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If you like to shop at places like Amour Vert and Anthropologie, chances are you've seen the stylish jewelry from Kris Nations Jewelry— designs that mix bohemian fun with minimalist sophistication.
Sisters Kris and Kim Nations operate the business out of their studio in Half Moon Bay. Both came to the Bay Area from their native Texas in the mid-90s after college.Their business got its humble start in 2004, in a victorian flat near Alamo Square in San Francisco.
It's a great partnership that started when we were kids playing "office". - Kim Nations
During that time, Kris took a metalsmithing class at a local studio and her jewelry-making hobby quickly turned into a business. She sold to friends and later at local fairs. Fast forward 11 years: Kris Nations Jewelry is now sold in about 430 stores, and the studio has 20 people on staff.
We got a chance to talk to Kris and Kim Nations about their thriving jewelry business and what it's really like to work with your sister each day.
Sisters Kim (left) and Kris (right) Nations
What attracted you to making jewelry and creating your own jewelry line?
Kris: I started making jewelry as a hobby in high school. After college, I moved to San Francisco, and started making jewelry for fun again. I took metalsmithing classes at The Crucible in Oakland to expand my skill set. I had accumulated so many pieces that I had to sell them. I started doing trunk shows with friends in their apartments. After some success with selling through friends, I approached local San Francisco shops to sell to my pieces and got a great response that encouraged me to keep going.
While I was selling jewelry in local boutiques, Kim was working as a web designer in an agency. She created our first website, krisnations.com. Kim has helped with the business from the very beginning. She left her day job in 2007 to concentrate full time on our jewelry business.
What excites you about working with your sister each day?
Kris: I love collaborating with my sister. We kind of share a brain where we finish each other sentences. We are both on the same wave length, but we also have our own original ideas to share and bring to the table for both jewelry design ideas and marketing ideas. It helps also that we laugh a lot throughout the day. A lot of people always tell us they could never work with their siblings. I think because Kim and I have similar goals for our business and our personal lives, we are working side by side, and supporting each other every day to reach our goals. We want to see each other succeed.We also work with some really cool ladies.
Kim: We both have the entrepreneurial spirit that we learned from our parents. We're highly motivated and love working towards the same goals both personally and professionally. It's really nice to share the highs and lows with someone you have known your entire life. It's easy to laugh things off and give each other perspective when things get rough. No one will be more honest with you than your sibling! You can also trust no one more than your sibling. We are able to bounce ideas off each other. It's a great partnership that started when we were kids playing "office".
What is one of your most treasured creations?
Kris: Some of my most treasured pieces are the simple "classic" pieces we've made from the beginning because I can wear them every day, stacked with more trendy styles. I love all of the delicate pieces that never go out of fashion - the hoop earrings, bar pendants and hammered bangles and cuffs.
Kim: I also treasure my gold stacking bangles and hoop earrings. I can wear these everyday alone or layered with more trendy items. I'm a busy working mom so I like to keep things simple but still feeling special.
Tell us more about your Half Moon Bay studio and your sustainability practices for your jewelry business?
Kim: Our studio is located on Main Street in Half Moon Bay. We don't currently have a retail space. It's more of an industrial spot hidden on the street that most people don't know about.
It's important for us to maintain sustainability in our business. We purchase our metals from eco-friendly refiners and manufacturers. We use age old artisanal techniques and methods for making our jewelry, using non-toxic and low energy requirements. Also, we recycle everything we can from metal scrap to packing and shipping materials, office paper, etc.
We love the setting of Half Moon Bay. In some ways I think it's the best kept secret of the Bay Area. It has a small-town vibe. People are friendly here and happy - maybe because they are so stoked to be living in such a beautiful area.The weather is not all doom and gloom like some people think. The community is growing, and there is some development happening, but it still feels untouched, with lots of open space and room to breathe. We absolutely love it here.
Kris Nations Jewelry has been in business for 11 years now. How did you evolve and grow the business both creatively and financially to get where you both are today?
Kris: The business has had a slow but steady growth. When I first started, I had a full time day job working in advertising. I always told myself I would "know" when it was ok to let go of the day job, and I did. We built up enough wholesale business, and also our website business after two years of starting to feel confident enough to leave the day job and go full time with the jewelry. The jewelry has transformed over the years based on different techniques we added to our skill set as well as technology. Kim does a lot of designing on the computer, where I do more of the hands on artisan techniques. Combining both of our creative skillsets leads to some interesting and different combinations that make our pieces unique.
Kim: In the beginning, the business sustained itself financially, but we did get to a point where we needed a larger chunk of money to get to where we wanted to go. We found out about an amazing San Francisco based program called Working Solutions. They provide SF Bay Area entrepreneurs with access to capital and resources to grow a business. They were a huge resource to help to us in the early stages of our business, which set the foundation for how we currently run and grow our company.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration for each collection?
Kris: In general, I draw inspiration from a lot of things - nature, patterns, fashion and color trends as well as vintage and antique jewelry. I often think about my friends, and their individual styles, and what they would like and want to wear. I'm regularly thinking of a lot of different types of women and styles so we truly have something for everyone.
Kim: I get inspired by patterns I see in nature, fashion, and architecture. Kris and I usually bring something different to the creative process and we are able to inspire each other.
What are your current favorite jewelry pieces?
Kris: I love our minimal simple pieces. I wear the Classic Bar Chain Bracelet everyday stacked with other various bracelets. I also wear the Small Oval Hoop Earrings and Classic Stacked Chevron Rings a lot.
Kim: I wear my Stacking Hammered Bangles in gold everyday. They are so simple and I receive compliments often. I like the sound they make.
I recently took our Fused Small Marquis Earrings on a five day trip and they were perfect! I was able to wear them all day and into the night. I didn't need any other earrings. I also love our Badass Script Necklace. I think it's hilarious and it reminds me of all the awesome, strong women we have in our life.
Can you share some jewelry packing tips for traveling?
Kim: I keep my jewelry in small individual baggies to prevent tangling, and then keep the baggies in a small cosmetic bag. Keeping metal jewelry in baggies also prevents tarnishing.
Where can we find Kris Nations jewelry in the San Francisco?
Kim: You can find us in San Francisco at the following boutiques: Amour Vert, Ambiance, Curator, Jest Jewels, Park & Pond, Picnic, Y&I and Fawn.
What's coming up for Kris Nations Jewelry this year?
Kris: This year we are focusing more on our PR and marketing efforts. Also, we plan to grow our social media and website presence. As for jewelry, we are adding more personalized styles and more playful charms that are perfect for layered looks. We're off to a great start and excited for what this year will bring!
Product photos by Andria Lo Photography