Designer Profile: Tracee Nichols
Tracee Nichols is a fast-growing jewelry company. You have probably already seen the signature Roman necklace pendant being worn on red carpets and on the covers of magazines. This designer certainly caught our attention, so we sat down with her to get to know more about her and her jewelry line. With a youthful exuberance and an artistic eye, she’s on the rise to becoming a household name amongst jewelry and fashion circles. She has a new collection Power of Love debuting this month. She gives Rogue some insight into her designs.
Tell me about your background. Have you always been interested in jewelry design?
Yes! Ever since I was 7 years old and I helped my grandma at the local church thrift store, that's where it all began. I was in charge of the jewelry counter. I remember picking up these delicate pieces that sparkled in my tiny hand and I was mesmerized. At 9 I was traveling with my aunt across the Midwest where she collected antiques and I collected vintage jewelry. We did this over several summers and I still have that collection today.
As I continued into my adulthood I started buying and selling vintage jewelry and I had a company called, Classic Vintage Treasures. I’ve always enjoyed the craft of finding vintage jewelry, but I felt it was time I started to make that transition from buyer to designer. That’s when I decided to start my line.
With a degree in Architectural design, it actually was very natural for me to draw my designs, since I already was used to drawing at such a small scale and with great detail.
Your family has a background in the arts, from what I understand. Your grandfather was a well-known sculptor? And your dad is an accomplished sculptor himself, right? Did that influence you as an artist, growing up around artists and their work?
They both absolutely influenced me. My grandfather who was a well-known sculptor in Philadelphia and my father who has been sculpting in his studio since I was a little girl, were two very important people in my path as an artist. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed when I was 2 but his work was all over my house growing up and also my family acquired his Art Studio in Pennsylvania, which we still have. My father currently sculpts in this studio and it’s a pretty amazing space that is way out in the country nestled in the woods. Being around this environment growing up, it has made me look at what is in front of me differently; my whole life I have studied shapes. Whether I am driving on a scenic route in the car looking at the hills and mountains, or looking at an ornamental detail on a doorknob, or even the grocery store, I am constantly looking at how things connect with each other. I design in my head constantly.
What inspired you to become a designer? With an education in Architecture and having worked a long time in the Hollywood business, what made you decide to strike out on your own and do this? It takes a lot of courage to walk away from everything and start over.
My inspiration to become a designer was from my father. He always validated my art. Whether good or bad, he always thought it was a masterpiece. I actually started my design path as a fashion designer. I was enrolled in college for fashion and was in my first semester and discovered I had to take sewing classes. I really did not like to sew, I just wanted to draw and design. I just was not good at sewing and when my fabric went flying off the sewing machine in class and was flung across to the other side of the room, I quit that day. A teacher saw me on break and said, you should try architecture if you like to draw and that's what I did. I would draw into the wee hours of the night, some nights staying up all night and I just loved every moment. For me, architecture and jewelry design connect perfectly. It was an easy transition once I realized that they are actually related in a way. Fine detailed miniature drawings were something I was used to in architecture and that translated into my jewelry design.
As far as taking the leap, yeah, I was pretty nervous. That's why my first piece represents Courage! I took the leap because I felt I was getting too "comfortable" with life. Everything was on automatic, life was “good” and I wasn't challenging myself and I wasn't doing my art. I decided one day, that wasn't good enough. I also had this preconceived idea that everyone had to like my design or I wouldn't succeed. Once I got over that, things moved quickly for me.
Was there a specific moment, when you knew that you were doing the right thing? I mean, when you knew that all the effort, time and energy was worth it?
Yes! When a store called me and bought pieces. It was no longer friends and family buying, but stores calling and total strangers buying from my website. That felt really good. Not to say that I didn't love my friends and family buying, as they were the ones who truly helped me to get started and get my name out there and they still continue to do so. I have awesome friends.
Your signature piece, The Roman, has a story behind it. Can you tell me about it? What does it represent?
In my collection of vintage jewelry, I came across a Roman soldier. I gravitated towards it and it had a very strong, powerful look. I knew I could take this image, redesign it and add stones to it to keep it powerful yet delicate.
