Ruthie Tesfaye, owner and designer of Studio Tesfaye, has had an ongoing love affair with earrings since before she can remember. After recognizing a real demand for stylish, unique, and high-quality clip-on earrings, she launched her jewelry line that’s all about modern eclectic pieces, combining various textures, colors and shapes to create statement pieces that are both funky and functional to be enjoyed—not just on special occasions—but every day. We caught up with Ruthie to learn more about her design inspiration, the spring essential she can’t live without, and the most important lesson she’s learned while running her own business. Check out her answers below.
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When and how did you start designing earrings?
I’ve been designing earrings in various forms for about a decade, and originally began creating my own earrings out of necessity. Due to some complications, I was unable to maintain my pierced ears, and could only wear clip-on earrings. Dissatisfied with the clip-on earring market, I began to make earrings for myself by converting buttons--yes, buttons--into clip-on earrings for myself. As my style and interests evolved, I wanted to have greater creative control of the earrings I created which is how I ended up designing my handmade jewelry line using polymer clay.
Where do you find design inspiration?
Clothing. Furniture. Art prints. Nail art. I’m inspired by it all. I have a very eclectic taste so you’ll find that my shop doesn't really ascribe to just one aesthetic. I like combining various textures, colors and shapes to create statement pieces that are both funky and functional.
Are there any spring/summer trends you're excited about?
I’m really loving all the wide leg statement trousers I've been seeing. I’ve always been a fan of high-waisted pants and now adding a wide leg to them makes them even more interesting! I’m also really excited about inclusion of more vibrant colors and funky prints. After the year we’ve had, we deserve a bit of fun.
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What's the one piece of spring clothing you can't live without?
The spring weather in the DC area is very confusing. For the first half of spring, I would absolutely need my UNIQLO Fluffy Yarn Fleece Full-Zip Jacket. It’s the most comfortable piece of outerwear that I own, and I pretty much never go anywhere without it. It keeps me nice and warm, and is the perfect jacket to wear while traveling. Once the spring weather actually hits, I would have to say that I can’t live without my Birkenstocks. Who doesn’t love a good slip-on shoe?
How do you pair your earrings with your outfits?
For me, it really depends on my mood. For more colorful outfits, I might pair the Black Marble earrings if I’m trying to make a casual statement or toss in more color with a pair from the Desert Sunset Collection. If I’m wearing neutral colors, I would probably either go bold with a pop of color like the “Born Stunna” in Pistachio or by wearing a larger statement piece like the “Over the Rainbow'' earrings.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running your own business?
Best lesson I’ve learned: Stop overthinking, and just do it. It’s very easy to talk yourself out of doing something you’re excited about or taking that leap of faith once you’ve spent too much time overthinking it. I’ve wanted to start my earring business for almost ten years but put it off for so long because I felt like I wasn’t ready for some undefined reason. Looking back, there is very little that I could have done differently to better prepare myself for the launch. I learned a lot from that experience and I continue to apply those learnings everyday. Sometimes, I get stuck in the mindset that what I’m creating isn’t “good enough”, and this can lead to a lot of second guessing and hesitancy. On those days, I try to remind myself that doing something is better than nothing.There is still so much learning and growth I have to do but, to me, that's the beauty of running a small business.
Do you have a favorite piece you’ve designed? If so, what is it and why?
My absolute favorite piece that I’ve designed has to be the Squiggle Earrings. I’m really drawn to designs with curves and squiggles at the moment so these hold a special place in my heart. The vibrant color and larger size make the Squiggle Earring hard to ignore and I love that. As soon as I made the first prototype, I immediately knew that they would be my go-to statement accessory for this summer.
The earring names are so cute! What’s your inspo behind naming the products?
Thanks! I really enjoy coming up with the names of my products. I typically am inspired either by someone I know, a memory, a song or a general feeling I get when I look at them. For example, I grew up listening to a lot of oldies music, and any party thrown by parents always ended up with my family dancing and singing along to Johnnie Taylor’s classic hit, Disco Lady. As I designed the Disco Lady earrings, I felt like these were the perfect pair of earrings for sharing your groove thang and dancing the night away.
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