Made in New England: Meet Jessica Kramer of Hawkhouse Raw Crystal Jewelry
After many summers waitressing and working odd jobs out on Martha’s Vineyard, Jessica Kramer ultimately fell in love with an island boy making the Vineyard her home. She then worked her side passion project—crafting jewelry out of raw stones—to make ends meet that first year on the island.
It didn’t take long for the community to welcome Jessica with open arms and she’s been crafting handmade, recycled, eco-friendly jewelry through her business Hawkhouse ever since. We got to chat with Jessica about her eco-friendly practices (like hand-dying their bags out of butternut squash!), go-to statement necklace and entrepreneurial itch to launch another business.
R.K.: How did you get the idea to start Hawkhouse and take it from idea to business?
J.K.: Hawkhouse was a smooth transition from me doing what I loved to selling what I loved. Fortunately, I had previously started an Etsy store, and I was selling my ceramics and plants in a couple months before I started electroforming. I found a way to transform a lifetime of collecting stones into jewelry. My mom is a ceramicist, so I learned about running an art business through osmosis.
R.K.: Your jewelry is hand-crafted, recycled and eco friendly. Can you speak to me about your unique production process?
J.K.: I source the majority of my stones from small miners and countries where they have safe mining standards. I’ve built relationships with miners over nearly 20 years of working in the gem industry. We use recycled copper that is processed in the U.S., all of our packaging is either recycled and/or recyclable, and we hand-dye our jewelry bags out of butternut [squash]. It’s a lot easier to be zero-waste in your home, but we do our best in business to create the smallest amount of trash possible.
R.K.: Do you have a “statement piece” you’d recommend… what’s your go-to look?
J.K.: My personal favorite is our 30” raw crystal necklace.
R.K.: What did you have to learn the hard way in launching your business? Any particular challenges along the way or something that surprised you?
J.K.: Hawkhouse has been a graceful process. When it got bigger than I could handle, I found an amazing assistant turned office manager, Kelly Kaye, who is good at the things that scatter me. I shortly after found Allie who does our assembly and is the ultimate organizer. I’ve had our girls help along the way too! These girls are not only pivotal to the business, but I love them like sisters. The key is figuring out what you’re not the best at and finding someone you adore who is amazing at it.
Being a boss isn’t something I meant to do. I think learning how to communicate clearly was and is the most difficult and frustrating part of owning my own business. The surprising part is that I love being a business owner. I thought I was just a creative girl, but by finding the right team I’ve become a successful entrepreneur.
R.K.: What initially led you to Martha’s Vineyard? On that note, do you think there’s been a benefit to starting your business in the New England area that you don’t think you’d get elsewhere?
J.K.: I met a girl hitchhiking around Hawaii when I was 18 who told me to come waitress out in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard the following summer with her. I’d come and work odd jobs the majority of summers until I landed here for the last seven years by falling in love with the ultimate dreamboat.
The island was made for artists. There is endless inspiration, beautiful solitude of long winters and endless beaches. The community on the island embraced me and supported my work like a dream!
I am in more stores in New England than any other region in the world. New England supports makers like no where else I’ve seen. I couldn’t do it without all the amazing shop owners who like what we do.
R.K.: What other local brands are you a fan of—on the island or New England in general?
R.K.: Who has been the greatest influence or role model in starting your business?
J.K.: My ceramicist mother!! She’s so patient, endlessly sweet and lovely. Growing up watching her as my ultimate role model really shaped who I am and who I want to be.
R.K.: Where do you hope to see your brand in the next two years?
J.K.: Honestly I would love Hawkhouse to be running itself more (or rather, have my sweet team running it for me) so I can start another business! I always thought I’d be a craftsperson, but I’ve really grown into being a business owner. Right now I’m passionate about gardening—particularly edible and native perennials—so starting a little nursery is a major daydream!
R.K.: What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business from scratch?
J.K.: Don’t wait until everything’s perfect! Put yourself out there—get on Etsy or make a website, create a social media account, start documenting your story through photography. And remember that if you love what you are doing, it will shine through and there are people who will recognize it and want to support you!
R.K.: At WELL, we believe wellness comes in all forms. What does wellness look like for you?
J.K.: When I started Hawkhouse it all happened so fast that I forgot to be present within my body. The last year or two I’ve been remembering what it’s like to know and love myself.
The “self care” movement has been really inspiring. So, you know… relishing baths and hot showers, making healthy meals with my lover, gardening and remembering to enjoy the beautiful island that we live on! Stress is a major source of internal suffering for many people. All sorts of illnesses can be caused by it. Realizing that makes me step back and remember to smell the wild roses.
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