Visiting Sophie’s studio and gallery was like visiting a stylish and modern version of the Ali Baba cave. Not only for all the sparkle (literally the place is filled with these cool mirrors and lights, not to mention the jewelry) but for all the interesting details and tools.
I’m talking about Sophie Hughes, the beautiful jeweler and talented hands behind Sophie Hughes Designs and Ore Gallery in Boston. Ore is this lovely gallery located in a cool neighborhood of Boston that won the Best of Boston award in jewelry in 2014 just within one year of opening its doors to the public. Maybe it’s the cute sign outside that says “come on in” that made it happen, I think it’s the beautiful jewelry inside and Sophie’s team warm welcome to any visitor that comes in.
Sophie’s space is the most interesting: instead of having everything on the same level, the studio is divided in 3 floors. In the middle is the gallery space where all the jewelry is showcased in fun ways. Above and below is where all the hard work is done and it’s fun that you might have to go up and down the stairs (a fun spiraling iron staircase) to hammer or solder a piece of jewelry. The whole space feels very cozy and personal, and it’s funny that when I read Sophie’s answers to the questionnaire she mentions that her studio is an extension of her home. It is indeed a very relaxed, cool space to shop for jewelry, almost like you’re at your best friend’s house trying on really beautiful jewelry.
The atmosphere around the studio is very relaxed and inviting. Sophie is absolutely delightful and as she is showing me around the space I can only imagine how cool it must be to work with her on a custom project. Apparently I’m not the only one that thinks this because there’s a vase of flowers and chocolates on the table that a client left for her when he picked up a custom engagement ring for his bride to be.
She multitasks between doing the jewelry with her team, coordinating the gallery business and taking care of her custom projects. The gallery space showcases not only Sophie’s work but also jewelry and work from local female designers that thrive to work with sustainable materials like recycled metals and ethically sourced gemstones (did I mention how cool she is?). Sophie is also a lover of vintage and art deco jewelry and this is turning out to be a new endeavor for her has she is curating a new vintage collection for the Ore gallery store.
Sophie Hughes’s jewelry has this rough and refined edge to it. Every piece of jewelry is made in her studio from start to finish and Sophie loves to fabricate each piece (with a special preference for forging the metal on her anvil as she mentions in the questionnaire). What I love about her work is that everything in ethically sourced: from recycled precious metals to certified or reclaimed gemstones. She is adamant about creating and selling environmentally and socially responsible jewelry. And this is a really hard thing to do in this industry.
I love the story that Sophie tells me of how one of her mentors pushed her to get her own studio space. This great place became available and she was hesitating, so the designer she worked with pushed her to lease the space and start her new brand. Not long after that she came across what is now her studio and gallery and she jumped for it. In less than a year after opening to the public the Ore gallery and Sophie Hughes Jewelry have won multiple awards for the best jewelry store and best jewelry designer.
The office area is a fun part of the studio: machinery mixes with a lounge area, office paperwork, jewelry to be priced and the new vintage collection. On one of the walls there’s an old painting that Sophie found and brought to the studio. It is covered with thank you and congratulatory notes and some fun post-it notes. A person on her team does cartoon like story boards on sticky notes and the result is a sequence of funny stories (usually associated with the studio).
On the top floor of the space are the benches and tools where most of Sophie’s team is working. She catches up with them while still showing me around. Everything is neatly categorized and arranged in drawers, so that work around the workshop is easy and straighforward for everybody. I love that there are no traditional benches around. The whole area has bench pins attached to a large table and it feels very communal, which adds to the relaxed energy in the studio.
The jewel of the crown is definitely the gallery space. Decorated in gold with beautiful geometric objects which paired with the lights gives it a whimsical look. In each corner you look there’s a small detail, a beautiful decor object that gives the space Sophie’s vibe. I’ve noticed these beautiful gold paintings on the walls and ask her about them. It turns out that Sophie’s boyfriend (http://www.waynestokes.com) is the artist behind them and they’re available for sale at the gallery as well.
I laugh again when I read Sophie’s alternative to being a jeweler. I’m sure she would make an awesome baker but I just thing we’re just so happy to have her creating beautiful jewelry instead. As I’m about to leave I have to snap a couple of photos of the signs on the door: “Check ya later <3”. And I think to myself: you bet!
Thanks Sophie for a wonderful and fun studio visit. Sorry for being a drag trying to take a good photo of you, you were the sweetest and very patient
Sophie Hughes Jewelry
Ore Jewelry by Sophie Hughes: 80 Dartmouth St, Boston, MA 02116, Phone: (617) 247-7426
Ore’s gallery store instagram: https://instagram.com/storeore/
How did you become a jewelry designer?
“A favorite high school teacher of mine offered jewelry classes, and something immediately clicked. My parents both design (an architect and a kitchen designer) so I’ve been pretty lucky to have a natural instinct for well-crafted aesthetics.”
What’s the first thing you do when you get to the studio?
“Check in with my team. I try to sneak in breakfast while discussing the progress of client projects that we have going”
What do you like most about the space?
“I’ve been able to create an environment that is (almost) exactly an extension of my personal style. It’s always a work in progress, but the relaxed yet eclectic vibe grounds my work and me, to the authentically no-nonsense motto I strive to. It really just feels like home at this point.”
Pick 3 objects in your studio that make your space yours:
“ I’m going to lump all of my vintage hammers together for this one. I couldn’t possibly choose between them, they’re a cohesive collection and important in making my pieces my own.”
What’s your favorite spot in the studio?
“Standing above the anvil. Being in the process of forging a piece is a thrill”
What do you love/hate doing at the bench?
“I love working with new clients on custom engagement pieces. Their excitement is contagious and I’m always thrilled to share my passion for the materials and translating into their desires.
I hate the time it takes to finish a piece. The sanding kills me.”
What makes you procrastinate?
“Online “research”. I’m constantly looking at vintage rings. I’m obsessed with Art Deco pieces right now, and of course stores. I have a hard time sticking to a time limit when I’m looking at jewelry I admire.”
What is currently inspiring you?
“I’m curating a vintage collection for the shop and I can’t get my mind of it”
What piece of jewelry do you always wear?
“I never take off my late grandma’s petite diamond Belche – VERIFY ring – it lives on the middle finger of my right hand.”
Currently obsessed with which gemstone/metal?
“I’d have to go with my gold pairing of old mine cuts and 18K royal yellow gold. The color is so rich.”
Piece of jewelry you’re most proud of?
“Whatever is new. I’m most excited for the now.”
Dream jewelry piece?
“A giant multi-layered gold necklace. Because, why not?”
“Custom can be challenging sometimes…”
Longest period of time you spent at the studio?
“I used to sleep here. No joke. I wanted to keep working and there were terrible snow storms. It was a good stretch.”
Best thing a client ever told you?
“A client recently brought me chocolates and flowers when he picked up his custom engagement ring. It was so unexpected and sweet! What a lucky girl.”
What’s the funniest thing a client ever told you?
“Well. To be honest a client once told us he wasn’t sure if he was going to hire a cellist for the proposal in case they were going to “bone” after.”
What’s on your desk right now?
“Heaps of new jewelry that I have get to price. It’s not all fun and games.”
If you weren’t a jeweler/designer?
“I’d be a baker”