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Creativity – In the Studio with Elizabeth Adams

Jan 27 2016

by Whitney Long

In this series on The Southern C, readers get to “meet” many of the interesting and creative Southern entrepreneurs we know online through our social network and also in “real life” at The Southern C Summits.  These individuals are the CEO’s, founders, creative directors, artists, designers, makers and doers that are shaping our landscape with their vision and ingenuity.  Take a peek into their day to day life, find out what they are working on, discover their “a-ha” moment and gain insight into what motivates and inspires their work and lives.

The subjects and their niche may vary but many share the paradoxical traits of creative individuals – they daydream, observe, ask big questions, people watch, seek new experiences, view life as an opportunity for self-expression, take risks and bounce back all while following their true passions.  We hope you will be inspired as we spotlight the creativity that abounds in our region.  According to Einstein, “Creativity is contagious”, and this is one thing we are happy to spread.

This week, I am delighted to introduce our Coterie to Elizabeth Adams of Ex Voto Vintage. I will admit that I have been admiring her exquisite line of jewelry for quite awhile.  In fact, if you see my husband, remind him that Valentine’s Day is around the corner!

Ex Voto is a collection of one-of-a-kind and limited edition pieces created from antique elements.  Made in the USA, Ex Voto combines vintage lockets and pendants with diamonds, semi-precious stones, Swarovski crystals, freshwater pearls, premium leather and chain heavily plated in 18K gold.  She also has the Elizabeth Adams Collection which is Ex Voto’s line of fine jewelry in 14K gold and sterling silver.

Not only only do I admire the creative, heirloom-worthy designs by Elizabeth, but I admire her servant heart and the fact that she is giving back through her business. In 2009, after losing her young daughter to a brain tumor, Elizabeth soon created her jewelry line.   Since that time, she has donated a portion of the sales to The Cure Starts Now Foundation for Pediatric Brain Cancer Research as well as holding crayon drives for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.  After reading about this a few years ago on her site, she inspired me to do the same at my children’s school as we hold a yearly crayon collections during pediatric cancer awareness month (September).

Doing good while looking good… sounds like Elizabeth has it all figured out!  Read  more about her life as a designer, mom and business owner…

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Describe your brand/business: 

ExVoto Vintage is Our main office is in Birmingham, Alabama, where I live and our studio is in Montgomery, Alabama, where we began in 2009.

We have showrooms in both cities and will be adding a store in Nashville this March. We combine vintage lockets and pendants with semi-precious stones, vintage crystals, freshwater pearls, premium leather and chain heavily plated in 18K gold.  I cast pendants from antique jewelry elements or antique keys I discover when I travel. The Elizabeth Adams Collection is ExVoto’s line of fine jewelry in 14K gold, rose gold and sterling silver.

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Describe your typical day as a clothing designer:

Every day is different, which is what I love about my job! Each day starts in our office with a conference call between the stores so we can all stay up to date. Then I usually meet with my media specialist and plan our emails and social media posts that are upcoming. There are almost always a lot of photos to be taken and photo shoots to be planned. Planning our store window displays is one of my favorite parts of my job.

With all of this, I may also be simultaneously sourcing components or checking in on the progress of castings and molds we have had commissioned with the artisans we work with. If it is a Tuesday, then I’m in our studio in Montgomery with my hands in pearls and stones and beads as I create something that I’ve been daydreaming about. Lately, you can add to this daily list sourcing display and lighting for our new Nashville store space.

The ability to multitask is a plus in my job, especially if you add into your day a child who needs to be checked out of school and taken to a doctor’s appointment! I constantly shift between work, family, digital, and hands-on.

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What did you want to be when you grew up and how has your background influenced your work?

Well, my parents are both artists, so I grew up in a home that was essentially a gallery full of fine art. A lot of my Sunday afternoons were spent at opening receptions for exhibits in museums and art galleries. My parents would not let me have coloring books because they wanted me to “make my own pictures.”

Sometime around the middle school years, in the mid- 1980’s, I had a giant sketch pad that I filled with drawings of clothing designs I saw in W magazine, and floorplans of my dream home (think sunken den) and drawings of Gibson girls. So, I guess you could say that early on I was interested in fashion design, architecture and vintage aesthetic. (I need to see if I can find that sketch pad!)

