I think the dust has finally settled from my studio move. I still catch myself gazing around the shop in a bit of awe that it’s mine. It still feels like a space I dreamed up.
As I unpacked each box and found a new home for every tool, I wound up thinking about the shop transitions that came before. How could this be my fourth studio in fewer than 10 years?
The truth is, I started very small. My workspace was not glamorous. But every time I packed up shop, the new place felt like just enough. Each one seemed to reflect the stage of business I was in. From a free room with no lights or running water to my shared studio in downtown SF, each one felt like the right sized stepping stone at the time.
I learned that a photogenic studio doesn’t matter. It’s the art you make there that moves you forward. So it’s worth taking a moment to look back on where it began.
Wayne State University, Detroit, 2005-2008
Like most students, I spent my college years working from the studio at my university. During this time I was making larger scale sculpture and art jewelry (like you do, when you’re in a metals program). I did a lot of fold forming, chasing and repoussé. It was a bit unrecognizable from the work I do today.
After college I found myself searching for some footing in the jewelry industry. I was working at a jewelry store all week and moonlighting nights and weekends as a waitress. On the rare occasion I found time to work at home, it was from a homemade bench in the corner of my living room. My father and I used plans from “The Complete Metalsmith” to build this bench and used a scrap of kitchen counter from my childhood home as the benchtop. It’s still in my workshop today.
Hayes Street, NOPA, San Francisco, 2010-2011
I developed my first jewelry collection from a cold basement studio. I had moved to San Francisco the year before and answered an ad for an apartment near Golden Gate Park. It had a small room in the basement that my roommate, a painter, had the landlord’s blessing to use as an art studio. She generously offered to share the space with me too.
It had no running water. No overhead lights. And no heat — despite what many tourists think about "sunny San Francisco", the fog we're notorious for makes things quite cold. You may think these conditions were unbearable, but at the time, it was perfect. I was young! I was scrappy! I was just happy to be working with my hands.
By day, I worked full time at a jewelry gallery. I spent my nights and days off tinkering here. This is where the Fragments collection was born. It’s where I learned the ins-and-outs of Etsy and struggled to learn about product photography.
A few local stores offered to carry my collection, and my jewelry business was off and running.
Activspace, Mission District San Francisco, 2012-2014
I sold my first diamond ring while hovering over my apartment’s kitchen island. We met there because I felt embarrassed for this client to see my dark and dingy shop. I decided it was time to make the leap to a studio worthy of selling fine jewelry. I landed a nice little spot with a window and running water in the Mission District.
From this building, known as Activspace, I spent the following year weaning off of my job at the gallery into focusing solely on my jewelry business. I grew my production capacity and picked up a few more local galleries. I got married. I attended the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center and fleshed out a business plan.
It was hard being self-employed, but things were looking promising. I went out of my way to connect with my local jewelry community because it was sinking in how lonely running a small business would be. It was during this time I met talented friends, like Sharon Zimmerman, Tura Sugden, Sam Woehrmann and Marja of MGG Studio.
Goldlight, Downtown San Francisco 2014-2018
Many of you know me best from my years at Goldlight Studio. In 2014 Sharon Zimmerman and her friend Luana Coonen invited me to join them in establishing a shared studio in San Francisco. We built out and shared our infamous spot in downtown for 2 years before Luana moved out and Christy Natsumi moved in. We stayed together for 3 additional years of studio bliss. We talked about the risks and reward of sharing a creative space with DesignSponge in 2017.
During my 5 years at Goldlight, I went through surges of growth. I hired my first, and then second employee. I reached new galleries and participated in my first industry trade shows. I had a ring featured in the New York Times. And I designed more custom pieces for local clients than I ever imagined!
The community and accountability that come from 5 years in a shared studio cannot be understated. It helped me grow as a designer and navigate the waters of being a young business owner in a buttoned-up industry. But, like the Peregrine Falcon chicks of UC Berkeley’s Clock Tower (I became an avid birder during these years, too) I reached my time to leave the nest.
Carleton Studios, Berkeley, 2019-Present
I wrote about my decision to move and how I found my Berkeley Studio earlier this year. Now that I’m a few months in, I can say how good this change has been for me.
Since the move I have welcomed a new employee, settled into this new and larger space, and begun to wrap my mind around this fresh start and new routines. The studio is bright & airy, and I find myself making excuses to visit it on my days off — that’s how much I love it.
The new shop features more space for new tools, a dedicated photography corner, abundant natural light and plenty of workbenches. One of my favorite spots is my office, with a comfy client table (no more selling diamonds from my kitchen) and dedicated packing & shipping area for our many outgoing packages. I’m overjoyed at how my plant collection loves it here too.
From here, I intend to grow my website business and to partner with more retail stores, so you can shop for Corey Egan jewelry in your home town. Interested in carrying my jewelry or seeing it in a shop near you? Contact me, I’d love to hear about it.