Very few of us leave our college careers with much of anything tangible that endures the wear and tear of time. Our theses, hole-punched and bound to perfection, sit collecting dust in closed dresser drawers. Our artworks, once bold and daring, are repurposed or recycled. Journals are tossed, books are returned; even friendships begin to fade as we each go our separate ways.
This, however, is not the case for Joe Price, Paige Li, and Olivia Schumack. Their collection of handcrafted and place-inspired earrings, Claymate, is the byproduct of professor Steve Spruth’s “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” course—each pair an aesthetically pleasing evidence of learning. Tasked with creating a product designed with the WAM Shop in mind, a graphic designer, psych major, and sustainable systems management student set out to use their personal strengths and interests to make meaning together.
“After we all connected and meshed well, as sort-of friends first, we had to choose a product to make. And because we love to accessorize,” Price laughs, “we chose earrings.”
“We wanted to make something that we would buy,” Schumack says. “That made it a lot easier to care about what we were making.”
The three met each Wednesday at Schumack’s kitchen table and munched on candy, while making mood boards and discussing designs. It was at that table that Claymate took form. Li suggested using polymer clay, a material popular among young people in her home country of Singapore, to craft the earrings; Price recalls the Weisman’s Frank Gehry-designed building as an early point of inspiration—the first round of packaging even contained an engraving of the museum’s distinctive architectural profile.
“The breakthrough moment for our product packaging was when Joe came up with the designs of the cards we are currently using—we all agreed that they fit so well with the branding of Claymate,” Li says.
After a semester of survey polls, in-class critiques, and narrowing down an audience, best described as “statement-earrings people,” the class consulted with WAM Shop Manager and Buyer, Marissa Obheiner. Claymate made the cut.
An essential notion the group came back to, again and again, throughout the creation of Claymate was the idea of “citizen plus city,” they say. They aimed to address both in an everyday type of way. For this reason, the “Uptown” earring is small. Designed for the busy socialite, its compact size is perfect on-the-go, or sprinting half a block to catch a last-minute bus. The “Stone Arch Bridge,” earrings, on the other hand, are larger and arch shaped—earrings meant to be seen! Claymate also has concept-driven designed pieces for “The Superior,” and “Hennepin Ave.”
Claymate’s appeal plays on our innate attachment to a sense of place. Why does place mean so much to us, and how is it that the same handful of places speak so loudly to each of us?
“Many of [our customers] said that the idea of places and locations engenders a kind of sentimentality; each one has unique memories tied to them,” Li says. “We tried our best to incorporate the essence and the energy of the different locations into their respective designs.”
The future of Claymate is unclear, although there is talk about tabling at some summer craft fairs and pop-ups. Li, after completing her exchange semester, is now back home in Singapore, working toward her psychology degree. She thinks she might take up jewelry-making as a hobby. Schumack is headed to Ireland for her own study-abroad semester, where she’s sure to be inspired by cities and landscapes for new Claymate designs. Price is looking forward to completing his last semester of school and hopes to continue graphic design work within the music industry.
“Working with people that you enjoy is the first step. I think that’s what made it so easy,” Price explains. “That’s [one of the most important things] I learned from the class.”
IMAGES: Mood board and early packaging designs courtesy of Olivia Schumack, Paige Li, and Joe Price.
KATE DRAKULIC | Communications Intern