While some of us may spend years trying to figure out our passions in life, Rahya Blackwell quickly found hers, and has been pursuing it ever since.
With artistic parents and the enriching New Orleans culture as her backdrop, Rahya grew up living and breathing creativity and design. “I truly have so many incredible artist mentors in my life,” she states below.
After studying metals and jewelry, Rahya started her namesake jewelry design business just before graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design. Her collection is clean, simple and has a modern (and gorgeous) aesthetic inspired by nature and organic form.
Drawn to the creative community here in Austin, Rahya recently made the move to the city where she continues to design and produce her line in her Travis Heights home studio. “Sharing contacts, skills and knowledge is so important to me as an artist. The Austin art community encompasses this idea.”
Below, she describes her journey, Austin creatives, and her top three tips for entrepreneurs.
Tell me about your background. Why did you start your jewelry line?
Growing up I was always a creator and very artistic. I constantly took things apart, either to understand how they were made or to use their parts for art projects. I had an intense attraction towards small pieces and putting intricate things together. My house growing up was creative on an industrial level. My mom is an architect, and my dad a gifted builder who’s specialty is furniture. I made jewelry ever since I can remember. Starting in middle school, I sold my beaded-wire wrapped jewelry to friends mom’s and at a couple local stores in New Orleans. The making and selling just never stopped evolving. I eventually I started my jewelry business just before graduating the Metals and Jewelry BFA program at Savannah College of Art and Design.
Is Rahya Jewelry Design currently your full time job or is it a side hustle?
Slow and steady wins the race, right? Rahya Jewelry Design is a side hustle for me currently, with supplements from anything to custom jewelry, CAD drawings for companies and graphic design work.
What has been the most unexpected part about having your own business?
Growing up being heavily involved in my parent’s corporation, I always had a real sense of what it took to start and run a business from the ground up. There is a huge mental switch between being able to clock in and out of employment, and being the actual business itself. As a business owner, you ARE the business and need to be prepared at every single hour of the day. The most unexpected part about starting my own business is how much I enjoy that control. It can be incredibly scary, but also so exciting. The level of your success is only because of you; as are your failures. I think that’s an incredible power, that surprisingly I very much cherish and enjoy.
What do you like about the creative community in Austin?
I truly have so many incredible artist mentors in my life. One of the most important things I learned is that there is always enough love to go around for everyone. Sharing contacts, skills and knowledge is so important to me as an artist. The Austin art community encompasses this idea. Nearly everyday I meet new artists that are so generous and open. Having my home studio in Travis Heights seemed to be set in the stars for me; making so many artist friends in the neighborhood really makes me feel like I am apart of a community that cares about growing and learning together.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Natural, organic forms are almost what always inspire my designs. I have a large collection of found objects of pods, leaves, shells; anything that speaks to me I take home and save for a sketch. I revisit the same shapes often, but I find endless forms in the reflections and angles.
What advice would you give someone who is looking to turn their passion into a business?
I have a few! First: Be prepared to commit to the work. I don’t have children, but I imagine it is a lot like having a newborn. Late nights, constant nurturing, no breaks.
Second: Get yourself in a space that you feel inspired and love being in. For me, this is a clean space full of natural light. Creative space can be a sanctuary; you must feel safe to unleash your deepest creativity and best work. If you’re in a space that does not let your mind create openly, that can lead to negative energy that may become infectious in every aspect of your business. This might manifest into missed business connections, quality of life and overall confidence in yourself and your work.
“You have to believe in yourself and your work. That’s what will make you YOU, and your business stronger and more unique.”
Third and last: Most importantly, maintain a strong inner dialogue with yourself. Keep your vision on track, because ultimately your idea is what will “separate the boys from the men.” It can be easy to create a business based solely on the demand of the consumer or suggested changes from others, but asking yourself, “Would I buy this? Would I wear this?” really, really helps. Hopefully you will have support and creatives on your journey to success to aid you, but keeping your vision on track is incredibly important. You have to believe in yourself and your work. That’s what will make you YOU, and your business stronger and more unique.
Favorite thing to do to unwind after a stressful week?
I love to go for long walks and listen to old episodes of Car Talk! I imagine I probably look a little nuts laughing to myself. Walking clears my head and makes me feel really connected to the city of Austin. The Hike and Bike Trail downtown along the lake is incredible. I feel so fortunate everyday that I live in such an incredible city.
How do you see your business growing over the next five years?
The idea of what my business and collection will look like in the next five years is so exciting! My goal is to establish a stronger wholesale presence with a curated list of retailers, which Austin will be a key component of. A strong element of my work is minimalism. This really translates into everything I do. Quality over quantity — keep it simple and keep it clean. My plan is continuing to make exceptionally well designed jewelry and grow relationships with a few key retailers that share the same values.
Images courtesy of Rahya Jewelry Design.