My business, Pigeon Dynamite, is an online jewelry retail store. It may sound as simple as just posting images of jewelry and selling them online, but that’s only one aspect of my business. My jewelry is not mass-produced and is made cheaply overseas. I source materials myself, design, create, photograph, edit, list, communicate with customers, SNS, and pack and ship all by myself while being a mom of two little boys under five years old in Japan. My business is a sole proprietorship and was officially registered as a business in NYC in April 2016, a little over a year before my first child was born. Before I registered my business, I was selling jewelry thru an eCommerce site for a few years. The point I decided to register my business was when I made more money in a week than I did in my previous job in a month. For me, it was not only the financial reward but also the joy of creating something unique that only I could make that pushed me to go further. I had never thought I would be starting my own jewelry brand, but it seemed that was something I truly wanted to challenge. My background is in interior design and I had worked in a few different firms for short periods of time. It was something that I had expected any job would be; you do what you are told to, you work for your boss, not for yourself, and you don’t have the freedom of making decisions. It was somewhat rewarding at first. I was getting paid, and work hours were not bad, but I really missed being creative and making something with my own hands. While I was working freelance in the interior design field, I was making some pieces of jewelry using vintage jewelry I had been collecting for years they were unique and my friends loved my creations. I gifted some pieces I made to friends and family, and from the feedback, I discovered I could sell them online. My jewelry brand name came up relatively quickly. Pigeons are a symbol of peace and, to me, they represent New York well; they are dirty, but pretty when they are up in the sky. They are loved by many, and they are hated by many. Dynamite came up randomly but I liked the flow with pigeon and I liked the sound had a punch to it.
My jewelry got picked up online fairly quickly, thanks to my friends and family’s support. I started receiving orders from strangers and even custom orders to create something just for those people. It was when I learned the joy of working with clients directly and having the freedom of creativity to make beautiful designs. As a new online brand, it was so important to have positive reviews. I was nervous every time I sold my creations to strangers. I also participated in several pop-up events in New York City. It was such a great opportunity to meet new customers and directly receive feedback from them. Those positive reviews and feedback on how unique and beautiful my pieces are truly giving me the fulfillment I had never felt before, and pushed me to take my skill further and start taking jewelry classes. I learned the ancient jewelry-making process called lost wax casting. It’s a method of creating jewelry using melted metal alloys poured into a mold made out of wax carving. I make my jewelry with this method and silversmith, and to this day, it is still a challenge as a beginner jewelry maker. So many techniques require practice and failure. Some people think the jewelry business is all about glitters and sparkles, and while there is truth to that aspect, 90% of the time it is about getting my hands dirty. Creating jewelry with hands requires a lot of mess and dirt on your hands. I did not mind it at all and got so into it quickly that I stopped making jewelry using vintage parts at that point. Wax carving gave me the freedom to create original and unique pieces.
With the money, I had made to that point went to my classes and new tools. Little did I know that those tools cost so much more than I could afford, I could only purchase cheaper tools to make jewelry in the beginning. My biggest regret was not investing money in the first place for those better, more expensive tools. I eventually made the purchase of those tools later on, but it would have saved a lot more time and money in the long run. I did not realize how much more efficient to have the right tools until I actually used them. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a good set of tools. As a jewelry maker, I am still learning, and I know it is the most important thing to keep learning and practicing. And yet, running a business is a lot different than earning technical skills in craftsmanship. To me, a successful business is an ever-evolving brand that provides unique and beautiful products that are responsibly made ethically and environmentally to the customers while maintaining a consistent profit. As a jewelry maker, I have been trying to be a better, skilled jewelry maker. And as a designer, I have been honest with my inspirations and executed in work putting my soul to connect the materials with my inspirations. My creativity has never been motivated by the desire to make profits. My business struggles to earn a consistent profit, but it should never be the reason why I strive as a jewelry designer. Because I see the jewelry pieces without a soul are just as not special. My jewelry brand has a solid concept of providing handcrafted jewelry pieces that are personal. I focus so much that the pieces are not perfect because it is never original without being personal. I find beauty in nature and nothing is perfectly symmetrical, and every stage of life in nature has beauty and ugliness coexist to maintain perfect balance. I try to capture the beauty of that imperfection in my design and that makes my jewelry pieces unique. This is the reason why I do not use the 3D modeling skill I learned in interior design school for my jewelry. 3D modeling is all about precision and can create sleek pieces of jewelry, but I knew that was not the right approach to my design. Finding a niche is crucial in any business. As I am more of an artist than a businesswoman, it was not the hardest thing for me to find that niche. Ever since I had started making jewelry with the vintage parts, I knew the people who loved my jewelry were the kind of people who appreciated the uniqueness and handcrafted imperfection of my jewelry pieces. What made me realize how important it is to work on marketing in the business was when I got featured by UK Vogue three times within a year. Although I always had a sense of necessity in marketing and advertising both of which definitely holds the key to success, I just never invested in it. In this world, to be known in the massive online retailing industry is like trying to read in pitch black. Especially during the pandemic, it nearly killed the opportunity to have face-to-face sales events. As a small business, those events are so important to let the people know my brand, listen to what they are looking for and know the target.
However, without seeing my jewelry pieces in person, the first-time customers have to trust my business and rely on the reviews of my jewelry. In order to earn that trust, I think having my jewelry featured in such a known magazine as Vogue was a big plus. So much of online business is about marketing and being known so free advertising using SNS is definitely one of the biggest tools to use. Necessarily, the presentation becomes so important so photography and editing are crucial to selling jewelry online. Running a jewelry brand of your own is so much of multitasking and shifting minds. To this day, I do this with my passion even after having two young children and moving to Japan three years ago. There is no shortcut to success, and while I am still on my way, following my passion and never giving up on my dreams have paved the way. I certainly had doubts in the beginning and still, struggle between my dream and being a mom, but I allow myself to fail, learn from it and try to find my own pace and balance in between. I am not ashamed of my mistakes and failures, as long as I learned something from them. It is better to prepare, but when a mistake is inevitable, I try not to get too emotional, but be calm and critical to analyze the situation to handle it. It is better to be a failure than never challenge anything and make no mistake. As cliche as it may sound, do what you are passionate about and believing in yourself is the key.
About the designer
Rie Matsui was born and raised in the industrial neighborhood of Osaka, Japan. She moved to the states after graduating high school and went to a college in southern California. While in college, she decided to pursue a career in interior design and transferred to an interior design school in New York City, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and started her own jewelry brand, Pigeon Dynamite. https://www.PigeonDynamite.com She lives in Japan with her husband and two sons.