Sophie’s Dangerous Tools
If you thought jewelry-making was a delicate craft—well, read on.
Sophie Monet Okulick’s elegant wood-and-rock designs might be polished, but the process of making them is as dangerous and messy as it is intense. “I cut myself all the time—my hands are so messed up,” she L.A.-based phenom explains. “But I just really like to work with my hands. Getting that end result is really satisfying and makes me feel so good.” These are five of the awesome-scary tools she uses along the way.
To score one the amazing necklaces Sophie made for us with her badass woodshop gadgets, click here.
“That’s my dremel—it looks like fun, but it is a monster. I use that to carve out the settings in the rings and necklaces. I wear a mask because my face is so close to it, and it gets sawdust everywhere. It got stuck in my hair once—it was terrible. So now I have my rule: I always have to wear my hair up. I don’t know why that wasn’t the rule to begin with.”
“I cut all my forms on the band saw. The blades break a lot—so that’s a challenge—and you have to careful you don’t get your fingers too close to it.”
“The belt sander gets me the fine detail and the softness that I want the finished product to have. I experiment with it most often because you can change things the fastest. You can stand over a belt sander for an hour, making something smaller and smaller and smaller. When my friends come over and want to make something, I hand them a random scrap piece and let them go to work.”
“I use an epoxy to attach the rocks. It’s messy because if you use too much, it’s difficult to clean up the edges. I try to wear gloves, but I a lot of times I have to use lacquer thinner to get it off my hands.”
“The drill press is what I use when I make my rings, to make the hole for your finger. I pull it down and drill a clean circle into the wood. You really have to have a tight grip on everything.”
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Sophie Gets it From her Dad
The jewelry designer shares the large-scale pieces that have influenced her smaller creations.
Sophie Monet shares a studio with her father John Okulick, a California sculptor best known for his work in wood—the same medium in which the jewelry designer works. Though he’s hardly overbearing—“I’ve designated my table, and he doesn’t go near it”—the creative juices flow between them. Here, four of the works from her dad’s catalogue that mean the most to the talented up-and-comer.
“He puts lots of different things in those boxes—those are his signature sculptures that he’s been doing since the seventies. He took a break and went on to do more steel and metal, and now he’s revisiting the boxes again. We feed off each other. I’m always telling him what I think, what he should work with. And he tells me what he likes that I’m doing. It’s really nice that we can both make art together and get each other’s opinions.”
“Here, he’s using some sort of loud torch—I don’t know what it is called—to make the burned box [pictured up top]. I ran down and started taking pictures because I thought it was crazy. It was cool to see him in action—you don’t usually see people making something, the process.”
“I think this one looks like a woman’s figure, and it’s more light and airy compared to the other pieces he makes. It’s pretty tall, too.’”
“He has all of these miniatures of birds looking into picture frames. That coffee cup is symbolic to me because it came from our house. We had five of them, and now we only have four. We all drink coffee in the morning—everyone in my family has probably taken a sip out of that cup.”
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Sophie’s Guide to Big Sur
The California native is exploring her home state and letting it inspire her.
Sophie styling her lookbook post-trip.
Now that Sophie Monet has moved back West after a stint in New York, she’s doing some latitudinal exploring. Just recently, the designer, who makes earthy chic wood-and-rock jewelry, and her boyfriend headed up to the Big Sur. The jagged cliffs and the dramatic drop-offs got her so excited that she decided to try to mimic the rocky beach setting for her lookbook, shot in Malibu. Here, she shares the five finds that have stuck with her.
Sophie doing her best tree gnome, stepping out of a huge redwood.
The (Daunting) Hike: “There’s this place called Jade Cove Beach—so, of course, I was like, ‘I can get jade and make my jewelry with it!’ I was thinking it was going to be this easy little rocky beach, but it is literally a rope going down to the water that you have to traverse as if you’re rock climbing. We met this guy down there who was teaching us what to look for. There was a lot of quartz, and it was cool to be able to see that you could still go to these places and find the natural formations. It makes me have a greater appreciation of the stones I use and what goes into finding them.”
A gorgeous, vivid field of poppies.
The Breakfast: “I think the best meal I had was at Big Sur Bakery. It was our last day, and no place was open for brunch anymore. We went to a gas station, and that’s where the bakery is. They have these delicious homemade chocolate croissants, and the coffee is some of the best ever.”
This is how tremendous the trip was.
The Back Road: “You usually take Highway One into Big Sur, but the day before we left, there had been a landslide. We had to take an alternate route from all the way inland that took another extra hour, but it actually turned out to be really cool because we came from the east, through the navy base and through the forest. All of the sudden, everything opened up and we were at the top of the mountain, and we could see down at the ocean. We felt like we were a mile up in the air, but we could touch the ocean.”
One of the long-exposure light drawings.
The Overnight Spot: “We stayed at this place called Fernwood—it’s a campground, but we stayed in a cabin. We made a campfire at night and did these light drawings—we got all crazy with the flashlight and camera. It became obsessive because we wanted to get our words just right.”
The mind-blowing falls.
The Sight to See: “McWay Falls is a waterfall that goes out to the ocean. There used to be a house on the cliff, and I can’t imagine living there and being able to look at that view every day. It’s just so remote and beautiful.”