found my true passion.
AK: Where do you make your jewelry and what technique do you use to make it?
MJ: We design every collection together in our studio. We hand make the very 1st one of every piece and then we have our talented production team in New York reproduces our designs.
CG: We always design our collections together, at my in home studio. At the moment we have a new studio being built that will be set up for metal-smithing, which is something I’m excited for us to get into more.
AK: What inspires your designs?
MJ: I’m constantly inspired by street style here in New York. It really is a concrete runway. I also love googling vintage photographs and just getting lost in them for hours. The other day I was googling 1960’s fashion icons and all the photos of Brigitte Bardot are mesmerizing.
CG: For me it’s an accumulation of things, different sights I’ve seen, maybe how I feel at that moment or maybe an idea I’ve had in my head that I want to try. Some of my favorite pieces have been created that way, such as our bolo anklets, which I pictured in my head and immediately grabbed some leather and got to work. I love that our collections always have an organic way of coming together, never feeling forced.
AK: I love the bolero necklaces, by the way!
AK: Have you had any mentors or people in your life that helped guide you through this process?
MJ: I feel so blessed to be in New York City, the fashion mecca. I’ve met so many great people here and the fashion community really wants to help build each other up. There are just also so many amazing creatives here! A friend in fashion taught me how to make line sheets, a talented girlfriend of mine took my 1st head shots, some models I met were in our 1st campaign. So many people have really helped us with our dream from day 1.
CG: My husband is the CEO of a publicly traded company and is the boss of like 40,000 people. He’s a brilliant businessman and always there for us to ask for his advice on how to run a successful company long term. My dad is super creative and an amazing designer; he’s actually designed many of my homes we lived in while growing up. I always pick his brain for ideas when designing our booths for trade shows and display tables. He’s built a lot of our wooden jewelry displays that the buyers always love and ask us about at shows.
AK: What advice would you give to a young designer starting out?
MJ: The one thing I wish I would have done differently is interned or worked at a jewelry company before starting one. I think having some experience beforehand would’ve been so incredibly helpful. I had no experience at all in the fashion industry. I think it’s worked out okay for us though, but it took longer. I’d recommend to everyone learning your business before jumping in.
CG: Figure out what you love to do the most and focus on that. Whether it’s necklaces or rings I think having a signature core collection is important for building your brand. The rest of your collection can be built around that, even at a later time. It’s easier to start within a small, with pieces you love and that are made really well. Etsy is a great platform for new designers that allows you to reach potential customers in parts of the world that otherwise would have been impossible to find. Also never underestimate the power of social media, it’s a great way to promote brand awareness and the possibilities are endless.
AK: What so far, has been your favorite moment with your jewelry? Was it a person wearing it that really impacted you or maybe it was getting into a certain store?
MJ: I’ve had so many OMG moments. But I’d have to agree with Chantel. When we met with Britney Spears we had no idea she’d wear our bracelet for her entire show that night! We held our breath between costume changes wondering if she’d come back out wearing it, and every time she did! She wore it every day and in her show for the next few months, it was an amazing moment!
CG: When we were in Las Vegas for the ENK Tradeshow, we met Britney Spears while out one evening and gave her one of our Believe guitar pick bracelets and a couple for her sons. We then went to see her show at Planet Hollywood that night. We were sitting fairly close to the stage when we noticed she was wearing our bracelet while performing! She kept it on through whole show, which included like ten wardrobe changes!! We were jumping up in down in our seats, and there may or may not have been some happy tears. That was a great moment I’ll never forget.
AK: What was your initial goal when you first created your line, and now, has how that changed?
MJ: When the company started, it was only the guitar pick pieces. We’ve come so far! We now have a full line of bracelets, necklace, and anklets. They’re all still inspired by music and the guitar pick is still our signature, we’ve just expanded the idea.
CG: When I decided to partner with MJ back in ’13, I knew we had the potential to take Electric Picks to a new level of success. We just work so well together, complimenting each others’ strengths and I wanted us to grow Electric Picks into a major brand sold in all our favorite stores and worn by everyone. Today we have expanded our line from predominantly just bracelets to now including a collection of necklaces, anklets and a newly launched children’s line.
AK: You are well on your way, I’m sure it will happen soon!
AK: What’s next for you and Electric Picks?
MJ: We’ve been very focused on the East coast. Chantel just moved to LA so our next move is to expand there. It’s funny; everyone always thinks we’re an LA company. We’re really excited to have a New York & LA office now.
CG: We will continue grow not only as a brand but also as designers, always creating fun and unique pieces of jewelry for everyone to enjoy. This fall season it’s all about the necklace; chokers will still be huge, as well as long multi-layered lariats. Wearing like four different necklaces at once is so on trend right now, I love it…I’m loving the leather, super skinny, simple chokers, very ’90’s Grunge- Chic…. Expect to love everything this season from us!
AK: And I do!