I first saw Stefanie Wolf’s jewelry at an Art Stroll during the Summer, in the Arts District in Oak Bluffs three years ago. Immediately, I fell in love with the glass bead jewelry she made. I got my first piece at that event and now have several. Over the years, I have gotten to know Stefanie, but just recently, I realized that I didn’t know much about her story – how she began making jewelry or even how she got to the Island. Time to investigate!
So I went to her studio last week to chat. Besides being wowed by her Summer collection, I thought her story of how she got to where she is today was pretty interesting. I sensed my first two-part blog coming, the first, a little history about Stefanie, and the second, all about her amazing jewelry.
Summers on the Vineyard Can Change Lives
It seems as though every great artist has a great story, and Stefanie Wolf has quite the story indeed. Stefanie spent a couple Summers in the late 90’s here on the Vineyard during her Wellesley college years. She waitressed at the Edgartown Yacht Club, and had the kinda of fun, magical Summers that only the Island can provide.
During her time here, she began making jewelry as a hobby. Her very first bead purchase was at Beadniks in Vineyard Haven, and the wire and pliers from Phillips Hardware in Oak Bluffs. She made beaded jewelry for herself and friends, and even managed to get Saffron in Edgartown and the Last Mango (which was in Oak Bluffs, but is no longer) to sell her pieces, which always sold out. She continued to tinker with beads and make her jewelry during her time here.
Time For Change
Stefanie took a break from jewelry making after college and joined corporate America. For three years, she worked night and day and got burnt-out. So, like any smart person, she moved to Maui, Hawaii. What started as a vacation tied into a friend’s wedding, became so much more.
When she was there, she ran into a friend that she knew from her Summers on the Vineyard, Chuck Fisher. He was there on vacation as well. He worked for the Oak Bluffs Harbormaster, and was enjoying some off-season fun. Stefanie convinced him to stay. There, he got his Captain’s License, and they both worked on a boat together, Chuck as a Captain, and Stefanie as crew.
Imagine – her work attire was now a bikini. A far cry from the stuffy suits and heels from her previous place of employment. I also have to tell you that she fell in love while in paradise. She was working with her soul-mate, but she fought the fact that she had feelings for Chuck for a full year! Finally, she admitted to being in love, and they got married. Funny how the Vineyard keeps having an impact on her life, and would continue to, since Chuck and his family are from the Vineyard.
Feeling relaxed and inspired, she began to tinker with jewelry again, which was well received in Maui. However, this was short lived. Stefanie had decided that it was time for something more. Her next adventure would take her to San Francisco, where she would go for her Master’s Degree in Psychology at the California Institute of Intergral Studies (CIIS). A school renowned for its holistic approach to education – mind, body, and spirit.
So, it was off to San Francisco. While in school, part of the experience meant going to therapy as a student. Stefanie was learning so much about herself and what brought her joy. Her hobby of making jewelry brought her happiness. So she began to make jewelry again. Though she tried to fight it, she realized her heart was in her craft.
She enjoyed school and liked the thought of helping people, but she was getting more and more involved with her jewelry. She was selling her work at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, trunk shows at the yoga studio where she practiced, and at craft shows at her school. She was selling out at each event, going home and making more jewelry that same night to sell for the next day’s event. She was becoming very successful with her “hobby.” It was even paying for her education.
Half way through the required 3,000 clinical hours for her Master’s, Stefanie took a year off from psychology to focus on her craft. Here was a woman with an undergrad degree from Wellesley and her Master’s from CIIS, making jewelry, and she never looked back. She was happy, and her schooling has proved to be helpful with her business, Stefanie Wolf Designs, now in its 10th year.
In San Francisco, Stefanie Wolf Designs had a serious following. It was during this time she began working with Picasso Window Beads in her Trilogy Collection, which became her signature pieces. I’ll go into more about these beads in the post to follow. Things were going extremely well. Her business was thriving, she was married, and expecting a baby. Time to move the Martha’s Vineyard.
Back to Martha’s Vineyard
In the Spring of 2009, Stefanie and Chuck moved to Martha’s Vineyard. For Stefanie, it felt like coming home. She had always felt that way about the Island. There are so many people that have that feeling about this place, and of course it was coming home for Chuck. Their baby girl, Sofia was born here, and it is here, Stefanie and Chuck are raising their family.
Stefanie was nervous about moving her business to a small, seasonal location, but she knew it would work out. For a while, she , Chuck, and Sofia did the Island Shuffle. Knowing she couldn’t move all her jewelry making supplies around, she had to rent a space where she could make her jewelry.
She looked at a number of places and found one that she felt had a good vibe in the Arts District in Oak Bluffs. Though she got the space as a place to do her work, people kept coming there to buy her jewelry. It eventually became a retail space as well. Stefanie Wolf Designs is still there today, and you can still find Stefanie there making her jewelry.
Soon after she moved to the Island, CB Stark started to carry her jewelry. The Trilogy Collection was and is a popular collection at their stores. What a feather in Stefanie’s cap – CB Stark is the premier jewelry store (s) on the Island, and they were carrying her pieces. She was also selling at the Artisans Festivals and still had her collections in stores off island.
Things were going well for her, and she was quickly becoming a fixture in the Vineyard artists community. The move to the Vineyard was the right decision for her business and her family. All concerns about being here in a small, seasonal community were gone. There was a demand for her jewelry. She was even able to keep her studio/store open year-round and has two part-time, year-round employees.
In Fall 2010, Pendleton approached Stefanie about carrying Stefanie Wolf Designs in their Spring 2011 catalog. As you can imagine, this is a big deal, especially for a small Island business. Though excited at the prospect of being featured in an international catalog, Stefanie realized that she was going to have to make a heck of a lot more jewelry. So, she began a little cottage industry here.
She employs a number of crafty moms and their daughters who have a little spare time to make the pieces for the Pendlelton Catalog. With hundreds of pieces of her jewelry being sold through Pendleton, she has a lot of work for the women, which they can do at their home on their own time. Quite the clever way to keep the work on Island and keep that cache that comes with things that are made here. Pendleton is continuing to feature Stefanie Wolf Designs, so be sure to check out the Spring and Summer 2012 catalog.
There you have the short story behind Stefanie Wolf Designs. I love how her jewelry making started on Martha’s Vineyard and after many years, continued here and brought her even more success. Also, what a great story. I learned that Stefanie is a woman who has found her passion and continues to challenge herself with her designs and in her personal life.
She is full of surprises. She even surfed Costa Rica this past Winter. How cool? She went to surf camp, and conquered some personal fears while paddling to the outside (you surfers know what I’m talking about). Even with a family and thriving business, she continues to challenge herself as an individual. An inspiration for us all.
Stay tuned for the new Stefanie Wolf Designs Summer Collection.