SEEN caught up with jewelry designer Jolie Altman to learn about the art behind her jewelry making, her exceptional style and her favorite spots around town.
By Rachel Schostak
Photography by Viviana Pernot
1. Tell us about yourself. I grew up in Chicago and have always been creative. My mother, who is a jewelry designer, inspires me in many different areas, particularly in the arts. I went to Tulane University School of Architecture but realized that, although I love design, architecture was not the right concentration for me. I thought a change sounded interesting and transferred to the University of Michigan, graduating in political science. I then went on to receive my master’s in education.
My husband and I have raised three creative sons and live in Birmingham. We have created an open, art-filled space for our family. I work in a wonderful, personal, atelier in my home. I am surrounded by things that make me happy, offer inspiration and remind me of my travels.
2. How did you get started in the jewelry industry? I have always made things. About 12 years ago I started designing jewelry when a friend of mine encouraged me to start selling it. And I did! It took me many years to think of my work as a business mainly because I have so much fun creating it.
3. What are some career highlights? I have had many career highlights that came to me serendipitously. A few times, I had been spotted wearing my jewelry from some buyers at stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Intermix, Fred Segal and others, who then bought from me — fun stores to be in, quite unexpectedly. I have been featured in many magazines and by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey. All in great fun!
4. What do you love most about your job? I love many things about my job. It allows me to be creative; I may have two or three of the same focal bead, but when I sit at my desk, I may create three different looks as ideas flow. I have traveled throughout the world meeting wonderful people who inspire me and offer me wonderful materials to work with. Secretly, I love that I get to work at home, sometimes in my pajamas!
5. Where do you find your inspiration for each collection? I am always looking at my surroundings for inspiration. I may see a color combination that moves me, and I’ll remember to use it in my designs. I love to look at all forms of creativity — children’s artwork to the masters. I see great design everywhere I look which helps to get my creative juices flowing.
6. Which pieces are you currently loving? I have an affinity for all of my designs as each one comes from such a personal space. Each piece is a part of me.
7. Who inspires you in the design world? I am inspired by anyone who is creative. I believe that a person must have a passion for something. Their passion may not be mine, however, I appreciate that he or she has something that gets them psyched.
8. Who inspires you in the business world? My children and husband inspire me in the business world. I see that having a business demands hard work. Success comes from dedication and sometimes just plugging along. It may not always be fun, but, it is a means to, hopefully, a wonderful outcome. I see my three sons each starting businesses and the work involved in getting an idea off the ground. As a parent, it is incredibly exciting to watch.
Detroit/Metro Detroit local love list — some of your faves…
9. What do you love most about our community? I like knowing and supporting my local merchants.
10. Your go-to for breakfast and lunch? I love Frittata in Clawson — the food and staff are wonderful, and it is so nice eating outside in the summer months. I have really been enjoying the quinoa bowl at Commonwealth for lunch.
Now on to style…
12. Head-to-toe outfit details of what you are wearing from the photo shoot? I just returned from India and am wearing a wonderful silk outfit from there. My graffiti-inspired shoes are a creation of my fashion businessman son, Carter. My layered jewels are made from wonderful materials, diamonds, African trade beads, silver, tourmaline, topaz, vulcanite, turquoise.
13. Three ways to describe your style? My own, varying, creative.
14. One item you can’t leave home without? Passport!
15. You’re never fully dressed without _____ a smile.
16. Your current must-have item? I couldn’t possibly have a must-have item — too many things make me happy.
17. Your most cherished item in your closet? My vintage clothing.
18. Do you have a style icon? My mother.
19. Who or what inspires your style? It’s hard to say what inspires my style. I may feel like being a hippie one day, preppy another or a biker the next … maybe in the same day. Each morning I go to my clothing and grab whatever pops out at me for that day. Not a lot of thought goes into what I wear — it just happens.
20. Favorite quote or words to live by? If you show respect you will get respect, timing in life is everything, there is nothing new under the sun and I’ll go anywhere with or without a suitcase!