An interview with designer Ellen Deutsch about The Relic Shoppe

How long have you been making and selling jewelry?

I’ve been making handmade jewelry for about twelve years now. When I was in high school I received a starter kit for my birthday, which contained two spools of nickel-silver wire and a handful of beads, as well as instructions for some of the basic components, like scrolls and loops. At some point in college I graduated to sterling silver wire, for its brighter luster and more workable texture. Finally, after giving my friends and family more jewelry than they knew what to do with, I decided to share my skills with the world. I’ve been selling my jewelry on Etsy since summer 2009, under the seller name Deutsch Creations. The store’s name changed to The Relic Shoppe in 2010 with the introduction of the Relic line.

How did the Relic Shoppe come about?
The idea for the Relic Shoppe came to me one day as I was talking to some friends about our favorite geek convention, Anime Central. We were discussing their plans to share a table at the Artist’s Alley, where artists can show off and sell their geeky art. I realized that this would be a perfect opportunity to market my jewelry to a completely different crowd, and before long I had the Relic Shoppe all planned out.

Tell us a bit about the Relic Shoppe concept.
The basic idea of the Shoppe is very simple. In Final Fantasy VI, the player can equip their characters with Relics, accessories of various types that have unique effects when worn. Since these relics have little relevance to the plot, they never appear visually in the game; they are merely a list of names and effects. What I’ve done is taken this list of names and effects and designed jewelry pieces around them. All the designs you see here are my own original creations, inspired by the world of the game.

What inspires your jewelry?
I take my inspiration from a lot of things. I’m a dancer, so I tend to be very in tune with the inner momentum of static objects. I like a piece of jewelry to have a flow, a sense of movement, something for your eye to follow as it travels around the piece. When designing, I use verbs like swinging, spinning, dropping, circling, flying, hovering, quivering…I like looking at a piece of jewelry and getting the feeling that it’s really a burst of energy that’s been contained, but only barely.

Do you have any favorite materials?
I’ve always been a fan of silver. It’s what I first learned on. Also, I think silver has a lovely cool crispness that works well with a variety of bead materials. As for beads, I’ve always loved semiprecious stones. I actually like working in semiprecious more than precious. I’d much rather work with jasper than with diamonds. For me, semiprecious stone is…real. It’s earthy. It’s tangible. You can see the stone it came from in the banding, veining, and striations within each and every bead. Even if it’s just a standard 8 millimeter round, it’s got character. Each bead is individual, and reflects the earth it came from. A strand of red jasper contains many distinct hues, and even more unique veining patterns. That means that no two pieces I make are ever going to be exactly identical. Also, the range of colors available in semiprecious stone is expansive and unique. You get some very unusual color combinations within the stone itself, myriads of vibrant colors that somehow all go together. Within these stones I see subtle movement patterns that play a large part in the inspiration for my pieces.

How did those inspirations change with the addition of the Relic Shoppe concept?
They didn’t so much change as…crystallize. I still drew from the inspirations I mentioned before, but with the Relic Shoppe they were given a definite conceptual direction. For example, let’s look at three pieces that are very similar in effect. The Guard Earrings cast Safe on their wearer, the Barrier earrings cast Shell, and the Czarina earrings cast both when the wearer’s health is low. In the game, Safe protects against physical attacks and Shell protects against magic. So I created three designs that are very similar in appearance. The Guard Earrings have one round protection ring circling them, the Barrier Earrings are the same with a squared-off ring, and the Czarina Earrings have two rings, since they cast both spells at once. Similarly, the effects of many of the pieces guided my stone choices. Pieces that protect against Poison were given green stones, while the Amulet, which protects against Poison, Dark and Zombie, was given three stones, one green, one black, and one pale yellow with veining that gave it a “scarred” look which reminded me of zombies.

Do you have any other lines of jewelry aside from the Relics?

Yes, I do! I’ve started a line of Character Silhouettes, based on the success of the Moogle Charm, that gives the same treatment to an assortment of Final Fantasy favorites. I’m also working on a line of Tabletop RPG-based cleric Holy Symbols, starting with a set for Pathfinder deities. I also have a few miscellaneous items, including a set of fully-customizable stitch markers for knitting and crocheting and a bracelet that can be used to count and store any number from one to one hundred.

Do you have any other projects in the works that you’d like to talk about?
Well, I’m currently brainstorming for a line of jewelry inspired by what I call “plot point jewelry” from various anime and videogames. As it turns out, many of these games and anime contain characters that possess pendants or pieces of jewelry with mystical powers. From Marle’s space-time-continuum-disrupting pendant from Chrono Trigger, to Sousuke’s gift of flash-bomb earrings from Full Metal Panic!, there are plenty of ideas I can work with. Personally, I’ve always loved that feeling you get while wearing a piece that you secretly know is actually the key to unlocking the mystical doors with the best power-ups behind them.

All designs are made in sterling silver wire with semiprecious stone beads and are individually handcrafted, polished and packaged by yours truly. The Etsy store is up and running, and everything should be up there ready for you to purchase by check or PayPal. If you have questions or would like to discuss a custom order, by all means send me an email at relics@geeksdanz.org.

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