There are clues that AILI jewelry is a baby brand born in 2012, but you have to look closely. AILI jewelry is surprisingly refined for being just a year old, and the variety of studs, stackable rings and delicate necklaces speaks to a maker who is inventive and prolific. That maker would be Monica Ruzansky, who handcrafts all AILI pieces in a Brooklyn studio.
Then again, the geometric AILI logo is very much of our time. And Monica’s use of recycled materials provided by certified sustainable companies is a refreshingly modern touch.
I convinced Monica to give me an interview about her inspiration, workday and more:
How did you come to jewelry making?
Many years ago I took some jewelry classes back in Mexico City and fell in love with the craft. More recently, after doing photography for so many years, I realized that I really missed working with my hands and designing physical objects. I took more metal-smithing classes here in NYC, and I got so immersed in it that I decided to start a business of my own.
What is so sustainable about your jewelry?
The metals that I use to make my pieces are sourced from certified companies that recycle scrap metal (instead of selling metal that has just been freshly mined). The chains and earring backs are not recycled, but all the other metals are.
Are there other sustainable aspects to your business?
My packaging and business cards are also made from recycled paper, and in my studio we also recycle as much as possible. My diamonds and stones are certified conflict free.
I envision all kind of people really, but mainly women from their 20’s to 40’s. Although, recently a shop owner just told me an 80-year-old woman just bought my turquoise mini prong earrings for herself, which is such a compliment! But the one thing that I’m sure they all have in common is that they appreciate small details!
What kind of clothing do you think would pair best with your jewelry?
Jeans and a t-shirt would work for many pieces, but then my jewelry also dresses up more elegantly, like with a open-front dress paired with a diamond drop necklace.
It really varies. It can start with an image in my head that I sketch by hand onto a blank, and I’m not always sure where it comes from, but generally I can say that I get inspiration from spending time in nature as well as playing with geometry. Other great unexpected inspirational moments happen in the studio during the design and production processes themselves, where mistakes become a starting point for a new idea, or even evolve into an actual piece.
Do your customers and stores considering carrying your jewelry care about the sustainability aspect?
To be totally honest, some stores do and some don’t. I recently got invited to sell my work in one of my personal all-time favorite stores and they actually have an amazingly detailed questionnaire asking you exactly which aspects of your pieces are made eco-consciously. I feel more and more people are really caring about these issues, and anyway, I think it’s important to always try our best to make things in a greener way.
I start my day with a bike ride or a walk to my studio–that easy commute is such a pleasure to begin with. I need to get my coffee fix, and then I try to get my online tasks out of the way first to allow me to just focus on making pieces for the rest of the day. (Although I’ve noticed that sometimes this works better in theory than in practice!) I share my studio with a few other designers and we have a back garden where we have lunch outside during summer. Taking that break is an essential energy recharge in order to keep going for the rest of the day.
What piece in the current collection are you most proud of?
At the moment I really like the gold Rainy Diamond Drop necklace and earrings, they are among the simplest pieces I’ve done, although they require more of my time to make them (something you’d never guess) but they are just my favorites.