As a kid during the 1980s, Karen Hemphill stayed on top of the latest jewelry trends. From making beaded “shoe flair” to woven bracelets made of DMC embroidery floss, Hemphill had a knack for creating her own accessories.
That childhood hobby became a passion in high school when Hemphill discovered metalwork in art classes. She went on to earn a degree in jewelry design from Virginia Commonwealth University, but it wasn’t until 2011 that the Raleigh designer decided to pursue her dream of starting an accessories line.
“I began to work more seriously on creating my own original line of work,” she says. “I was introduced to the idea of machining because I really wanted to use a variety of materials and believed the interchangeability would be really cool.”
One of her first projects was cufflinks, and after being featured in Garden & Gun magazine, her business, Kasegoods, began to take off.
Hemphill’s designs have a rustic Southern look, with earrings, rings, pendants and cufflinks made with materials that include engraved wood, leather and dyed hair-on-hide. Much of her work is custom. She works closely with clients to conceptualize designs and create one-of-a-kind pieces.
“Most clients tell me a little about the wearer and say, ‘I trust you,’ and I make something,” she says. “At first, I found that to be high pressure, but then I came to realize that I’m the one thinking about this all the time, and I will not accept a design that I feel is somehow not representative of my standard for detail.”
Sometimes that means refusing a design or redirecting a client to something that will work better.
“Having gone through the process of failed designs, I learned what does work and know how to offer solutions and we go from there,” she says. “If a client says ‘make this super-specific thing,’ I have to figure out if the design will translate well into the materials that they have selected. Working in a variety of different materials means that they inherently won’t all capture details in the same way. I’m the most critical of what I make and sell. If I am not happy with the results of an executed idea I won’t produce it, but that is actually rare because I always recommend starting simple.”
Hemphill also designs plenty of non-custom pieces that are available on her website, kasegoods.com, and locally at Liles Clothing Studio in Raleigh, as well as Taylor, Richards and Conger in Charlotte. She plans to expand to more retailers this summer.
“In the past, I was really focused on my online sales because my son was young,” she says. “But now I am better able to travel and connect with retailers and select boutiques that have a sales team committed to product knowledge who will demonstrate how these accessories can function.”
Mother-daughter design duo Stephanie and Allie Gardner first got into jewelry design when Allie needed the perfect necklace for a sorority function at N.C. State University. That necklace eventually led to a business, and Allie Beads was born. Today, the Raleigh designers create bold statement necklaces, bracelets and more using everything from handmade African beads to gemstones such as Tibetan agate.
Roundabout Art Collective in Raleigh will host an art show June 1-26 featuring Allie Beads jewelry alongside paintings. The gallery kicks off the show with a First Friday reception from 6-9 p.m. June 3.
Refreshments will be served. For more details, call 919-747- 9495 or roundaboutartcollective.com
In conjunction with the exhibit “Made Especially for You by Willie Kay,” the N.C. Museum of History hosts a lecture on June 4 with James Murchison, founder and designer of clothing companies Backstabbers Clothing and Honor Raleigh. During the 3-4 p.m. session, Murchison will share his experiences creating and running a successful clothing business in Raleigh. The event is free. Call 919-807-7900 or go to ncmuseumofhistory.org for additional information.
Send Style Watch tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.