Tia Samela Keobounpheng is no stranger to the world of modern design: she grew up with an architect father and earned a BA in Architecture from the University of Minnesota. With 15 years of design experience under her belt, it was natural for her to launch her own jewelry line – Silvercocoon – in 2007. Each piece is initially designed by Keobounpheng in AutoCAD and then transferred into wood or acrylic laser cuts. She then brings the pieces to her studio – adding materials like leather, wool and sterling silver – to hand-finish them. And the modern design influence shines through her work – the scale and level of refinement makes Silvercocoon Jewelry one of a kind.
Read more about Silvercocoon’s story in our exclusive Modern Midwest Q&A.
Modern Midwest: Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your backg round?
Tia Samela Keobounpheng: Growing-up with an architect father, I began absorbing modern design principles at an early age. I’ve spent most of my life exploring connections between art, design, craft and architecture. I graduated with a BA degree in Architecture in 2000 from the University of Minnesota and have over 15 years of work experience in the Minnesota design world.
MM: Tell us about your company.
TSK: Silvercocoon is comprised of me and my husband, Souliyahn. We have always treated Silvercocoon as a means to pursue creative projects across disciplines. Residential design, art installations, products, and graphic work blend into family life with our two young sons. We work collaboratively on some projects and pursue others alone. I launched the Silvercocoon Jewelry line in November 2007. It is my solo identity within our larger lifestyle brand.
Silvercocoon jewelry embodies the same valued principals of every day design.
“I believe in using your best set of dishes every day. I’m also a fan of comfortable shoes. Keeping these notions in mind when designing jewelry, my collection turns every day into a special occasion.”
MM: When/why was it born?
TSK: I cofounded Silvercocoon in 2001 with my husband as a means to work on creative projects across disciplines together and individually. I had finished school and wanted to have a little shop to sell the things that I made, along with other handmade items made by fellow artists. Instead of renting a store front, we bought a 1966 Safari Double Airstream camper to house seasonal sales of curated items. The first sale was in June 2001. The second was in October … after September 11th – which changed everything. Since that beginning we have taken the approach that Silvercocoon is a capsule for our creative projects. Our design approach encompasses everything we do, from how we garden to how we shovel and ultimately how we create and design. So, you could say that Silvercocoon is our life’s work. We believe in a living design that responds and enhances the daily life of people.
MM: What’s your creative process like?
TSK: My creative process has evolved over the years. As a maker-entrepreneur, I have increasingly been forced to shift my attention from designing new work to building a business and a brand. I still do all of my own photography, graphic design, website and promotional work, sales, shipping, customer service …. in addition to designing and most assembly of the actual product. The back and forth and shifting between skills keeps my creative muscles in shape, but in recent years, I have found my mind is most free and inclined to creativity when working with my hands.
In terms of production, I design all of my jewelry components in AutoCAD, which are then laser cut out of wood or acrylic by a local partner. Back in my studio, I then hand finish parts and assemble the jewelry using sterling silver/gold-filled components and incorporating leather and wool.
MM: What makes the Midwest, specifically Minnesota, special?
TSK: Having grown-up on the Iron Range and moving to Duluth at the age of 12 and then moving to Minneapolis for college, I have a broad appreciation for Minnesota – and a strong affinity to the north woods and the Great Lake Superior. I think there is a hardiness to Minnesotans that is truly unique. Each year, we survive extremely hot and humid summers before embracing extremely cold and snowy winters. We do more than simply endure the cold. I grew-up embracing the winter, waiting for it with bated breath, to be honest. Playing outside in the snow is just as important as swimming in the lake in the summer. The seasons allow us to enjoy each day for what it is, because it is bound to change. That brand of “living in the moment” should be called Midwest Yoga.
MM: What’s one thing a non-Minnesota native should know about the city?
TSK: Minneapolis was lucky enough to be have been planned by a visionary landscape architect. The Grand Rounds system makes every single part of the city a viable and valuable place to live through access to green space and equal access to lakes and waterways that could easily have been parsed-out to the highest bidder. This intention of equality is tied to our city’s history. We should never lose sight of this goal while pursuing actual equality for everyone in our city.
MM: Where do you get your inspiration?
TSK: Everyday life inspires me. The idea that design can improve people’s lives motivates me. The year I spent in Finland as an AFS exchange student as a teen, illustrated for me the power of making good design accessible to everyone. Companies like Fiskars, Nokia, Marimekko, Hackman, Arabia, and Iittala make products that are essentially standard issue. I used the same design of silverware at home, at my friend’s house, at school, and in restaurants. Everybody gets the good stuff, which means even the most mundane tasks are celebrated and enhanced by beautiful and thoughtful details. I translate those lessons into my mission to inspire real women of all ages to celebrate themselves daily. Constantly, women are bombarded with images that suggest how they should look. I want my jewelry to impact how they FEEL – building a greater confidence and wellness that is not generated by others, but instead fueled from within.
MM: What’s something new – or challenging – that you’re working on?
TSK: For the past 9 months I have been in the “dating” phase of bringing in an associate/partner to help me grow my jewelry business. This has meant opening up all of the little idiosyncrasies of my process and making room for more strategic methods that allow for expansion. It is both exhilarating and terrifying to open myself up in this way, as an entrepreneur who is used to acting instinctively and answering only to me. Together we are seeing Silvercocoon Jewelry with fresh eyes – making more calculated decisions based on a phased schedule, better managing expectations of customers and retailers, and exploring new opportunities starting with the strategic launch of the new Gold Collection and a quick-ship Holiday Capsule Collection that allows customers to place online orders later into the season.
MM: Any fun facts about the brand or making process that you’d like to share?
TSK: Silvercocoon is named after our 1966 Safari-double Airstream camper. Purchased in 2001 in Duluth, MN to house the first Silvercocoon sales. (Tia curated 10+ artists for two sales – one before & one after September 11th) The airstream remains the mascot (and seasonal office) for Silvercocoon.
Shop a variety of Silvercocoon Jewelry’s modern-design inspired pieces at Modern Midwest’s first-ever “Modern Market” in Minneapolis’ North Loop. In addition to Silvercocoon Jewelry, a carefully curated selection of local makers will showcase their goods at Modern Market – all of which embody the Midwest’s distinct take on modern living. Enjoy local food and drink, live music and art while supporting the Minneapolis maker community!
Thursday, December 3, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Fast Horse, 240 9th Ave N, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401
GET IN ON THE ACTION!
$10 in advance / $20 day of