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Meet Elizabeth Ochse of Junon Jewelry in North Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elizabeth Ochse.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In December of 2013 my identical twin sister, Abby, and I, needed to make Christmas gifts for everyone. A friend of ours had recently made us simple quartz crystal earrings for our birthday and had said how easy it was. We loved making jewelry when we were kids but hadn’t really dabbled since. The majority of our family and friends were female, so we thought it would be a good fit. We taught ourselves how to wire-wrap, and do some basic techniques, and started creating. After the holiday, we continued to make pieces as we found we really enjoyed the process. We had always been very crafty individuals, enjoying creating things with our hands, and had recently stumbled into the world of gemstones, so it was a great fit! We soon realized we had enough pieces to open an Etsy shop, and did in early 2014. As we started to get sales, we got more and more excited, continuing to make jewelry on the side of our 9-5’s.

We were living in Chicago at the time, where there is a different festival happening every weekend throughout the city. I was walking through an art festival in Wicker Park where I stumbled upon a booth filled with beautiful metal-worked jewelry, and instantly knew I needed to learn how to do that. The artist was nice enough to point me to a studio where I could learn the skills. I started with a 10-week intro to metalworking class and wish I could say I fell in love instantly. Soldering can be difficult to initially get the hang of, and I found I was very impatient during the tedious process. There was no rushing through making a piece. I was determined to get the hang of it and biked over as often as I could during the open studio hours. By the end of the 10 weeks I was more proficient, but definitely had a lot I wanted and needed to learn. I signed up for a second set of classes, and this time Abby signed up for the intro to metalworking course.

Throughout this time, we were becoming more and more immersed in gemstones, as we appreciated the metaphysical healing side to them as well as their aesthetic beauty. After college, we started wearing a clear quartz point pendant that we found on Etsy, and I noticed that I could feel a change when I wore the necklace and when I did not. Fascinated, we starting reading more about them, and started using crystals while meditating, for their energy around the home, and our new favorite- in jewelry! My boyfriend had taken the two of us gem mining for the first time in Georgia, and we were immediately hooked! We started using the raw stones in our pieces, and just love the start to finish process. Being the first person to ever touch a gemstone that has been sitting in the Earth for millions of years is so magical to me! Since then, I have mined Tourmaline in California, and Sunstone in Oregon, while Abby has traveled to Arkansas for Quartz, and we both return to our home state New York for Herkimer Diamonds.

Abby and I have always been the best team, and when we went to the studio we would tag team our pieces- she would do the prep work while I would solder and set! The II in our logo represents the two of us. While I loved Chicago, I hated the cold, and in May 2015, I moved to California. Due to her job, Abby decided to stay in Chicago, and we separated for the first time in 25 years. I found a job immediately working for a jewelry vendor at the farmer’s markets and learned about the market lifestyle. While I am not a natural salesman, being forced out of my comfort zone did wonders for my social capability. I quickly realized that if I could sell his jewelry, I could do the same thing for my own! After the move, I took over the majority of our business roles, and became the sole creator of Junon Jewelry. Abby found during her class experience that she was not really a fan of soldering and took a more understated role in the creation process.

When I wasn’t working at my two jobs, I was working tirelessly on my own pieces! My sister even let me build a workbench that took up nearly half of the living room to pursue my craft. I launched my own website and started to apply to some farmers markets for myself. Part of the market grind is that there are slow seasons and busy seasons, and after Christmas, I was no longer needed by my boss at the markets. The stars aligned, and I got accepted into my first Farmer’s Market the first week of January 2016. Pretty quickly I started in a few more and began pursuing jewelry full time.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Definitely not! Talk about your ups and downs. Running a business is extremely challenging, and the entire thing was completely new to me. It has been a constant learning process, and as your own boss you have to wear a lot of hats. I am also hustling, because unlike a traditional job, where you get paid a salary or hourly, there is no guaranteed income involved. It can be a little scary sometimes putting yourself out there, and during the slow seasons, it can be very disheartening to have slow market after slow market. I have definitely wondered to myself many times if I am crazy to be doing this full time.

I currently live alone in a home studio, so it is definitely difficult to separate myself from my work! The majority of my apartment is dedicated to my business, so it is impossible to not look around and see something that needs to be done. Finding balance and the time to put myself first has been a challenging. I tend to bury myself in work, therefore neglect myself in the process. I have to remind myself sometimes that the work never ends, so just go out and get that run in, enjoy some time at the beach, because it will all still be there when I get back!

Please tell us about Junon Jewelry.
Junon Jewelry is minimal crystal jewelry intended to unearth the elegance of every woman. As no two crystals are alike, and each piece is hand fabricated by me, every piece of Junon Jewelry is one of a kind. I have a very delicate and dainty style, which allows the gemstone’s natural beauty to be the highlight of each piece! We are best known for some of my favorite pieces- our Herkimer Diamond jewelry. Since we grew up an hour away from the mine, all of our stones have been sourced by the two of us and our family!

I am definitely most proud of how I have grown our company almost completely organically. Especially in the last two years, I have experienced tremendous growth in both sales and brand awareness. Through my use of social media marketing, I have been able to make some really amazing connections. I recently paired up with a photographer and model team from the Netherlands, and a photo from the most recent shoot of my jewelry got published on Vogue Italia’s website. Seeing my work on such a large platform was so humbling and surreal and exciting for me!

What sets us apart is not only that we mine a lot of our own stones, but that we focus on the healing, energetic properties of them. Abby is a Reiki Master Teacher, and Reiki-charges each piece of jewelry. This process infuses the jewelry with the energy of Reiki, which allows the wearer to benefit from the healing frequency, promoting wellness, balance, and harmony for the mind, body, and spirit.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?

I would probably take a business course, or three! I went to school for photography, and while I intended to work for myself, I did not have the foresight to take anything business related. So a lot of running my business has been figuring out how to and how not to do things. There are a lot of roles in my business that I am not qualified to do but handle out of necessity. Every day is a learning experience, and they say you don’t know what you don’t know! While I am constantly working to improve my business, I know there are so many ways my business could be improved, and that I’m not aware of most of them yet. 

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Image Credit:
Nienke Wind

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