Welcome to the second edition of our Artist Interview series. We send the same interview questions to each of our featured artists as an optional part of their feature and each artist gets to choose which questions they answer. Our aim for this project to uplift community and highlight the people behind the work. If you know a little bit about the person who made your new jewelry, we believe it can become a little bit more precious.
Lisa Maita and Kelli Mercado are Sisterfriends with over a decade's experience each in the jewelry industry and fashion/retail industry. You can read their bio here. They are part of our October-December 2022 artist rotation.
Interview questions written by Madison Hirsch.
What’s your favorite metal to work with? Why?
We love working with yellow gold. It has a lot to do with growing up and seeing our elders rocking it in an era where it was so abundant. Reason 2 is the value and the lack of upkeep with actual gold. They’re pieces that will last you the rest of your life and it’s worth saving up for.
When and how did you start making jewelry?
Lisa grew up here in Philly and attended Hallahan, an all girls Catholic School in Center City. One of the nuns, Sister Francis, would help girls find after-school jobs and got her a job as a delivery person with D’Antonio & Klein on Jewelers Row in 2004. Her boss John, one of the top jewelers on the street, saw Lisa’s art portfolio and liked it. He took her on as a runner and would give her side projects when she had free time. The rest, as they say, is history.
Sisterfriend came to be when Kelli wanted to design a custom alien signet ring made by Lisa. When they realized once they got the mold other people might be interested, they very organically started creating a collection together that was based on their childhood loves of minis, food, and cute items!
Why did you keep making jewelry?
Lisa : Best part about working in a jewelry repair/store is that you always see something new. It could be a rare vintage elephant hair ring or a 10ct yellow diamond that needs to be sized. It’s never boring and you never stop learning.
How did you come up with your brand name/alias?
Sisterfriend is exactly us. We had a laundry list of other names but when we thought about our friendship through the years, it made total sense the second we threw it up. A Sisterfriend to us is that homie in your life who is family, there’s an unspoken closeness and understanding in our friendship that really translate to how we work together as a brand.
What do you hope people will take away from seeing your work? What do you hope people will take away from wearing your work?
We’ve always loved miniatures and every time we design something we’re laughing at the thought of whatever it is being made of solid gold… like a corn dog. We hope people laugh along with us. We also hope that they understand that we value quality and heritage pieces, which is why we primarily work in solid gold. You can still have something adorable and have it last forever :)
Do you like cooking? (if you do) What’s your go-to meal right now?
Lisa: I love to cook!! At the moment I’m watching Cooking with Dog, a Japanese YouTube show where Francis, the host also, the dog, makes meals with his human who has no name. My newest culinary triumph is that I made the perfect omurice shape :)
Kelli: I honestly haven’t been cooking a ton and eat pretty boring simple meals at home, but one thing I really like making and teaching other people to make is Spam musubi :) I like using my little musubi mold and making perfect sushi rice. And also proving that Spam is yum as hell.
Tell us about your family! Born or chosen, live with them or not, human or furry. How do they affect your bench practice or business decisions?
We’re both from really loud families, LOL. Lisa is half Filipino half Italian and Kelli is Filipino on both sides. It’s a major part of what bonded us initially; our cultures are all about getting everyone together for a meal, shoving a huge group into a tiny room and laughing and eating together. Our designs are heavily influenced by our shared culture.
Favorite things to listen to while you work: (be specific! I want audio books, podcasts, artists, albums, songs, and/or dj’s)
Kelli: my day job is as a stills stylist and I often play DJ in the photo studio I work in. I can’t stop listening to Hum right now but will just as quickly switch the vibe to an early 2000s dance club mix. Me + U by Cassie is the hottest song ever written and I will punish everyone with it forever. Also anything that rips for karaoke.
Lisa: I’m at the bench all day trying not to spell anything wrong SO I always opt for chill vibes to help me concentrate:
Air, Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Brian Ferry, Dire Straits, Sade.
When I need to wake up I’ll put the Descendants on LOL.
*At Tshatshke, we aim to uplift jewelers who align with one or more of our values of holistic sustainability as we define it to relate to the planet, the economy, social issues, community building, and craftsmanship. In what ways do you hope to uphold an ideal of holistic sustainability within your practice and your business?
As a brand creating new things it’s always tricky to really call yourself truly “waste-free”, but our process really is sustainable to its core. Everything we create is made to order, we don’t pump out things just for the sake of it. We really try to advocate for investing in solid gold so that what we make is with you forever, and can be handed down for decades or recycled. Creating pieces that last a lifetime instead of mass producing lesser quality items is a huge value for us.
Check out the Sisterfriend Jewelry website!