For this special Father’s Day edition of In Her Shoes, we spoke to Sophie Monet Okulick, daughter of American artist John Okulick. Sophie and John create together, working side-by-side in their Californian family woodshop. John is a sculptor and Sophie handcrafts jewellery and accessory items that bestow an ease of wear and a natural, earthy appeal.
Wisdom tells us that it’s not the seed that grows the tree, but rather the tree that wants so badly to exist, that it wills itself to grow (cue a nature vs. nurture debate). One thing we know for certain though is that family lineage and legacy go hand-in-hand, so when the creatives in focus specialise in works of solid wood, idioms such as ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ and ‘she’s a chip off the old block’ come to mind.
Like many modern women, or any woman in history who was raised with the tools to cultivate a strong sense of self - flair and conscious adornment ensue. Sophie’s pieces feature details in metal and precious stones. These expressions are a bold and natural extension from the familiar and stable wooden foundations of her creations. Foundations she’s inherited from her father.
We’re all aware that the ‘future is female’ (many of us have the t-shirt to prove it) but today we’d like to celebrate the dads who are doing their part to shape that future for us. Happy Father’s Day to you, and thank you for all that you do to raise strong daughters and sons. Thanks to you the future looks bright, as Sophie knows better than most (and in the words of Coco Chanel) ‘adornment is never anything except a reflection of the heart’.
In your own words, please tell us what you do…
I’m a jewellery and accessory designer. I like to make things and work with my hands. It’s something that feels really close to home and natural to me.
I actually work in a woodshop with my family members and work especially closely with my Dad. He’s a sculptor and we share the studio space. It’s great because we are constantly bouncing ideas off one another. He’s taught me almost everything I know when it comes to design and making contemporary art and jewellery.
Where are you from, and how did you come to be living life as you know it?
I grew up by the beach in Santa Monica, so I’m a Californian girl at heart. I’ve always loved being outside in nature - I’m definitely an ‘outdoorsy’ girl, but I moved to New York to study fine art, and upon graduating decided to move back to Los Angeles and to Venice Beach. It was then that things started to happen naturally and I began designing jewellery.
I always knew that I wanted to have my own business and do something on my own as a woman, not work for somebody else. I wanted to combine my love of fashion and fine art and create something unique and different. It was really natural for me to start working in the studio here where I grew up watching my dad work. It’s a really cool space. I’m lucky to have such a cool environment to work in every day.
Watching my dad make contemporary pieces of art growing up has definitely influenced my path. He would make wall sculptures mainly – colourful and abstract. As kids, he really ingrained in my mind that our art was just as important as his. He always made us feel like it was possible to be artists and be creative if that was what we wanted.
“I always knew that I wanted to have my own business and do something on my own as a woman, not work for somebody else.”
Which element of your work do you thrive off the most?
I really love finding new inspiration, which for me comes primarily through travel. I love travelling.
It can be going anywhere new, whether it’s 2 hours away or 10 hours away. Camping or simply tasting new types of food, finding different objects at a flea markets or going to museums. I just thrive when I’m experiencing life and being adventurous. Travelling re-charges my battery and it makes me want to work more. I get so many fresh ideas and my mind becomes more open to possibilities. This is the ultimate fuel for my creative process.
What do you love about working with your Dad?
We have a really close relationship. I think one of the most rewarding parts of working with him is that we get to collaborate a lot. I’m always asking for his advice, more on technique than on the design. We don’t really design together but we find solutions to make the things that I want to make and he opens doors for me that I wouldn’t necessarily see were there otherwise. That’s what I appreciate most about working together. He can make his art and I can make mine. I think we’re both inspired by each other’s work too.
“It’s great because we are constantly bouncing ideas off one another. He’s taught me almost everything I know when it comes to design and making contemporary art and jewellery.”
What are the challenges?
Sharing the space. Sometimes it can get a little tight! We’re both perfectionists, I think I learnt that from him. If something doesn’t look or feel right we will start again from scratch. We’re both stubborn in that we make things how we want them to be in our heads. That is one of the biggest challenges, but also one of the most rewarding aspects too depending how I look at it.
What does beauty look like to you?
I think beauty is more of a feeling than a physical thing. Something you’re emotionally drawn to and something that you can’t really describe, because it could be anything. I think if it makes you feel good and cracks opens your senses and inspires you, then it’s beautiful. That is beauty.
“I think if it makes you feel good and cracks open your senses and inspires you, then it’s beautiful. That is beauty.”
What are three things that are inspiring you right now?
I’m always inspired by Italy and I’m heading there again soon! I also always love the beach. Finding new shells and objects, bits and pieces in the sand that I can take shapes from. Recently I watched the Peggy Guggenheim documentary and found that to be really interesting. She was an amazing woman and I that’s inspiring me right now too.
Do you have a morning ritual?
I make coffee in my stovetop percolator. I like to leave my phone off too, I’m unplugged in the morning. I will usually take my little dog Chloe on a walk and just start the day fresh with no noise, taking my time to ease into the day.
What does your ideal Sunday entail?
Making breakfast at home and sitting on my porch. Then taking a bike ride to the beach or a drive up the coast to Malibu, which is one of my favourite places to go. I can spend all day there and watch the sun go down… it’s magic. Then an early dinner and early to bed!
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would say don’t worry what anyone else thinks.
What is happiness to you?
Happiness to me is feeling good and feeling confident. Not worrying about the perceptions of others and being able to be around my family and close friends. It also resides in being able to make beautiful things that in turn make me feel good.
Words by Ellen Watts @_theatelier_
Photography by Kris Evans @Krisnugget