Alumna Emi Grannis: Crafting a Successful Small Business

headshot of Emi GrannisEmi Grannis in her studioView slideshow 

Emi Grannis (Jewelry / Metal Arts 2013) has been fascinated by miniatures since she was a small child.

“My mom still tells me stories about how she’d sit me down with paper and pencil and when she’d return, I’d be drawing these little circles that filled the whole page,” says Grannis.

Her attention to shape and detail continued throughout her education, but when it came time to choose a college and program, Grannis said she still felt a bit lost. Despite her stirring desire to create, she wasn’t sure how her talents could lend themselves to an art practice, or what that practice could really be.

“I was originally at another school and it was fine, but it was a general arts education and I realized that if I stayed there for four years, I’d graduate with no tangible skills. All my life I’ve been interested in making and I’ve always wanted to have an actual skill with my hands.

“I remember looking at CCA when I was in high school and thinking that it was a perfect fit, being craft-based. So, I applied and got in with a merit scholarship, which was awesome!”

Grannis took no time to immerse herself in a variety of programs to find her calling. She says that it was the support of the Jewelry / Metal Arts “mother hen” Marilyn da Silva along with creative minds Curtis Arima, “mad scientist” David Cole, and Studio Manager Tony Esola that secured her as a jewelry maker.

“I got there and I still didn’t know what I was going to do, so I took a smattering of classes to see what I was interested in. When I took Jewelry / Metal Arts, it just immediately felt like home. Everyone was so welcoming. I fell in love with it and in retrospect, it makes perfect sense for me as an artist. It feels like it fits with my personality,” says Grannis.

“I think if you know you’re a creative person -- whatever form makes you happy. CCA is the perfect place to go and cultivate that.”

Getting Into Business

About two years ago, Grannis took a leap and started her own small business, specializing in uniquely dainty jewelry carefully crafted from gold and silver. Her signature miniature shapes adorn rings and dangle on necklaces and earrings -- she also plans to launch a line for men soon.

Her designs are wildly popular among her thousands of followers on Instagram and Pinterest; her popularity landed her a feature on Design*Sponge. She says the decision to start her own business felt natural, but it began to thrive due to a fear of failure, a motivation she still uses to her advantage.

“[Working for someone else] is more stable work -- you don’t have to be the decision maker, but I know my personality well enough and I knew I’d never go off on my own. I knew this might be scary and not work, but if I have no other source of income I’ll force myself to make it work!” says Grannis.

Love of Design & Designing for Love

“I’m a maker more than a designer,” Grannis insists, while describing her process.

“I’m very material and process based . . . I have a lot of pretty things on my desk and I just play with those and think about what if it was cut this way or arranged that way. I’ll rearrange jewels on paper or stick a jewel on my finger with putty.”

One particular piece by Grannis -- a brooch made from a small piece of driftwood and fashioned with tiny metal mushroomlike growths -- made its way into Metamorphosis: The Transformation of Everyday Objects at the Museum of Craft and Design in 2014.

Curated by David Cole, Grannis says the experience was one of the highlights of her career thus far. The piece itself was a perfect representation of her craft philosophy.

“I’m always preparing to make something, but never designing it  . . . I get lost in the details in nature. That’s where my inspiration comes from. I’m so caught up in the beauty of how nature arranges itself and how things fall into place -- the mathematics of nature. I try to replicate what nature already does.”

Like nature, Grannis also strives for precious, sustainable, and unique creations. One of her custom services calls for the families of engaged couples to send her heirloom metals, which she melds together to create wedding bands.

“I just love the idea of creating something that’s precious and that can be held onto. I put a lot of care and time and emotion into every piece that I make, and I love that someone might treasure it and pass it through their family,” says Grannis.