Interviews POP-IN@Nordstrom

Pop-In Studio Visit: Baleen Jewelry

Leah and Billy, the couple and creative duo behind Baleen jewelry, are conduits for well-made, understated objects. A standard of thoughtfulness in their cost-efficient designs renders them unique against most affordable jewelry. Splitting their time between Seattle and Maui, the pair’s sense of balance seems inherent and is conveyed in their minimalist approach.

Keep reading for an exclusive Q&A with Leah—and to see more photos from our visit to their Seattle home/studio, where each piece is assembled by hand.

You split your time between Maui and Seattle; how do you find equilibrium in these places, and how does each affect your creative practice?
“We’re very lucky to have two places we call home, and we love the contrast between them. We both crave the quiet and remoteness that Maui provides, but we equally love the thriving and inspiring pulse of the city. Having the ability to regularly shift our perspective has been a fantastic catalyst for creative growth.”

What are some of your favorite places to visit in Maui? In Seattle?
“We spend most of our time on Maui either in Upcountry, which is up on the Haleakalā volcano, or on the North Shore. The vibe in these areas is really laid-back and much less touristy. Our main go-to is the Paia Fish Market for the freshest island-caught fish burgers.

“In Seattle, we’re super partial to the Ballard neighborhood, where we live and work. You have the Puget Sound and its beaches full of driftwood, and so many great shops and restaurants.”

How did each of you come to jewelry design?
“Billy took some classes in college and started a line of men’s jewelry about five years ago. We’re always involved in each other’s work, and we started collaborating on ideas for women’s pieces. We decided it would be fun to do something together, so we just went for it.”

Which auteurs and artists do you admire most?
“With a background in graphic design and a hobby in industrial design, Billy is a big fan of Dieter Rams and Stefan Sagmeister. My background is in fashion design, and I’m always inspired by the minds of Yohji Yamamoto and Isabel Marant.”

What is the highlight of your work on a day-to-day level? And overall?
“Most days don’t go by without one of us stopping to comment on how awesome it is that we’re doing what we’re doing. We started Baleen just over a year ago and didn’t know what would happen, so we feel super-lucky to be doing this—working for ourselves and doing it together.”

What projects are you looking forward to executing in the second part of 2014?
“We have lots of ideas for new pieces and can’t wait to set aside some time for design and development. We’re constantly finding inspiration and love how fast (relatively) we can turn an idea into reality—and then see it on our customers. One of the things we love most about doing jewelry is that when you’re able to sit down and focus on development, it’s almost-instant gratification!”

Baleen’s handmade, highly affordable jewelry (priced at $24-$46) is part of Pop-In @ Nordstrom Welcomes Poketo, a unique collection of home goods, jewelry, stationery and more, guest-curated by our favorite Los Angeles boutique/gallery, Poketo.

For more, read a Q&A between Poketo’s founders and Nordstrom’s Olivia Kim.

Interview courtesy of Ashlyn Behrndt
Photos courtesy of Robin Stein with art direction by Ashley Helvey