Local jewelry designer Sioux Eagle is in the middle of an exciting transition. She closed her Vineyard Haven storefront, Sioux Eagle Designs, at the end of December. After 35 years, she’s relocating and reinventing her venture. Eagle recently caught up with The Times to share her past, present, and future as a jewelry designer on-Island.
How did you get started designing jewelry?
I was in college in the early ’70s, majoring in printmaking and hoping to illustrate children’s books. I landed a summer job selling jewelry for Scott McDowell and Gino Powell in Edgartown. Returning to college that fall, I took a beginner’s jewelry course to gain knowledge for Scott’s store the following summer. I was instantly intrigued. I found myself spending many hours in the jewelry lab, and ended up with a double major.
Upon graduating, I returned to the Vineyard, where I had been summering since I was 7 years old, and always happiest. I was determined to make a living by one of my two areas of interest, printmaking and jewelry, so I landed a job at the jewelry store Silver and Gold in Vineyard Haven. I managed that store for four years, and eventually developed a wholesale jewelry line. I started selling in gift shops across New England.
How did you arrive at the name of your store?
For lack of a better idea. Since I was designing my own jewelry, I chose to simply name my store after myself — Sioux Eagle Designs came into being in 1983. In retrospect, I should have been more creative in naming my business, as occasionally I discovered that some people expected it to contain only Native American pieces. Due to the influx of summer visitors, I quickly determined that I needed to carry work by other artists as well as my own, or I would soon run out of inventory.
How did you select other jewelers and artists? What were you looking for?
When I set out to find artists to represent at the trade shows in NYC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, I was looking for unusual handmade jewelry. I have always had less interest in carrying what was considered “trendy” than pieces that would stand the test of time. I wanted my customers to still wear and enjoy items they had purchased from me 20 years ago. The superlatives, exotic, exquisite, and extraordinary jewelry best describe what appealed to me then, as well as today.
What brought about the change in locations?
I wore many hats while running my retail store, and over time discovered that I had less and less uninterrupted time to spend on my own creations. This summer, on my 65th birthday, I took stock and came to the decision that after 35.5 years, what I really wanted was the time and space to create. I truly feel that I have come full circle, back to the joy that making jewelry gave me right from the start. I have a beautiful studio and showroom located on my property in West Tisbury on Panhandle Road, and will now have all of 20 steps to commute to work.
It is centrally located between the Agricultural Hall, which has the Artisans Market, and the Grange Hall, with its Farmers Market — not down some dirt road where I would be hard to find. My intention is to be open reduced hours come spring, and mostly open by appointment. I will continue to offer restringing and selected repairs, but most importantly allow myself the luxury of working on and representing my own creations. I couldn’t be more excited for this new chapter in my life.
Sioux Eagle Designs is now located at 114 Panhandle Rd., West Tisbury. For more information, visit siouxeagle.com, and to book an appointment, call 508-693-6537.