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Shop Talk's new blog series 'Behind the Scenes' takes a peek into the craftsmanship and studios behind some of the city's most inspiring artisans and designers.

Local jeweler Whitney Stern has come a long way since her college study-abroad trip to South America, where she first discovered she wanted to be a designer: Her delicate pieces haves been featured in Lucky and O Magazine; she partnered with Stand Up to Cancer with a collection benefiting life-saving research; and her most recent Tiny Treasures line just launched in Nordstrom stores nationwide. Whew!

We chat with the designer about her studio space to find out what gets her creative energy flowing.

Shop Talk: What neighborhood is your studio in?
Stern: I have studio offices in Ballard and Georgetown and I feel really lucky because I am equally inspired by both locations for very different reasons. Georgetown has an industrial and community feel being surrounded by other local artists and craftsmen in Seattle. In Georgetown I work with my entire WS Jewelry team, so I am always accompanied by their positive energy and drive that is needed to help my business succeed. Ballard, on the other hand, offers a mix of old and new; the Puget Sound is close by so the smells and sights are unparalleled. I often spend time designing outdoors and being in nature. I am very grateful to have a home studio office in Ballard- it opens up my perspective. 

What is your earliest memory of designing?
I know the exact moment I started designing! I was in college and during my semester abroad in South America I spent time living with indigenous Chilean women artisans and public health workers.  They taught me how to create macramé and how to blow glass. It was a powerful time because I was inspired in every aspect of my life: professionally, personally and artistically. Each piece I created was unique and based on this ancient form of weaving. When I came back to the US, people would ask me if they could purchase the jewelry I was wearing; they started commissioning me to create pieces one at a time. I knew there was something to this and realized I wanted to be a true artist and designer at heart.

What do you do to get yourself in a creative or productive headspace when you're feeling stuck? 
I practice yoga or I dance. I also write. I laugh, spend time with friends, read a good book or take a walk to change my energy channel. Whenever I feel stuck, I take a deep breath and try to focus on creative energy other than designing or working within my head and hands. It really helps and normally brings me back to my center.

Black rutilated quartz diamond pear ring from Stern's Halo collection

Five things you can't work without:
: It makes me happy and moves my heart
NPR keeps my mind focused and keeps me informed
My dream board: It holds meaningful images, words, phrases and my mission/vision statements. It reminds me of my purpose and why I continue on this journey each and every day.
Sketch-pad & stencils: At any given moment when I have a new or good idea, I draw it right away, then I go back to the concept later with fresh eyes.
Natural light & fresh air keep me healthy and allow me to see exactly what I am doing, which often involves meticulous work with my hands. 

What is your favorite thing about your studio? 
The ambience. It is modern, clean, and clutter-free with white walls and dream boards of design concepts and art inspirations. I have a comfortable chair and work desk that feels like home. It is my ideal environment because of the natural light (we face southwest, which in Seattle is perfect). I also have a small balcony I use to take breaks and breath fresh air. I believe that part of working hard and being successful involves a gratitude practice and balance.

Where can we find your jewelry, and where would you like us to be able to find your jewelry in the future?
You can find my pieces at Nordstrom stores nationwide and online at It's very exciting to me because Nordstrom is a local company and I'm a local designer—it feels like the right fit. My collections are also at Henri Bendel on Fifth Ave in NYC and Fred Segal in Los Angeles. I hope to start selling to additional stores in 2013. Stay tuned!

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