This was my first design and this piece was the decision maker for me to go out on my own and start my own jewelry line. I needed courage, I needed the power behind that Roman to get me through a lot of what was going on around me to actually push through and keep at it as a designer. So, that’s when I realized that this Roman collection had a message and that message is Courage.
The Romans were courageous in their own right and they built an empire that will never be forgotten. We all have that courage within us. I see this quality every day in people. I see moms inspiring their children to do good things. I see athletes inspiring the world by showing people that they can push harder and do more than we think possible. I see the neighbor next door taking care of an ill family member. I see friends encouraging their friends to get through difficult situations. I see some of the most inspiring art by artists every day. This is all courageous.
My Roman collection asks this question, “What is your own personal Courage?” That is what the Roman is all about and by wearing a piece you represent your courage, your strength, your power.
You’ve had quite a quick rise to becoming known, with some big names being photographed wearing your pieces. Congratulations. That must be really gratifying to see your work in a glossy magazine.
Yeah, it's definitely nice. But what's really great is when they tell me how much they love the piece and what it means to them personally. That is the most rewarding of all. I design my jewelry for it to mean something and for it to also be a beautiful work of art. I want it to last for lifetimes and handed down to their next generation and so on.
The Roman started out as a ladies design, but I understand you’ve also created some men’s pieces, as well as some other custom pieces.
Yes, I have a men’s line and I am so excited about expanding it. I'm currently designing a new men’s ring. I stumbled upon making a men’s line. I had no intention of making any pieces for men, but I got a call one day from a close friend who is a fine artist and she said there was a man requesting a piece of my jewelry for a photo shoot. I told her that I don’t make men’s pieces. Then I called one of my best friends to tell her about what happened and how I thought it was amusing that a man wants to wear one of my pieces and she told me to get back to my studio and make a men’s piece immediately and to stop being crazy. I called the person who was requesting the piece and was told he needed the jewelry by Thursday in New York for a magazine photo shoot. It was Monday. I hung up the phone and started in my studio immediately on designs. I had everything made and delivered by Thursday to New York and voila. That was the start of the men’s collection which has been featured now in a couple magazines. This was a great learning experience for me. Now I don’t waste ideas anymore on a whim, I think them all the way through. I also learned to push myself even harder to make a deadline like that.
I also design custom pieces. I love being able to take an idea that a client has in their head, draw it and present it in real life. Very satisfying.
And the manufacturing process? Do you make all the pieces yourself?
All of my pieces are eco-friendly and made in the USA. I use recycled gold and all of my precious/semi-precious stones and diamonds are conflict-free. I do not make the pieces myself, I design them and I work closely with a manufacturer.
I’m always fascinated by artists, and what they do to keep their creative juices flowing. Do you have any other creative things that you do besides jewelry?
I love to paint. I don’t do it enough, but I love it when I can. I also think travel is very important as an artist. It helps to keep your creative mind active to experience new things in your environment. Art shows are also one of my favorite things to do and seeing what other artists are up to.
What’s next for Tracee Nichols? What can we expect to see in the future from your line?
I am so excited [by] where my line is going. I have bold strong statements in 14k gold with raw diamonds and precious stones I am working on now. I have all sorts of rings that will be coming out very soon – think rose gold and diamonds, rubies, and turquoise. Earrings with large cut sapphires inlayed in gold. It’s going be a lot of color with rich golds. My first collection was about Courage, my next collection is called The Power of Love. The inverted triangle is a symbol of femininity and the power of love that we all behold, along with the design of the sharp point at the bottom which represents conquering anything that would try and defeat that love.
Do you have any advice for aspiring jewelry designers?
Yes, one I learned a little late and I wish I had learned early on and this is really for any artist: not everyone is going to like your art (whatever medium it may be), but someone will and then another and another… knowing that–stay true to your art, not what you think others will like. Create what you like. Design what you like. Chances are, others will like it too.
This is more of a fun dinner party question, but if you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you eat?
Wine with Picasso! Wouldn’t that be fun? We would be celebrating our birthdays together (we have the same birthday) at Sacre-Couer. The meal would be decadent and we would both hope that Monet would stop by.