I have admired photographer IJfke Ridgley http://ijfke.com/ from afar for years and finally messaged her on instagram to let her know how much I love her work. We started a dialogue and it so happens that she lives part time on Oahu and part time in Buenos Aires, Argentina where my husband is from. We will be in Argentina at the same time this spring and will be doing our first photoshoot together and I CANNOT WAIT!! Theres nothing like an upcoming photoshoot to get my head in the designing game. Must. have. new. epic. pieces. to photgraph in epic Argentinan inspired ways.
IJfke is not only an incredibly talented photographer, she is also a travel writer. She interviewed and wrote an article about Puka Perri and The Puka Project for this years Hawaii Modern Luxury Insiders Guide . So stoked and honored!
Read digital version of article here: turn to PAGE 63
Here is the full interview I did with IJfke for any of you that want to know more..
Where did you grow up and what brought you to Hawaii? Where do you live on Maui?
I grew up in a small town called New Hope, Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia. During my sophomore year of college my auntie who lived on Maui needed some interns for the Maui Film Festival. One of my best girlfriends from college and I hopped on that opportunity so fast. We had the time of our lives doing errands for the film fest and living on the North Shore with my auntie and her kids. My mind was blown after experiencing this island lifestyle that was totally different than anything I had ever known. After college I knew I didn’t want to stay in Washington DC or move to New York City like all my friends so I reached back out to my boss who ran the film fest festival on Maui to see if they needed any help. She offered me a paying gig as a production coordinator and ten days after I graduated I packed my bags and flew to Maui knowing I wanted to build a life there, but no idea how I was going to go about it. For years my now husband and I lived on the north shore in Haiku, but recently we moved to the south side and live in North Kihei with our 2 year old son.
You’ve been doing jewelry since 2011?
I became curious about handcrafting and designing jewelry while I was studying abroad and traveling through Africa in 2010. I met some inspiring artisans and started learning some macrame and beading. I moved to Maui in 2011 and landed living in a jewelry studio at my aunties house on the north shore. This is where I first started putting pieces together with Puka shells and beads for myself to wear.
Is it your full time job or more of a side hussle?
Right now I spend all of my free time designing, making, and selling jewelry. I’m not sure how it happened this way, but now I can’t imagine life without making jewelry. It has become a part of me that is more than a job, it keeps me focused, my creative energy moving, my bills paid, and my heart happy.
Could you talk about your creative process and how you put together your pieces? Where do you find your inspiration?
My journey in jewelry has always been about making jewelry that aligns with my style and lifestyle and feels good to wear. I am either designing pieces for myself or someone specific in my life. I usually name the piece after that person.
One of my mottos is “you have to stay inspired by your raw materials”. I am drawn to very specific materials that keep my aesthetic cohesive and give me parameters when designing. This really helps as it can get crazy and limitless out there in the creative cloud. My rule is I buy something new on every pearl buying trip or gold order. If you don’t have it , you can’t create with it! Figuring out how to use the new element always leads down a fun creative path.
My desk is full of Puka shells of all sizes , gold findings with textures, high quality pearls of unique hues and organic shapes. I like to design in collections and make pieces that layer together and can be worn with a bikini, a tee shirt and jeans, or with an evening dress. I really like simple and high quality.
Reflecting on my creative process is really interesting as I haven’t thought about it much. Sometimes I have a vision that sits in my head for months or even years until all of the puzzle pieces come together in the specific way that I want. With my original Puka necklace designs I knew the feeling had to be luxe yet casual. The Puka shells had to be accented with the warmth of high carat gold. The gradient had to reflect balance. It had to be wearable, durable, and easy to take on and off. Then I had to put the puzzle together and problem solve to make the vision come to life without sacrificing the essential elements.
Other times I walk by my desk and I see a pearl or some chain and I get struck with an idea and I have to put everything else aside and sit down and make it. If I make something new and I put it on to wear it the next day, I keep it in my line.
What is your best selling piece ?
Oh this is tough. The XS Puka hoops are a favorite with women on Maui and on the mainland too. I think because they are simple and easy to wear and make a great gift from Hawaii. The Neely style Puka necklace in white is a classic beauty and very popular. The gold discs in between the Puka shells are an original look and people are always stunned when they see this necklace. For the pearls, my long 3 pearl Lariat is a best seller at the four seasons. It is adjustable, can be worn long or short, and the large size pearls hang so nicely. A very beach chic look.
Could you talk a bit about your puka project?
I started The Puka Project because the pukas gave so much to me and I wanted to give back and spread their messages and healing energy with others. When I first moved to Maui I wore my Puka necklace as a reminder to love and have compassion for myself during a hard time in my life. The energy in the Puka shells felt so good and healing to wear. Fast forward a few years and a dear friend was diagnosed with cancer and I kept thinking I have to make her a Puka necklace to help with her healing. Then the idea came to me that the necklace would be so much more powerful if I collected pukas from her ohana to string up a supercharged healing Puka lei for her to wear during treatment and to remind her of all the love and support that was with her. And the Puka project was born- I put drop jars at my friends cafes around the island and in went the pukas from our island community and out came a special gift for our island sister.
It felt so good for everyone involved that we kept going and sponsored 3 “Puka drives” last year for women in our community in need of extra love and support. This holiday season we will be collecting pukas and making necklaces for 3 more women. I love the project because it is inclusive and simple to be a part of- everyone can pick up a puka next time they are at the beach. We can teach ourselves and our kids about compassion with this action of passing a puka on. A tangible example of each of us doing something small with good intention to create something big and powerful. Find out more at www.thepukaproject.com
IJfke also shot the cover photo of this issue !