Name: Cailey Elle
Current City: Portland, Oregon
Hometown: Saratoga Springs, New York
Occupation: Jeweler and Business Owner of Sage & Brass Adornments.
New York-bred and Oregon-based jewelry designer, Cailey Elle made the initial leap into silversmithing back in 2013 when she uprooted her New York lifestyle to study her craft in Nevada. Over the last five years, she's continued to hone in on jewelry and has launched Sage & Brass Adornments and opened up Sage & Brass Shop in Portland, Oregon. Cailey often finds inspiration for the pieces she creates from her feelings/past memories, traveling and the universe – all of which is reflected in her exquisite pieces.
Read on to learn more about her journey with Sage & Brass.
In a few sentences, tell us a little bit about yourself?
These are always the hardest questions for me to answer. First, I'm a very emotionally driven person. Everything I create is based on a feeling – my work reflects my chaotic artistic brain. You will notice the aesthetic expressed is always evolving with my current moon. When I look back at my work, it evokes all these feelings of nostalgia and what I was going through in my life at the time – much like my adorned body through tattooing. When I was 6, I had a very traumatic experience where I was bitten in the face by a dog. I had emergency reconstructive surgery on the bottom half of my face for 7-hours while I was awake. 22 years later, I still struggle with debilitating anxiety and creating art is the one thing that switches it off.
What's the origin story of Sage & Brass?
Sage and Brass started as a fun little DIY project back in 2012. I loved thrifting and was constantly treasure hunting through the antique malls and all throughout the Hudson Valley region of New York. I started with a crystal and brass chain necklace, after a while, it became limiting for me to "fit pieces together". I wanted to learn how to manipulate metals. In late 2013, I moved from my forever home in New York to Nevada to begin learning about native silversmithing techniques.
Where do you find the inspiration for your jewelry?
Traveling for sure. The Southwest and Traditional silversmithing probably hold the deepest roots in all of my collections because that's where I really started my journey. When I first got into silversmithing, I was mentored by an elder Navajo man named Chief while living in Nevada. From there I moved to LA and mentored under a former GIA instructor from South Africa. He taught me a lot about working in wax and stone setting techniques. I try to use techniques from all of my teachers and lessons and then elevate them in my own way. I take what I learned in a very traditional sense and incorporate it with my love for the sky, the stars and celestial events. I felt a huge shift this year directly after experiencing the eclipse. It was so powerful in guiding me to new ideas and eventually became my new logo.
What are some of the favorite pieces you created?
One of my absolute favorites has to be the Squash Blossom Necklace I made when I first started silversmithing. One thing you will find about me is that I am very unintimidated by taking risks with my work. In this particular case, I really wanted to own a squash blossom but definitely couldn’t afford to spend $1000+ on my own. Over time I worked part-time as a bartender in LA to get the stones, silver, chains and beads to make my own. The result was this huge piece that I ended up selling for $2500 a month later. I remember sobbing at the fact that someone invested in me like that. This was probably when I really started taking myself seriously.
What's your dream collaboration?
I would love, love, love to design a collection for Gucci. I love what they have been doing lately and I'm incredibly inspired by their eccentric and brave designs. I also love that they are a huge, mainstream name in the fashion industry that isn't afraid of taking bold risks and creating pieces without the idea of pleasing people. It feels so authentic and true to their vision regardless of what the response may be.
Do you have any other projects/collaborations on the books you'd like the readers to know about?
I have some really exciting projects in the works right now to expand the brand. I am exploring new avenues in graphic design and apparel design. There's a lot of exciting projects in the works but I’m keeping them a secret. I can tell you that I am working hard to make S&B accessible to every budget. That's my current focus, to not be so exclusive.
When you're not creating jewelry, how do you spend your free time?
If I’m not creating jewelry, I'm usually focusing on one of the many different aspects of running a growing business i.e. emails, social media, photo shoots, buying trips. It's really an extra, extra full-time job that I dedicate about 85% of my time to. Otherwise, I’m usually hanging with my two french bulldogs and boyfriend Alex. I'm a total homebody.
If you could offer one piece of advice to women around the world, what would it be and why?
I think some women feel like they are expected to fall into certain roles instead of chasing their dreams. Don’t rush into settling for what society expects of you. Now is such an important time for women to take charge.
Discuss the importance of female friendships in your life.
Female friendships are a really unique type of relationship. There are a lot more emotion and closeness associated with them. Female friendships are a unique and special bond because you are literally in one another's lives purely out of wanting to be - unlike sibling relationships where you have an element of a family tie or a romantic relationship where maybe you share responsibilities or commitment. There's no contract amongst friends. No binding agreements. It's purely the desire to have each other around. It's pretty special and I cherish my best girlfriends so much.
Who are some of your greatest influences?
I feel like its always changing but I really try to look toward people who are where I want to be. Many of these women are older and wiser. Some modern influences are Elsa Peretti, a jewelry designer for Tiffany & Co., philanthropist and in her early life, a fashion model. She brought something to Tiffany's that was so unique and true to her style. Also Diane Von Furstenberg. Her journey to becoming a celebrated and recognized designer is almost parallel to mine. She began with one single style wrap dress, asked too many questions, moved to another country to follow her dreams, and is now on the top of Forbes’ list of most powerful women in the world. She reminds me to have patience and trust in the process.
If you could have dinner with any woman in history, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Iris Apfel. Iris is currently 96 years old and is one of the most iconic and unique people I’ve ever had the pleasure of learning about. She is best known in the fashion world for her eccentric style and insanely beautiful layers of accessories no matter where she goes. She believes that having style is more important than being “pretty”. She has a lifetime full of wisdom and I'd love to hear her exceptional advice for someone at this stage in my life.
My favorite quote by her is: "There is really no substitute for experience. You must have experience and be open to experience — that helps. That helps a lot. Most importantly, you have to be yourself, be who you are and take time to be open and honest with yourself. That is what it's all about. If you don't know yourself, you'll never have great style. You'll never really live. To me, the worst fashion faux pas is to look in the mirror, and not see yourself."
What are you grateful for?
To put it simply- I'm grateful to be alive, healthy, and in a country where, as a woman, I have the freedom and ability to chase my dreams. I'm grateful every time I get an order, even now. Some days the tears rush in because I think “holy sh*t, how did I get here? I did this? People care about this?” I'm just so humbled by the support.
Do you have a personal mantra or quote that inspires you?
I have a couple that come to mind right now:
“It's good to be gracious. But you don’t have to be overly grateful because you’ve earned your place. It's not a gift. You worked for it." - Roxane Gay
“You should never be finished. You should never be done. For me, I know I’m only as good as my last show.” -Kate Berlant