Tucked away under railroad tracks in Downtown Binghamton is a jewelry studio, churning out handcrafted pieces that make a statement despite its modest location.
At StudioSophiaSophia, located in the basement of the Art Mission and Theater at 61 Prospect St., owner Sophia Readling, a Binghamton area native, creates earrings, rings, necklaces and other arm candy that is colorful and bold.
“I like to think of it as wearable small paintings,” Readling said. “I don’t really call myself a jeweler because it kind of puts you in a box. I make work that’s full of energy, bright [and] bold shape.”
Her pieces range in geometric shape and use neon color. Readling said her inspiration comes in various forms such as ’80s jazzercise, fashion designer Mara Hoffman or her favorite band, CocoRosie.
“I basically just find neon everywhere,” she said. “Color really drives my work. Also people who kind of live outside the box.”
Readling’s artistic talents began at a young age, and growing up with a mother who was an artist, her unconventional and colorful taste also came early.
“As a child I remember always wearing mismatched outfits and really gravitating towards a bright palette,” she said. “I think it’s just been something that’s always been in me forever. I don’t really have an explanation for it.”
A passion for art lead her to pursue a bachelor’s in fine arts degree at Pratt Institute. She didn’t know what to major in until an introductory jewelry class sparked her interest. Readling found herself wanting to learn more and eventually graduated with a degree in jewelry and metal-smithing.
Following graduation, she worked at Haskell Jewels, LLC., a fast-paced fashion jewelry company in New York City. There, she realized that she didn’t like mass production so she decided to go back to school for an MFA in jewelry and metal-smithing from the Rhode Island School of Design, from which she graduated in 2012.
Readling then returned to Binghamton in a transitional period, but eventually set up shop and has been here for about three years.
Her jewelry sales started out in a small art studio above Uncorked Creations on State Street that participated in First Friday. While she had featured other art pieces during the monthly events, she found that people gravitated more toward her jewelry, so she shifted her focus.
“At the time I had a grant to go to a puppet workshop,” she said. “I decided to instead, spend the money to set up a studio.”
She purchased her own equipment, attended jewelry markets, networked with other professionals and eventually set up her own jewelry company.
Readling runs the entire business on her own from the production to final sales. She also prides herself in her creativity as an artist.
“I try to be different, but also cohesive,” she said. “I try to have my own voice. There are so many designers out there, so many makers. When you go to a show, there could be 50 other people selling jewelry, so you really want to have something that stands out.”
Since opening, Readling has worked on growing her business with more exposure, wholesale accounts, retailers and places to sell her work.
“I haven’t let go of my artistic vision,” she said. “I’ve turned it into a business but at the same time, I still keep a creative license where I can make things that aren’t for your average everyday person. When I find my people, I know.”
Readling’s process for design is always different. Some of her designs come naturally, while others are sketched and changed in the process. Each piece varies in the amount of time it takes to produce, but they are all made with brass, resin-based paint for color and optional sterling silver plating.
StudioSophiaSophia currently sells from its official website at studiosophiasophia.com, as well as in brick-and-mortar stores in New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Canada and several online markets.
Readling says she likes seeing her designs on paper come to life with her own hands and seeing others appreciate them too.
“Seeing people fall in love with their piece is really cool,” Readling said. “Seeing my jewelry out in the world is one of my favorite things.”