My youngest daughter passed away from a brain tumor at the age of four. It was two years later that I started ExVoto right in the middle of the recession. I think that living through a parent’s worst nightmare made me fearless enough to put myself out there with a business built around my art. I sort of walk through life knowing that I have already lived through the worst that can happen, so what am I afraid of now?

Because of our loss, my business gives a portion of each sale to The Cure Starts Now Foundation for Pediatric Brain Cancer Research. ExVoto sponsors a fundraiser every April for the foundation and each September, we host a crayon drive for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, which is the hospital where my daughter was treated. Next month, the ExVoto team will travel to Memphis to deliver 2,800 boxes of crayons to the children at the hospital!

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Favorite business tool?

Lately, I’ve been using the Evernote app to keep my inspirations, photos and ideas organized. I would be lost without my phone. 99% of my job is conducted through my iPhone.

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Where do you find inspiration?

Traveling. I always take a sketch book with me because when I visit a new place, it sends my imagination into all sorts of design possibilities. I first drew our patented toggle in a rental car as my family drove across Scotland, and I’ve drawn a new necklace style on the back of a plane ticket while riding the NYC subway.

The materials inspire me, too. I have bought so many stones and vintage beads and antique elements just because they sparked a design in my head the minute I touched them. I love laying out a big batch of assorted beads and stones and realizing I have created an entire design story without forcing it into being. It is an organic process.

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The rare day off  –  what do you do to unwind?

My days off, as in true-blue days off, are usually vacations where I don’t have cell service or WiFi and I’m in a very different time zone than my stores! I would have to say to truly unwind I require an airplane ride. But then travel inspires me which sends me back into something that might look like work!

On Friday afternoons in the spring and fall, I like to pour a glass of wine and sit outside on my patio with no sounds but the birds and the trees. Our house backs up to a mountain, so it’s really private which made this house so appealing when we first saw it. It’s important to feel like your house is a place to retreat.

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Best business advice?

Oh gosh, humble yourself!  If you take yourself too seriously, you will never be able to handle the rejections that will come. If you take yourself too seriously, you will forget to go back and say thank you and you will think it unnecessary to write an email to stay in touch with everyone you’ve met—which means you will miss some really great people and great opportunities! Also, be prepared to work harder than you have ever worked before. When I was in architecture school, my professor told me I should eat, sleep, and drink architecture. After an internship, I realized I couldn’t do that with architecture. But I will say, I do eat, sleep, and dream about jewelry design and how to keep making this business stronger. I can’t turn it off!

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Five Favorites: 

Book:

Number the Stars by Lois Lowery

Movie:

The Princess Bride

 Song:

Right now, I am loving Light of a Clear Blue Morning by Dolly Parton. Her lyrics are amazing and she really bears her soul. You can tell she wrote it after coming out of a really dark time in her life, which makes the song so hopeful and empowering. Dolly is just cool. She is a great example of someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously!

Drink:

I like a French 75, but I have a hot water with lemon almost every night after dinner.

Indulgence/Guilty Pleasure:

Dark chocolate with almonds and watching Dance Moms with my teen daughter.

Whitney Wise Long, co-founder of The Southern C and The Southern C Summit, loves to connect with Southern entrepreneurs and learn more about their creative endeavors.

This series – “In the Studio With” – offers her the perfect opportunity to do so! 

For more of Whitney’s Southern Creatives Q&A’s click the names below:

Michelle Blue

Danielle Mason Hosker

Emmie Howard

107 Market Street

Cathie Parmelee

Lauren Lail

Gunner and Lux

Katherine Sandoz

Deane Hebert

Katherine Frankstone

Caroline Reehl Boykin

Vaughn Dorrian

Emily Stroud

Jordan Jarvis Hughes

Heather Lancaster

Suzanne LeRoux

Sarah Schell Swinson

Julianne Taylor

Whitney Herndon

Barbara Cobb 

Andrea Gray Harper

Emily Bargeron

Katherine Mullins McDonald

Erin Gregory

Harrison Blackford

Amy Kinslow

Twine & Twig

Meredith Anne Sutton

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Whitney Long View More Blog Posts from this Author

Whitney Long is co-founder of The Southern C and The Southern C Summit. Mama x 4, wife x 1. Entrepreneur, thinker, doer, writer, researcher, believer. Enjoys working alongside creative entrepreneurs to build community while supporting established and upcoming brands. Hobbies include travel, reading, bike rides and clever craft cocktails.

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