Monday, February 4, 2019

Holly Yashi Jewelry Studio Tour

When Jeff and I were planning our trip to Arcata, California for the Marching Lumberjack band reunion last fall, I did a quick online search to see what was new in the area, and I was surprised to see that the Holly Yashi jewelry studio was in Arcata.  I was familiar with the jewelry because my BFF Barbara has worn their earrings for years and I've been with her as she's shopped for them, but I had no idea that they were made in Arcata!  When I saw that the studio was within walking distance of our hotel, that sealed the deal - we'd have to go check it out.

Holly Yashi was founded in 1981 by Holly Hosterman and Paul "Yashi" Lubitz, both Humboldt State University graduates.  What began in their garage has evolved into a successful business of jewelry as art, as Holly likes to say, and I now own several wearable pieces of art as a result of my visit to their studio.
We arrived at the store, and it was pretty much my dream to walk inside and be one with the jewelry.  The sales staff were all super friendly, offering us coffee or water, and giving us space to walk around and drool over everything.  Look toward the back of this shot - that is the manufacturing area - and yes, everything is made right there.  Our saleswoman said a tour was starting in about 30 minutes, so we decided to hang around for that.
The waiting area for the tour.  As it turned out, there was just Jeff and I and one other woman, so we got to see everything up close without having to jockey for position.  Our guide ended up being our saleswoman, and she was a hoot.  

Holly Yashi jewelry is known for its unique look - it's made of niobium metal that is dipped into a bath of electrically charged water that creates a permanent color on it.  We got to see how that happens on the tour, as well as many other ways that their designs are made.  It was fascinating to see how the jewelry comes together, beginning with Holly's sketched designs and ending with beautiful pieces of jewelry.
This is their custom-made water jet machine - it does the precise cuts of the metal that begins the jewelry process.  We saw thin sheets of metal with the designs cut, and a worker was popping each piece out, one by one.
Polishing the edges.
This is a master board, which shows each current piece and in what order everything goes - especially important for the bracelets and necklaces that have a lot of parts.
It gets pretty complicated!
She was setting stones, which created the part in the next picture.
Every part of every piece is done by hand.  I had no idea...I honestly thought this was fully automated.  Nope.  If you are wearing a Holly Yashi necklace, bracelet, or pair of earrings, it was created by the people you see in these pictures.
 
 
Making Pansy Post earrings - it was so cool to see the pieces come together and then see the same earrings for sale in the showroom.
There is a die for each jewelry design to use in the press.  They were hanging from a bicycle chain system which made it easy to spin and choose the specific die needed at any given moment.
Everyone who worked there was so gracious and took the time to show us how they worked their magic with whatever they happened to be making.

Here's the process of coloring the niobium metal via the electrical water bath:
This sheet tells her how high to turn the dial on the electric dealie (yes that's the technical term I'm sure) to get the desired color.  It was fascinating to watch happen and quite mesmerizing.
Shipping department.  If you purchase anything from their website, now you know where your package started out.
Holly wasn't there that day but Paul (Yashi) was, so we got to have a little chat with him - he's very energetic and enthusiastic about their jewelry-making process, as you might imagine.
Our tour guide - she and Jeff riffed back and forth and by the end of the tour had formed quite the bond.
Me with my little bag of goodies in front of the showroom and manufacturing studio.
Why yes, I had to wear one pair of earrings right away!

The tour was really interesting and I learned a lot - I have a new appreciation for how much craftsmanship goes into each piece of Holly Yashi jewelry now.  And while you know I was going to buy something or three, they did give a discount at the end of the tour, so I had even more fun shopping - plus I got a few Christmas gifts as well.
I chose pieces that I saw being made on our tour (or similar pieces).  I've worn them all quite a bit in the three months since our tour - some days it's hard to decide which pair to wear!

I found a short (about 4 minute) video on the Holly Yashi website that gives you a virtual tour and explains in a little more detail how their process works - click here if you would like to watch it.  And hey - if you ever find yourself in Arcata, be sure to stop by and take a tour in person!

18 comments:

  1. So neat!!! The top middle pair of earrings are fantastic!!! :-)

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    1. That middle pair was a new design, and I liked knowing that I saw how the color dipping process was used to create them. :)

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  2. I would love this tour. I'm super impressed that Jeff went with you as I feel like this is the sort of thing where Bobby would just say no. You picked some beautiful pieces!

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    1. Jeff usually finds something interesting about things that I want to do, which is nice. There was a lot of the mechanics behind how they create the pieces that kept his interest, plus like I said, he bonded with our tour guide, LOL.

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  3. What a fantastic experience! The jewelry is beautiful.

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  4. Wow! How cool! I love love love seeing how things like that are made. And how amazing that it's all made by hand! I love the pieces you picked out! I bet you get lots of compliments on them!

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    1. Thanks, I love them too - and yes, people have noticed them, which is cool. :)

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  5. I love the earrings on the bottom row. And the pendant with the tree on it earlier in the post. Really cool stuff.

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    1. I almost bought the tree earrings - being that we were in redwood country, it seemed appropriate. But as you can see, I had a lot picked out already...luckily for me, they have mail order! And the bottom earrings? I wear them all the time. :)

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  6. I love unique jewelry--it's one of the reasons I enjoy going to craft fairs! How pretty!

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    1. Same! I usually buy a pair of earrings when I travel, but they have to be made by a local craftsperson.

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  7. Cute cute earrings!!! I love handmade jewelry.

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  8. I never heard of the jewelry company, but I already went online and found their website after reading this. I am a bit of a jewelry nut. I like making my own jewelry, but their stuff is way beyond what I know how to make!

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    1. They certainly have a lot of intricate details down with what they are doing - it's really lovely, isn't it?

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  9. How cool! I love tours of factories, it really gives you a renewed sense of appreciation for the work that goes into everything.

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