I love the way Summer Ellis talks about her jewelry. She is a true artist—each one of her designs is original, never imitations of someone else’s ideas. She’s passionate about every piece, and each one tells a unique story that’s meaningful to her. We’ve been selling Summer’s pieces in the shop since 2004 in the original Magnolia Market. Since then, her business has only gotten bigger, but I love that even with her growth, her pieces are still sold in the Market today…13 years later.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a jewelry designer and starting your own business.
I grew up in a family of artisans of sorts, so being creative and artistic was always a part of me. Both of my parents also owned their own business, and we actually lived above my mom’s craft store, so becoming a business owner came pretty naturally too. I loved the idea of a flexible schedule where I could one day be available for my kids and still work. In high school, I was already making purses and accessories. My friends and family encouraged me to start selling to boutiques, so that’s what I did.
How did you first get started with Magnolia?
In 2004, when I was a senior in college and Magnolia had just opened, I went in to ask if they would sell my pieces. I remember walking in and Joanna was behind the counter, pregnant, and Chip was hanging something for her and chatting the way he always does. They were one of my very first stores in Waco, and still one of my oldest partnerships today.
What is your inspiration for creating new pieces?
People. I’m really inspired by others. I also design engagement rings, and so I love the custom process. Getting to know people and seeing what’s in them to be able to then tell their story through the piece. Words from God from my season of life is also a big part of what goes into my work. He’s weaving together this beautiful story, so I then ask myself, “How will that picture translate into jewelry pieces?” I think about what statement would that person want their jewelry to make, and what do I, as the designer, want the jewelry to say about that person when they wear it. Creating pieces that enhance and not overshadow is really important for me.
When you are designing jewelry, what guidelines do you try to stick to?
Simplicity is important. Something that can be worn generally everyday. Quality materials and pieces that aren’t too heavy. I want things to be wearable and functional while still remaining pretty. A lot of times I ask myself, “Okay, this looks good, but it’s too heavy, so how can I edit this down?” You want longevity in your jewelry and want it to last. Some of it’s honestly my gut. When I am drawing up a design, sometimes I just know what feels right. I want my pieces to be something you have on your trinket dish and it’s the one you gravitate towards and wear all the time, because it has become your own signature piece. It’s not just a trend.
How has your brand evolved into what it is today?
It’s become more authentic. When you’re first starting a business it’s easy to look externally to others. You think how can I differentiate myself from others, and that can be detrimental to you and the market. Everyone has something completely unique inside of them. Through my journey of developing my brand, the brand has to reflect who I am. My brand has journeyed alongside me and evolved as I’ve evolved.