We love our members, so every month we feature one of them on the site and in the newsletter. This month, our featured member is Calgary jewellery (and other things!) designer Kristen Scharf of Combinist Goods (@combinist.goods), who gamely answered all our questions about her work and her life.
(P.S., not a member yet? What are you waiting for?)
Workshop: Describe your business in 10 words or less.
Kristen Scharf: Fun, lightweight, bold, graphic wearables.
W: What was the first product you sold?
KS: I've been doing earrings since day one of the whole thing, which started about a couple years ago. I launched with around five styles and I think I have three of those still. Even though I have 100-plus designs, two of those original designs are still my top two sellers. I'm really bad at letting go. But it's been earrings from day one. Hopefully new things soon, but earrings are always going to be the staple, I think.
W: What’s your latest innovation?
KS: The latest innovation is mobiles. I'm getting ready to formally launch them online. It's been a two-year process of dragging my feet and trying to figure out how to make them exactly how I want, how to find the right materials, how to actually build them, how to package them and then a whole new shipping process.
But I'm excited. I've always envisioned that my business is going to be more than jewellery. And I've always loved interior design and homewares. So hopefully in a couple of weeks, those will come out and there'll be some other fun homeware that I'm working on right now that will be ready around the holidays.
W: What’s something you’ve done in the past year that you’re proud of?
KS: I finally moved into my own studio space last fall. That was a really big thing, because I've wanted to have a studio space since I was a tiny girl. So to finally make that jump was really big. It's a hard decision. But I was just drowning at home. And my business couldn't grow without that space. To have my own space to myself where I don't have to share with anyone else, where I can just go create, and to be able to have customers stop in for an open studio time or to pick up their orders and step into my space, that's something I'm really proud of.
W: What’s something new that you’ve learned lately?
KS: Lately, it's how to run a business. I'm a little bit on my feet figuring it out each day. I've hired a bookkeeper to really help me get my financials in line and help me understand them. It's my weak point, and I didn't have any more brain space to figure it out. So being able to work with her and learn my business from the financial perspective, and how I can plan accurately so I can develop new collections and make sure that I'm not overspending or that I'm paying myself properly — that's been huge.
Last week I had to make a business plan — that was a brand-new thing for me, too. Even though they're not things I'm particularly good at or enjoy, it's been great to get them out of the way so I can go back to designing, and to feel a little less stress and know that that stuff is in order.
W: What’s the most recent thing you’ve bought from another Canadian maker?
KS: I was in a market in Edmonton and I was right next to one of my favourite makers, Mezzaluna. I bought these beautiful dish towels from her. She's an amazing graphic designer and illustrator, and she makes the most gorgeous tea towels that are sold at lots of really chic stores, so I finally stocked up on those. She's also making ceramics now, and so I got a gorgeous statement ceramic necklace. Sometimes I get oversaturated with jewellery and a lot of the time I actually find myself not even wearing jewellery, which is weird as a jewellery designer, but her pieces really got me excited.
W: Describe your dream studio.
KS: I love my current space. But it's definitely my starter space. My dream studio is a little bit more space than what I have right now, and having all the equipment that I need right at my fingertips, because I don't have everything that I need for my production and for some of the new production processes that I'm starting to get into.
So having space for my laser cutter and 3D printers. I want to invest in acrylic recycling machinery. And having spaces to host classes. I have a lot of ideas for cool workshops. A photo area, and a comfy cozy area for design time, too. Hopefully in a couple of years. But the most important thing is having more space and equipment right at my fingertips to be able to play and experiment in real time.
W: What’s one book, movie, TV show, magazine, podcast or album that you’re loving right now?
KS: I wish I was more up on music. I listen to the same stuff I was listening to in my early 20s. But TV, that's definitely my thing. I just finished watching the latest season of Barry. That's one of my favourite shows. And right before that, I just finished watching The Staircase, which wasn't particularly amazing, but I love true crime stuff. So it was satisfying at least.