Interview with jeweler Jen Marlow of Sweet Leaf Silver
I met Jen Marlow back in high school while visiting an old friend of mine in Portland, Oregon. I think it was love at first sight and since then, we have spent countless hours together rummaging through vintage goods, eating burritos, aimlessly driving the roads of Oregon and drinking margarita's straight out of the blender while giggling like witches. When she and our friend, Maria, starting collecting vintage turquoise pieces, I was always in awe of the gargantuan masterpieces they would bring home. I've spent so many moments over the years trying on their rings and wearing them on nights out, pretending that they were my own. Jen's collection has only grown since then and I was not at all surprised when she decided to head down to SoCal to study and practice jewelry design at the Gemological Institute of America.
Since completing her studies at GIA, Jen has gone on to craft incredible pieces and you probably know her as @sweetleafsilver on Instagram. Her wears have been known to sell out minutes after she posts them online and her following increases daily. Rightfully so, as her pieces posses a feeling of old time designs with a unique and slightly modern vibe. Her attention to detail is inspiring to say the least and I'm grateful to know such an incredible and committed maker.
What's your background and what inspired your desire to start making jewelry?
I'm a product of a Puerto Rican mother and Czech father. I grew up moving every 4 years of my life since my pops was in the coast guard. All these moves opened me up to a plethora of people and styles also prepared me to always adapt. I was always very hands on growing up, tried music, painting, and drawing. My favorite was collages, putting different pieces together and making it my own just felt amazing (funny that's how jewelry is made). Then I bought my first piece of Navajo jewelry and that was it. I rocked it hard and proud. I just wanted jewelry to consume my life. As I keep collecting more and more pieces I was noticing all the large stone rings I wanted were mostly made for men! I'd have to get them resized which was a pain so I wanted to figure out a way that I could 1, transform ill fitting jewelry into wearable pieces for my friends and 2, maybe just make my own things that I dreamt of finding in a vintage store!
You run your business and social media by yourself, how do you manage your time properly between shipments, making and crafting new designs?
I'm a bulk worker, I like to rack up a few pieces on a custom list and work them all in the same stages. That allows me to be able to package everything together and do one dreadful post office trip! As for social media, that's the easiest and fun part of it all, I am able to connect with people all over the world from my bed or bath!
How do you practice self care while running your own business?
Since I am my own boss I am fortunate enough to be able to get all my lazy relaxing time in, not stressing is, in my opinion, the best way to take care of yourself. Stress is just an everything killer. I like to work out everyday for an hour and juice afterwards. Incorporating home juicing into my diet has improved my skin so much. I feel like a new woman.
You recently moved to Shasta and I know you were in a few different places before that. Have you noticed how these different environments impact your designs or do they just grow and change over time?
It totally makes a difference on every aspect of my work. Since moving to Shasta I don't have the same stressors of city life; my designs have become more frilly and free, as apposed to somewhat dark and rigid. Also moving so much means sometimes I don't always have my ideal set up and work flow is a crucial part of making a successful piece. I noticed myself fumbling a lot when I had a very odd space in Elgin, Texas. Now the tall trees and clean air have cleansed me some what. My dog is happy which makes for happy pieces and a happy artist.
Do you have a regular work routine? Or does your studio time adjust daily?
I have a loose work schedule. I like to start work by 2 or 3 in the after noon after working out, eating and catching up on emails and with my roommate who is also a jeweler. Depending on my motivation or work load I will bust it out and hunker down or just sit in there and play around. My only routine is reading at night.
What are you listening to, reading or watching right now? Is there anyone that is inspiring you at the moment?
I just got out of a heavy relationship so currently my reading list is light and fluffy. Lots of quick funny reads and Richard Brautigan. The worst thing about moving so much is letting go of all my books, hopefully they are being loved out in the world.
I'm also in a strange music period. I've been listening to music from middle school which my mind couldn't comprehend back then yet here I am, 26 years old putting new life into music that I haven't listened to in 10 years. But always sprinkling in a healthy amount of 80's trash metal when I really get some fire under my butt.
Getting inspired off social media/blogs is such a slippery slope. I never want someone's work to pop up in mine so I steer clear from accounts that aren't run by friends.
Do you have a go to recipe after a long day in your studio?
When in doubt eat a sweet potato with sautéed kale, oodles of lemon juice, beet sauerkraut and feta and a drizzle of balsamic glaze!