If you live or find yourself in New York City, you may want to take a stroll in the East Village and visit the design boutique, Still House, owned by jewellery designer Urte Tylaite, who is a Pratt graduate. She was born in Lithuania and moved to New York at the age of 18. In her beautiful shop she offers handmade design from various artists - ceramics, glassware, jewellery, stationery, to name a few - and her own jewellery collection. I was delighted when she agreed to a short interview for my natural materials series. Did I ask her how she takes her coffee? Of course I did!
My family moved to the United States when I was in my last year of high school. Though I hardly spoke any English, I was determined to go straight to college the following year. My original plan, back in Lithuania, was to become a lawyer, or maybe even a politician; no English, that seemed like a waste of time. So I chose art school instead. I had been taking art classes for years, and though I never considered it as a possible career, I had a portfolio. So that's how I ended up at Pratt studying painting. My parents were very disappointed with this decision.
After my studies, I tried to get a job in the art world, but that wasn’t the right fit for me. To make ends meet I started working for a few different jewellers in Brooklyn and fell in love with the craft. I worked as much as I could to learn the ins and outs of retail and wholesale business and in the evenings took jewellery classes. Eventually I reached a point where I was not learning new things at my job. I was ready for new challenges. I saw two paths, either getting a job for a much larger company or starting my own business. The latter felt more natural.
It feels funny to admit, but I didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted. My ideas were a lot more general. I knew I was willing to work hard. I also wanted to feel passionate about my job and truly love it, and work with people I love and admire. I was just searching for excitement and happy moments, because I would always derive new ideas from that energy. One idea led to another and here I am – a shop owner and a jewellery designer.
Which 3 keywords would you use to describe your own design?
Subtle, minimal, timeless.
I always loved the East Village. I ended up in this neighbourhood on one of the first days I moved to New York and immediately felt drawn to it. It’s a great neighbourhood for going out at night, but I always loved to come back during the day and wander around. And I always had a reason to come back. I waitressed at a restaurant nearby through college, I dated a boy who lived here, a few of my good friends lived here. When I started looking for store fronts, I automatically started inquiring about locations in East Village because that was the neighbourhood I knew the best.
What's with you and rocks?
It’s a passion that I developed only as an adult, strangely. I worked for a jewellery line called Swallow in Brooklyn. They have a beautiful collection of gemstone necklaces. I started learning all the names, just to I know what I was selling. When I started making jewellery myself, I attended gem and bead shows and found some vendors that also had natural stone formations and immediately fell in love. For me, it’s a reminder of how fascinating, beautiful, and mysterious this world is. I love all the surprising colours and shapes. Rocks and minerals make great accent pieces and my customers love decorating their homes with them.
Could you name the designers that have influenced your work and why?
I have to say that it’s primarily people themselves that inspire me, not necessarily their body of work. It’s also why I love New York so much. We are constantly surrounded by really passionate strong people that love life.
I take a day off and relax for inspiration! My new pieces in the Still House jewellery collection were conceived while I lay on the beach in Long Island just a few weekends ago. Most of the ideas for my main collection came from hikes upstate. My work is definitely not nature inspired, but I am. When I am in nature, new and fresh images come to my mind. I always spend a few studio days to work through my ideas right after taking a time off.
Urte, do you drink coffee, and if so, how do you take it?
Oh yes! Every morning I start my day with a very good strong cup of drip coffee with a little bit of whole milk in it. And I always get a second round once I am closer to the shop. Luckily, East Village has a lot of great coffee shops to offer. Abraco, by far, is the best. Highly recommend giving them a try next time you are in the area.
online shop as well.
courtesy of designer Urte Tylaite, Still House