Artist in Profile: Brooke Seraphine
A blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby with cherry popsicle stains on his cheeks pulls at his mama’s knees. His mama, Brooke Seraphine — as mother to a 4-year-old and 1-year-old — always has a child either in her periphery or directly in focus, even as she fights to keep her burgeoning jewelry line a prority, too.
All along Seraphine has known just how she wanted it to go. The 35-yearold jewelry designer had scarcely sold one of her now-signature pyrite necklaces before launching her website and shooting an enchanting lookbook for her line, Seraphine Design. A former art teacher and model whose studio overlooks her Shelby Bottoms backyard, she appeared to be putting the cart before the horse. Her friends were perplexed when she didn’t assemble an Etsy shop or sign up for a craft fair booth. She didn’t mark her pieces down, instead pricing them to make their creation worth her while. But before her brand was a high-end brand, or even a brand at all, she envisioned it this way: wanting to build an exciting and lucrative business rather than consigning her talent to a craft or a hobby.
Of how to achieve that much-desired work-life balance, Seraphine says, “It’s freaking impossible!” She guffaws and throws her hands in the air, her electric- green eyes and tawny skin testaments to her earlier life as a model. But even with all the time she now devotes to diapering bottoms and doling out hugs and kisses, Seraphine’s plan is working. Among many thrilling moments, Holly Williams commissioned her to design a pyrite necklace as a present for Gwyneth Paltrow’s 40th birthday; she sold several pieces to a very enthusiastic Régine Chassagne of Arcade Fire; and not long ago she was whisked backstage to take a custom order from Kristen Bell, still in hair and makeup hours before her hosting gig at the CMT Music Awards. Hayden Panettiere and Kellie Pickler have also been customers, along with many other Nashville tastemakers, as word of mouth has been a faithful friend to the Seraphine Design brand. Seraphine herself has gotten some attention, too, for having had the foresight to handpick young model Binx Walton to wear her collection in the first lookbook, mere seconds before Walton hit the big time and escaped Nashville to grace Vogue covers and Chanel ads.
Seraphine Design can now be found in eight boutiques in five states and with three online retailers. To get into these swanky shops — Marissa Collections in Naples, Fla.; Tootsies and B.D. Jeffries in Atlanta, Ga.; Cicada in Oxford, Miss.; and Aquarius in San Antonio, Texas; as well as Emmaline in Franklin and Emerson Grace and The Trunk here in Nashville — she walked into each individually, just a girl with a lookbook, some necklaces and bracelets, and exactly enough confidence to pull the whole thing off.
Each of the Seraphine Design pieces is comprised of two chunky natural stones (one is almost always raw pyrite), anchored to a horseshoe-shaped wire. The stones don’t just look great, they feel great; slung across the collarbone, there’s a substance and presence about these one-of-a-kind pieces, designed to spruce up everything from ball gowns to tank tops. In January, Seraphine will take her collection to New York for the prestigious ENK Accessorie Circuit exhibition. In some ways, her pieces will be returning home.
Though Seraphine Design was launched in January 2012, the inspiration for it was born a few years before Seraphine was. The necklace that started it all was crafted during the 1970s, rising from the glitter and grit of Manhattan’s Studio 54 era, during which time Seraphine’s maternal uncle, the late Richard Glassen, worked and played as a successful jewelry designer and model. Decades later one of his necklaces — featured prominently in an Estée Lauder skincare ad that ran in Vogue — would become the prototype for his niece’s jewelry line. After college, Seraphine was gifted the necklace by her mother. When she wore it to parties, she would amass a stunning number of compliments.
“The necklace was special, something that always spoke to me,” says Seraphine. “After my daughter was born, I started tinkering with designs from home, and that was one thing I kept going back to. My uncle’s design was gorgeous, and it was simple. I envisioned making it a little bit more modern — a little chunkier. I started from there.” Referring to the necklace as a loose template, Seraphine sought out sources for pyrite and quartz, her mainstay materials even today. An Internet search led her to “the mother lode of pyrite sources” — a mine in Peru, from which she continues to source many of her stones. Next, she had to learn how to pull her designs out of her imagination.
“I signed up for a jewelry class at Sarratt, but I came with an agenda,” says Seraphine. “I asked the instructor if she could help me figure out how to recreate my uncle’s necklace. We started by putting the stones I’d collected underwater and drilling into them. When I came home, I set up a plywood table to work on, and I went through drill bit after drill bit. I had water splattering all over the walls. It was a total mess.”
By now Seraphine has invested in a prefabricated studio/designated happy place and all the tools she needs to complete her pieces from home. She works more efficiently and independently now, but the process of creating one of her pieces is still time and labor intensive. “I have a million designs in my head,” says Seraphine. “As a mom, it’s just a matter of getting the time to make the most of out of this opportunity I’ve been given. It’s worth the effort, though. I love seeing my pieces on people as they pass by. I love being able to run a business and to have my own path in life that I’ve created. It is mine alone.”