Sh-i Jewelry: The Minimalist Jewelry Brand You Should Know about in St. Louis
Elisha Wrighton, the St. Louis-based designer behind Sh-i Jewelry, is a true minimalist at heart. Wrighton has curated a sleek-yet-quirky design sensibility that is adamantly her own, weaving organic and geometric forms in her jewelry. When we grabbed a coffee with Wrighton, she paired a structured cream jumpsuit with the brass-toned creations dangling from her ears, two polished scalene triangles with strands of snaking metal that seemed to float and flutter as she spoke.
Wrighton made quite a few pit stops before settling in St. Louis six years ago—born and raised on the island of Guam, she then moved to the Tacoma area of Washington state; then Honolulu, Hawaii; then back to Seattle and finally the Midwest. We chatted with the designer about her brand, her artistic process and what it’s like to forge her own space in the St. Louis creative scene.
Tell me a little about you. How did you get started designing and creating jewelry?
I have always been a creative—before jewelry, I was a hairdresser who painted and made art on the side. One of my mentors made jewelry, and I was always curious about it. I moved to Seattle, got married and had kids, and I started sensing that the hair industry wasn’t the right fit for me. There’s a deep-rooted history behind jewelry that I appreciate, the adornment aspect. As I learned the ropes of being a parent, I began to feel that I needed something of my own, so I took a metalsmithing class.
How did your current style and brand develop? I love how minimalist and elegant each piece is, like a miniature work of art in itself. They stand on their own and work together beautifully.
Shi Jewelry as a brand was born three years ago, but I’ve been making jewelry for five years. I love to dabble; not everything I create makes it into the brand. At my core, I’m a minimalist. I like things to look classic and timeless but still be very playful. I include organic shapes that will make people stop and ask, “Is that a baby fetus, or …?” I want the jewelry to make you feel something—soft, hard, or a mix of both. If the piece is statement-y, then it dresses up a simple white or black outfit. If I’m wearing something elaborate, then I complement it with a minimalist piece from the collection.
I also like to process the metals as little as possible—they come to me in sheets, and I don’t do much in the way of notches and textures, for example. I love to maintain the purity of the materials. I work with sterling silver and brass, and occasionally I’ll work with gold fill. Currently, I’m obsessed with bronze. I like its hardness. Silver is soft, but I love its antiseptic nature and the way it almost absorbs your body’s oils.
I’m curious about the adornment aspect of jewelry that you mentioned. What interests you about that element?
Everybody is different, so jewelry is a form of self-expression. I wear jewelry because I like to look down at my hand and notice a piece and how it interacts with my body. When you look in the mirror, jewelry draws attention to the subtle curves of your neck or the delicacy of your wrists, accentuating what is naturally there.
For me, form and function have to go together. I’m really into mobile pieces at the moment, but if a piece cuts into my cheek, it won’t work. I’m becoming more aware of what I can execute. Jewelry must look good, but it should also feel good.
Jewelry design has so many elements—engineering, architecture, fashion and design, knowledge of materials; in which do you find the most joy or passion?
I find satisfaction in finishing a piece. There’s a pleasure that’s almost meditative in polishing away the final scratches. I remember each mark that I left. Working with handmade jewelry, you become really intimate with the piece. I am known to, in the beginning stages, wear a piece for days on end and never sell it because I’ve become so attached.
Being a creative entrepreneur can present some challenges. How do you keep creating and moving forward? How do you cope with any obstacles that might arise?
I see art. Sometimes I seclude myself; I step back and get to know myself a little bit. Being cut off helps me gain perspective and creativity again. I also find inspiration in the creative community in St. Louis. Anni from Mesa Home whips me into shape when I’m feeling anxious about my designs. In the beginning, it was hard for me to put myself out there. She’s my reminder to keep striving to be better, but also not to be so self-conscious.
What’s your vision for Sh-i Jewelry going forward?
I’m excited to participate in more local markets and popups, which is on the map, like May’s Night Market. I am currently working on my lookbook—that’s my baby right now. I’m refining and solidifying my brand, aiming to get my pieces into more local businesses. I want to stay close to St. Louis at first. The community is so giving here. I’m looking forward to more collaborations.