Creative Women Series: Jewelry Metalsmither Natalie of Salayi Designs

I moved back to Southern California not that long ago, and I knew I wanted to start networking with creatives straight away. Natalie is one of the first people I connected with out here through a creative Meetup group. I had never used Meetup before, but it is such an easy way to get introduced to like-minded people. I was so impressed with the metalsmithing work that she did, I had to invite myself to her studio for a tour. I came away with some bacon avocados and citrus from the grounds, which made my day.


Here is a little bit on Natalie of Salayi Designs!

Could your family see entrepreneurial or creative potential in you when you were little?

My parents were big supporters of creativity. All of our family vacations involved museum visits, and art supplies were abundant in the house. I was also really lucky to be able to attend Interlochen Center for the Arts for their summer camp from 1992-2000. I went initially for violin and orchestra, but also got to take art classes, including my first jewelry classes. When I told my parents I wanted to go to an art school for college, they were pretty hesitant, but my dad mentioned later on that he couldn’t really say no given how into art I had always been.


What’s it like where you’re from?

I lived in northwest Ohio until I left for college at Tufts in Boston, where I lived for 5 years. After that I moved back to Ohio for graduate school before heading up to mid-Michigan for three years. In 2013 my husband and I moved to Orange, California for his job.



What are your favorite hobbies?

My hobbies are always changing. I love to cook, and thankfully my husband is happy to eat just about anything I put together. Gardening is also a favorite, along with reading (mostly non-fiction) and a whole host of rotating art projects. For our wedding I spent months making dyed eggs as table decorations. Right now, I’m playing around with a latch hook rug. I have also had a consistent yoga/meditation practice for the past five years that has served as a strong foundation for my daily life.


What are your main passions?

My biggest passion is living an authentic life. I’m happiest when I can continue to explore new interests and keep learning. I tend to get pretty down when I’m pulled too far into a “daily grind”, so being able to transition away from a full time day job to pursuing my own artwork has been a huge gift.

What is the glammest thing you do?

I don’t think there’s anything about me anyone would describe as glam! Thankfully our dogs, who I spend the greatest amount of time with, don’t care that my nails are never painted, or that I don’t really know how to do my hair other than pulling it into a pony tail.


How do you live a sustainable life?

After I finished graduate school in 2010, I moved to a former farm in Michigan. I was initially really hesitant to live there, but after about 8 months or so I had completely changed my tune. After years in Boston and suburban Ohio, I found myself really basking in the solitude. Before I left that house, I had learned to garden and grow nearly all my own produce, had about 10 mini-goats, 20-some chickens, and a couple bee hives. Being involved in raising my own food was a really rewarding experience, and changed my relationship with food and my own body dramatically. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.


What is your favorite thing about Orange County?

Orange County has been a pretty big change for me. My husband and I were living in Detroit and Ann Arbor MI, respectively, before moving here and I miss both of those cities. I have enjoyed exploring the hiking in this area, and being near the ocean has been a real treat. After our last trip back to Michigan (in January!) I realized just how acclimated to the warm weather I have become.

How did you get started in your business?

I started selling my jewelry way back in high school through the Toledo Museum of Art gift shop. After that, I participated in sales through my college and after graduation approached some local stores about carrying my work. A lot of sales have come through word of mouth recommendations, especially commissions. Recently I have started to pursue selling at shows, and have really been enjoying that track. Although setting up a business in a legal sense has been a pretty recent accomplishment, I’ve really spent the last 12 years building up to it.


What are some major setbacks that you’d care to share so we don’t make the same mistake?

I’ve had so many ups and down, business wise. I think the biggest thing I would do differently is to be more confident from the start. It was hard as a fairly shy introvert to approach store owners and potential customers and sell them on my work. I’m not a natural saleswoman, but it’s a learnable skill, not something you either have or don’t have.

Is there a job that helped prepare you for running your business?

For one year between undergrad and graduate school, I worked in a craft gallery in Boston. That time was pretty valuable to me since I got to see how other artists, especially jewelry artists, put together lines and sold them effectively. After graduate school, I worked for the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair for one season, and that was another opportunity to see how artists made their living in a totally different way.

Peruse Natalie’s fanciful jewelry designs here at her online shop! 


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