Today we’d like to introduce you to Stina Miller.
Hi Stina, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
In my heart and soul, I am a silversmith. Growing up near the Yakama Indian reservation with my native grandmother, I had relatives who were/are artistic and also silversmiths. My first piece of jewelry I received was a piece my grandmother had commissioned by her grandson Steve Gunnyon. It would be teenage angst, a four years stint in the Army and a move to the Monterey Peninsula all before the age of 20 until I could realize my passion for making jewelry. After eight years as a dental assistant and taking college courses at night and online, I took an elective in Metal Arts at Monterey Peninsula College and I remember the first piece I made, and as I made planned out my artistic vision and first cut, saw blade in hand, I thought ‘yes! This is the first piece of many I will make “I loved it and was hooked. I ended up in Carmel, California after my Army time was over. A place of historical Artist and great beauty in every corner. I was inspired and ready. With the encouragement of family, I had built a small jewelry making studio (shed) downstairs from my home, overlooking Pescadero Canyon. Day after day, I would make jewelry and found the local stones the most inspiring because they were found naturally and sustainably. Many local friends were enthusiastic beach combers and providing many options of beautiful Beach Agates in different shades and hues and big sur Jade. I would do a minimal labidary on them to keep the natural shape as much as possible. Commissions came from clients who wanted a piece made for their friend, family or significant other. Agates found that had special meaning or time and place. I still have clients and friends and family show me pieces they have from years ago, 1993 to present.
After a couple of years of my little studio overlooking the Canyon, Stina Lea Design took on a brick and mortar in downtown Carmel by the Sea. An adorable little 600 square foot glass Gazibo a block off of Ocean Ave. Everything was going great, and I was making jewelry everyday to fill the jewelry displays in my shop. Cue Life – baby number one came a year and a half after opening up shop, rents started to rise as Carmel became a haven for the wealthy and I loved being with my little baby girl. Saudering and designing are time-consuming and take focus. my focus was on my baby. I put down my torch and we also moved to Panama. The prices of land were affordable and learning Spanish while living in country would be perfect for our growing girl. We left beautiful overpriced CARMEL AND all our friends to live overseas in the tropics. Making my jewelry overseas didn’t really take off and Panama is home to some of the best coffee in the world. We opened up a coffee house downtown and learned from the locals how to acquire the best coffee for our shop. Coffee at Origin is usually what is left after the good stuff is bought and sent overseas to be roasted there. Panama Roasting Company ( the coffee shop) was able to acquire from a handful of amazing farmers a few bags of green to be roasted by me, Silversmith becomes a Coffee roaster! 6 years of this and my girls (had beautiful baby girl number 2 in Bouquet) were getting to the age where education was a bit more important. Carmel was calling our names back home.
Although I loved Panama and the people of the country are very welcoming, I was too young to be retired and my little ones were growing and needing a good education. Carmel Unified is in the upper 90 % of schools in the nation, a private school education on a public school price. My babes come first, so I brought them back home. I took a couple up and downs to get our footing, amazing how six years feels like a lifetime. Back to Jewelry- because although Coffee roasting was fun in Panama, it wasn’t my heart and soul. I had to show my little ones that following their passion would bring them happiness. I would make jewelry and buy equipment as needed, as time allowed and in-between working in very popular and lucrative restaurants in the Carmel and Monterey area. With the encouragement, again, of family I have been back to being the silversmith I am in my bones, in my heritage and hopefully an example to any woman who loves to create. I dream of jewelry in my sleep, I mentally design a ring around a polished Carmel Beach agate when I see them in a bowl at a friends home, I am inspired by the artist around me, my significant other and my girls, the beach near my home and the home of my relations, that are in my bones. I also have a line of different shapes and sizes of feathers. Usually pendants or earrings. Line 3 is crescent moon rings with a set stone to represent a star. I love working in Good Omens and parts of life that bring me joy and remind us to look up. Look around and live in the present. Always grateful for the small and big events.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It hasn’t always been a smooth road because I am not independently wealthy. I have had to put my torch down a couple of times and try other means to support my family. Carmel Ca. Is a pricey place to live and required me to work sometimes day and night in the restaurant business. Raising my children was never something I could just put aside and it took front and center for 20 years. I would keep a small jewelry bench in my room when I couldn’t have a full studio. I would bead when I couldn’t solder. Always \ creating and making notes for future designs. After our move to Panama, I did get inspired by the Coffee Industry and I thought maybe I would continue on this path, it’s just not in my bones. A friend of my daughter, her mom wrote a book called BONE Knowing. After reading this book, I know where my inspiration stems.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
My daughters are my biggest fans, my models and they receive most of my initial prototypes! their fingers and necks usually will be my designs. Their friends receive my designs as gifts and it goes on and on from there. When we returned from Panama, my eldest was at the Jade Fest when she went to a vendor there who either recognized her or her name and fished out one of my designs from her box and gave it to her. It was a local lady who carried my jewelry at her shop down the Coast of Big Sur before we moved to Panama. After observing my daughter’s joy and excitement with my passion from before they were born, I let their enthusiasm carry me away and back down my path. The Local stones that are naturally washed up on shore here are amazing and beautiful and hard as rock. Agates and Jade are a seven on the hardness scale (a diamond is a 10), so the stones are substantial and also sustainable. We find them by beach combing, a mediation in itself. They range from off white, speckled, dark blue and light blue like the sky. Some Amber colors are available but rare. They need a good four weeks in a tumbler and/or some labidary to get the right shape or a shape that I can set in silver or gold. I like to combine the two metals in my rings, Silver and gold. Silvers being more economical and gold a bit more expensive for sure, but makes the jewelry and the stone pop.
Any big plans?
I have had an Etsy shop for years, done pop-ups and have a handful of loyal clients, friends and family who know my work and enjoy it and hit me up when they need gifts for special occasions. That keeps me pretty busy. It’s just me at my bench and I know I could get loads more designs done but I like to do it all myself. Now that my girls are older and mom isn’t needed, QUITE, wink wink, as much, I have more time to focus on my jewelry and making a bigger name for myself. Having my designs in local shops as helped too. Currently, I spend a lot of time adding to my display at THE Lanai Artist shop in The Crossroads, California. I love the vibe of The Lanai with their Hawaii / California theme and just laid-back surfer beach style. I feel my designs work there.
- Price range is 80-180
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: stinaleajewels.com
- Instagram: stinaleajewels
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kristina.miller.7771586
Photo credit Pyper Witt and Alana Witt Miller