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Meet Julie Knudsen of We Goddess Jewelry in Morro Bay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie Knudsen.

Julie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been an artist in some way. I took my first oil painting class when I was 11 and immediately loved it. In junior high and high school let’s just say I was not a shining student, but the one class I always showed up to and put my effort into was art. It was probably the only class that the teachers didn’t use that standard comment “Julie is not meeting her potential” but instead invited me to participate in special art shows and events.

At that time art was the one thing that gave me self-esteem and purpose. After that, I went to Ventura College for fine art and then to Cal Poly SLO for Art and Design with a concentration in graphic design, which is how I fell in love with Morro Bay and the central coast, where I live now. I was a single mom at an early age, and I knew I needed to find a career that would allow me to provide the kind of life I wanted my daughter to be able to have, but I wasn’t going to sacrifice my creative soul. Graphic design was the perfect thing.

While working as a designer and visual brand manager, I painted on the side as much as I could, acrylic on wood was my chosen medium, but I didn’t have the time to put effort into showing and selling alongside my demanding career. After 12 years in that corporate world, my daughter was grown and flourishing, and it was time for me to get back to my art roots and start creating with my hands again. That’s when I found the love of making hammered jewelry.

I took a ring-making workshop at Creative Side Jewelry Academy in Austin with a couple of friends and there it was. That moment I first transformed a 2D piece of metal into a beautiful 3D piece of wearable art I knew I had found my new joy. That was over three years ago, and I just keep loving it! To be honest, I am mostly self-taught from there. To me, these metals were just another medium to express my art in.

With my fine art background, it just seemed like a natural flip of a switch! Sometimes I think that actually works in my favor. My creativity isn’t stunted by a “correct” technique I’ve been taught over and over but rather inspired by an idea then secondly figuring out how to achieve it. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but that’s life as an artist, sometimes you scrap it and begin again!

Starting out I used copper, bronze and sterling silver to create my jewelry designs and although I still do appreciate those metals, I didn’t like that they tarnished and I didn’t want to lacquer them to keep them shiny, so after a couple of years of lots of non-stop polishing I changed to the more precious metals I use now, fine and sterling silver, along with rose and yellow gold-filled.

I do love the elegance these metals bring to my work and how that butterfly in my stomach is even bigger now when I get to a finished piece and stop to take that aahhhhh moment to admire it.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I think the biggest struggle for me has been an internal one. Working in a fast-paced marketing department for such a large chunk of time I would say I placed a lot of my identity in that.

Always busy, always in meetings, conferences, tending to emails, managing people, working with printers, always with deadlines and lots of very long days and nights spent racing the clock. As much as I yearned to get out of that type of rigorous lifestyle, sometimes I feel a bit insignificant now developing a small creative business of one.

Another struggle, of course, is the fast fashion phenomenon. There is a ton of super low-priced jewelry out there, and sometimes it’s a bit harder for people to spend money on a higher-priced artisan item when there’s so much other jewelry out there for a fraction of the cost.

I’m always so grateful when people buy my jewelry because I know they could easily go buy something mass-produced that’s cheaper, but my work and the time I put into creating it is meaningful to them.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with We Goddess Jewelry – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I know the name We Goddess isn’t exactly grammatically correct, ha! When I thought up the name, I put those two words together according to their individual meanings. We: I and a group that includes me. Goddess: A woman who is greatly loved or admired. My mission behind We Goddess Jewelry is to bring out a sense of power and strength in all women of all ages and all kinds when they look in the mirror. That’s the most important thing to me.

You’ll see on my website that each piece has a different woman’s name because I name each new design after their first online buyer. It’s fun for me to do as a way of honoring the women that wear my jewelry, and it’s so much fun for the buyers. Sometimes it’s a man buying for a woman in his life and has it named after her, sometimes a friend for a friend or a mother for a daughter, and sometimes a woman honors herself with her own name! Let’s hear it for self-love!

I think I’m most known for my distinctive shaping and style as I carry my graphic design background into all of my work. I try to create unique, elegant, and artistic pieces with a bit of edge. I think I’m most proud of the fact that I stay committed to making art. I create every piece by hand from start to finish, sketching designs, to sawing, filing, hammering, texturing, and shaping the metal, so although I do repeat some designs, each piece is inherently a one-of-a-kind.

I try to design with as much originality as possible, and I want to make sure, in the end, that my pieces are special and timeless and don’t follow a current trend that you’ll tire of or forget about, but rather, you’ll think of wearing throughout your lifetime then pass on to a daughter, niece, friend, someone you love. I think what sets me apart is just that.

I also mix metals a lot in order to bring a woman’s jewelry collection together. Say you wear a We Goddess necklace that has a sterling silver chain with a gold-filled pendant, now you have a piece that acts as a bridge from your gold earrings to your sterling silver rings. Add another gold necklace for layering, why not?! I don’t subscribe to any jewelry-wearing rules. If it makes you feel strong and beautiful, wear it! Wear it all!

What’s your favorite memory from childhood?
The first thing that comes to mind with that question is my grandparents. They were the soul of the family.

My best childhood memories all involve them in some way. My grandfather was a commercial fisherman “a bait hauler,” and from an early age, probably around ten, probably younger than anyone would have their kid out doing the same now, I used to go out hauling with him, my uncle and cousins. We’d go out at midnight or later and get back sometime later in the morning.

I just remember being out on the ocean in pitch black night, no land or light in sight, but feeling completely safe. Watching the sun come up from the middle of the ocean was pretty spectacular. I also remember using the squid ink to draw on the wood floor of the boat. My grandfather was a pretty quiet and introverted man, but on the other hand, my grandmother was the opposite!

The woman was absolutely hilarious and always up for any kind of fun. She is still my favorite person ever. She was president of the Ojai Valley garden club for a number of years and had just the most beautiful gardens at their house. I remember drying flowers with her, tons of them, and making wreaths and other types of arrangements. She was definitely part of my creative life. She taught me how to sew and how to crochet.

I think she taught me how to make do, to work with what you have, which I’m grateful for. It certainly helped me as a single mom all those years! I think making do is something so important to have instilled in you. It’s getting lost as time goes on with so many modern day conveniences. I definitely come from a line of creative women.

My mom was always so creative during my childhood as well, she played guitar and did lots of photography, but she just started drawing and painting in the last few years, and the level of detail she draws in is just stunning. I can’t believe she’s had that inside of her all this time and it’s only just coming out! And the line keeps going.

My daughter’s artwork floors me! The unique imagery that comes from her head that gets translated to a piece of paper then onto a person’s skin just blows my mind! I think I got off topic there. I’m just so grateful and so in awe of the women in my life!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Richard Fusillo

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