Our stockist series continues with Leah and Billy, owners and designers of Baleen Jewelry in Seattle, Washington. This amazing duo started Baleen in 2013 when they noticed the lack of quality, US-made jewelry at an affordable price. Two years later, they opened their first storefront/studio in the Seattle neighborhood where they live. With an eye for versatile design, Leah and Billy work together to create clean, modern pieces that work with just about anything. We hope you love learning more about these two as much as we did!
When did you first think of opening Baleen, and is it what you expected it to be?
We opened our shop/studio 2 years ago, after working out of our house for a couple years. Opening it was a big leap but totally what we needed to do to stay sane and grow our business. We needed to hire production helpers and couldn't do that in our house. When we first moved into our studio/shop (both are in the same space, divided by a partition) we thought it was so big! Now we have maxed that space out and are looking for a larger one to move into next year. Having the shop has been a wonderful experience - in a way it was an experiment. We really only need a production studio, but when we found this space we knew it could also be a great storefront. Now customers come from all over to visit, and it feels so gratifying and is so lovely to meet fans of our work. We couldn't imagine not having it now :)
What were you doing before you opened Baleen, and how did your journey lead to the shop?
Before we started Baleen, Leah was running her swimwear line, and Billy was running his men's jewelry and leather goods line. After operating these two companies side by side and being each other’s' sounding boards, we decided to join forces and start a company that had a strong philosophy. We wanted to offer great design at an affordable price. We love seeing people wear our pieces and knowing that it's affordable makes it so much more gratifying.
Why gets you excited about jewelry?
Jewelry is such a great way to express your personal style and add an eye-catching layer to your wardrobe. A good piece can really transform a look and boost your confidence.
Why is Seattle the right home for Baleen?
Seattle is where we live, and we love this city. We have a very supportive community of designers, artists, and a lot of people doing creative and entrepreneurial things. We love supporting other designers in our shop and feel so much love and support from all the shops in the Seattle and PNW area that stock Baleen.
How do you create your pieces/know when you’ve made something worth showcasing?
Usually we hone an idea or concept until it just feels "Baleen." That includes the look, production requirements, and final price point. Sometimes we have to scratch an idea simply due to cost of manufacturing - as we want our pieces to be as accessible and affordable as possible.
What do you hope people feel/experience when they shop at your store?
We hope they feel the love and care we put into making it a special place and enjoy the carefully curated selection of goods that are true to our philosophy of good design for everyone.
What encouragement/warning would you give to someone opening their own shop or small business?
We would encourage them to follow their gut and to not be afraid to take a leap of faith. It's never the "perfect" time to start your own business, and it's never easy. If you're afraid of working your butt off, don't do it.
What is your favorite activity when you turn off your shop owner switch?
Anything having to do with being in or near a body of water! In Seattle (during the summer) we swim and stand up paddle board (SUP) every chance we get. We also spend a lot of time in Hawaii and love the beach.
What time in history do you most love to get lost in?
Probably the 90s - love the music from those days :)
What is your most memorable vacation, and what details make it so special?
We recently went to Bali for our Honeymoon. We spent almost three weeks there and travelled all over the island. It is such a vibrant and interesting place, full of mystery and beauty.
What would you do if you had a full day off and could do anything/go anywhere?
We would go to our favorite beach on Maui, then get drinks and dinner. Simple pleasures.
What are the top three must-see/must/do activities in your city?
In the summer (the best and only time to visit) - get out on the water somehow (rent a boat, a SUP, a kayak, anything), eat fresh oysters/crab/salmon, go to one of many micro-breweries in our Ballard neighborhood and have a pint.
What small actions/practices make a big different in your day?
Taking a break for lunch (which sometimes seems impossible), getting exercise/working out, and spending time with our cats.
What else should we know about you?
We have 2 cats, a fuzzy Maine Coon named Cheets and a black Siamese named Bones.