Friday, November 25, 2011

First Look Fridays: Sweetie Pie Jewelry Designer Dana Carvalho

Sweetie Pie Jewelry, Dana Carvalho, interview, fashion interview, jewelry, First Look Fridays, jewelry designerLast year I discovered Sweetie Pie Jewelry. This contemporary jewelry line, created with everything from semi-precious gems to glass and Lucite, immediately spoke to me and I began wearing pieces immediately. I'm pleased to present my interview with Sweetie Pie Jewelry's founder, Dana Carvalho. Read on to discover how she started the line, which necklace she can't live without and so much more.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, went to college in Boston. I have a B.A. in Classical Studies and my concentration was in art in antiquity. I later moved to North Carolina, where I raised my daughter and taught school until a few years ago when I turned my hobby into my full-time job.

How did you first become interested in jewelry, and what led you to become a jewelry designer?
Two things I've always loved: art and working with my hands. I started back in high school -- metalsmithing, painting and making pottery -- and I've continued to create in a variety of ways ever since. Because I've always loved more understated clothes -- interesting cuts but muted, dark or neutral colors, jewelry was a way I could add an interesting or unusual element without being too "loud." I collected vintage jewelry for awhile and then about 10 years ago I started making jewelry again. Eventually I began selling my jewelry to friends and then to local boutiques.

How did the idea for Sweetie Pie Jewelry first come about, and how did it become a reality?
I had been working as a teacher for 23 years. When my daughter left for college, I started to devote more of my spare time to my growing jewelry business. I also did what many "empty nesters" do -- I got a small dog to "baby," a little pug named Sweetie Pie. One of the boutique owners who sold my jewelry approached me about taking my business to the next level. I didn't have much marketing experience so I had no idea how to do that. She was closing her boutique and came on board for a year and helped turn my small, local business into one that reaches a much larger audience. I learned a lot in that first year and my business is growing and I love what I do. I'm mostly doing wholesale to boutiques but next year I hope to keep up with my website better (I have so much jewelry that is not on there!) and expand my retail business.

Where does your design inspiration come from?
I've always thought of fashion as a conversation. It starts early as a way to say "I'm one of you" ( preschool girls wearing only pink and purple or boys wearing the right hat or T-shirt) or "I'm NOT one of YOU" (think of middle schoolers wearing the exact same outfits in order to be "different" ... not from each other but from parents/teachers/adults!). As we mature we are able to have a more interesting conversation, one where we're still talking to our peers through the way we dress but now we have more interesting things to say. Accessories, especially jewelry, offer a wonderful way to express yourself: Are you feeling bold? Pretty? Elegant? Adventurous? Flirty? Edgy? I love being a part of helping women have an interesting "conversation" at an affordable price.

So I start with elements I love -- vintage components, beautiful colors, classic chains and shapes -- and try to create wearable (girl wearing jewelry as opposed to jewelry wearing a girl!), interesting jewelry that inspires women to express themselves. Jewelry should always be flattering and I study jewelry styles and designs from antiquity to what is happening now -- and everything in between! -- in order to create designs that work for a variety of women of all ages and styles.

Sweetie Pie Jewelry, Dana Carvalho, interview, fashion interview, jewelry, First Look Fridays, jewelry designerIf you could only wear one piece from the line, what would it be and why?
My own style is understated but still noticeable and interesting. There are pieces in my line that I absolutely love but wouldn't wear myself, which is one of the benefits of being a designer because I get to express parts of myself through others. Right now I'm wearing a lot of the gunmetal or antique silver pieces. I love the Tracy necklace, the crystal piece is from an old chandelier from the early part of the 20th century. I only have a few dozen of them left so when they're gone they're gone. I also love the new jewelry I've made with vintage rosary chain. In fact I named my favorite piece Dana and I wear it all the time. I found some vintage brass loveknots and I've gilded them and mixed them with gunmetal chains and I love that look. I'm also loving the bigger earrings like Joy and Maggie. The Blair Mini are my go-to earrings. You meant "one piece from the line" every day, right?

What can we expect from Sweetie Pie going forward?
All of my chain and metal pieces are made in the USA by small family-owned companies that have been in business for many years. My goal is to continue buying this way in order to ensure the quality and integrity of my jewelry. I absolutely love finding vintage treasures to work into my designs and I hope to find new and interesting ways to continue that trend (more travel!). I'm working on Spring 2012 right now and the colors are so exciting. As always, I hope to interpret the spring trends into wearable jewelry with a timeless quality -- jewelry that allows women to say what they want to say in the way they want to say it!

Being a jewelry designer must be fun -- but what do you do in your spare time?
I am fortunate because I love what I do, so although I spend most of my time making and designing jewelry it doesn't feel like work. I am devoted to my family and I make time for my husband and my daughter, though since she's moved to L.A. it's mostly via phone calls and texting. I am also close to my sister in Chicago and my brother in Sonoma so I travel a lot. I love to read. I'm the ultimate multi-tasker -- I read my Kindle on the plane to see my people and scope out boutiques at my destination!

Visit to check out the line and start your collection of fabulous jewelry!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This business has really grown...It is so great to see that when someone follows and finds their passion, great things can happen! And Dana proves that you can find your passion at any is not always the same process and it can change...her passion was likely raising a lovely daughter first!!!