maker: karyn cantor of classic hardware


karyn cantor, designer and owner of vintage retro modern jewelry and accessories line classic hardware, is our guest this week on maker weekly. i’ve had the pleasure of knowing karyn for years. she’s a great business woman, always stylishly dressed, smiles all the time and has a great eye for design.

please introduce yourself?

hello, i am karyn cantor, the designer and owner of classic hardware, a vintage inspired and art driven jewelry and gift line. i grew up in los angeles and moved to san francisco in 1989 to complete my b of a in photography. i started classic hardware in 1995 in sf. at first, i was creating wire wrapped sterling silver necklaces and selling them to a gallery store which lead to producing a line of pocket watches and then grew into the beginning of classic hardware. i moved the company and myself back to la in 2005 and my business currently is located in burbank, ca.

what do you make or do?

over the last 16 years, my business has taken many different directions. i began the company with pocket watches and pendant watches. i also made chunky toggle necklaces and bracelets that had more of a punk edge. in the past few years, i have been collaborating with many contemporary artists and displaying their art on my jewelry designs. we currently make necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, card cases, tampon cases, pillboxes and wall art. the line is all made in the us and assembled in my studio/warehouse space.

where can we find your creations? and hundreds of boutiques and specialty stores throughout the us, canada, europe and australia.

how long have you been creating and is it your full-time job?

i have had classic hardware as my full-time job for the past 16 years. before that, i was making jewelry part-time and teaching art classes part-time to middle school age kids and i was a studio manager for a photographer. this job in particular helped me understand how to run a small business.

when you’re not making things, what do you do?

i enjoy going out with my boyfriend, ron, and friends to see live music particularly swing, americana, rockabilly and good old rock’n’roll. we also enjoy going to art openings and different events around la.

is creativity a luxury or a necessity for you?

it is both. i love coming up with new ideas and new concepts. over the last few years, i find i get really excited about engineering new pieces. it’s great to have an idea and to have the challenge of making parts fit together from what you visualize in your head. i also enjoy coming up with ideas for artists to illustrate and creating themes for them to work with and see how they expedite my concepts. it’s a great part of the collaboration process.

i also think marketing can be a creative aspect to one’s business. i enjoy coming up with new ideas and strategies for growing my business (especially in this not-so-hot economy) and yes, it’s exceptionally nice when the ideas actually work!

where do you find inspiration?

i find inspiration from people, traveling, nature, art, museums and galleries, flea markets, vintage clothing and, of course, jewelry. as previously mentioned, engineering really inspires me, so figuring out how to make things work is very exciting!

if money wasn’t an issue how would your life change with regards to your art?

i feel quite fortunate to have been able to have a career for the past 16 years from doing what i love, but i never began with money as my goal. all of this started as a labor of love and many of my favorite designs are not always the best sellers yet, but i need to produce them to feel creatively satisfied and perhaps inspire others. sometimes i put items in the line just because i find them funny and i hope that someone else will find amusement in them too. this is not always my best marketing strategy, but you have to do things that you enjoy! even if i were independently wealthy i would still need to be creative and i believe one can be creative on many different levels in life.

what would be your perfect day off?

i love traveling and am lucky that i get to enjoy traveling a lot for business, but having a true vacation is really important to me and my sanity. i love working out, swimming, biking, hiking, shopping, eating and drinking, live music, swing dancing, a good read, great conversation… and laying in a hammock with a my boyfriend by my side… that’s a perfect day!

what inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?

staying small with your business for a while is a really good thing. it’s really important for you to understand every aspect of your business from designing to production and marketing to accounting. you need to know and learn these things so you can truly oversee them. once you have this, then you can establish different roles for your business and what it is you do best. you cannot do everything so you need to focus on your strengths and skills then you can delegate the rest.

this is the key to my heart retrolite necklace from classic hardware which was my first ever purchase from karyn… i now own 3 of these necklaces-i’m a little obsessed!

-nicole s.

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