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Take This Designer’s Tips for Finding Focus in Unexpected Places

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We love a good piece of statement jewelry around these parts. In fact, we’ve even tried our hand at making our own with much success. A single accessory has the ability to lift and enliven not just our outfits, but our posture and spirits as well.

Can You Tie a Knot? You Can Make This Necklace
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Can You Tie a Knot? You Can Make This Necklace

The jewelry and accessories that make up Gamma Folk fit this order precisely. Lily Piyathaisere is the owner and designer behind these lovely, small-batch works, which are all handcrafted with care using naturally dyed and ethically produced materials. I had the chance to chat with her about her craft, including some real-talk challenges of being your own boss. (Can you relate, fellow entrepreneurs?)

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HANA ASBRINK: Tell us about Gamma Folk.

LILY PIYATHAISERE: I am the founder and craftsperson behind Gamma Folk, a jewelry and accessories line created in 2012. I created Gamma Folk with the intention to mix modern aesthetics with traditional fiber-arts techniques. That means incorporating natural dyeing, braiding, weaving, and ceramic components into my work. I have always loved wearing jewelry; it’s a simple way to make an outfit unique and expressive. I prefer pieces that have a point of view and are bold.

Hello, Lily! The artist and her wares.
Hello, Lily! The artist and her wares. Photo by Christine Han

HA: How did you land in Beacon, New York? How has it changed the way you work and create, compared with your previous Brooklyn studio?

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LP: After living in large cities for most of my adult life, I wanted a break from all the hecticness. Both my husband and I are self-employed, and our jobs allow us the flexibility to work from wherever, so we decided to rent a house in Beacon and try it out. It suited us well because we ended up buying the house we were renting and have been here ever since. We love Beacon for its proximity to the city, access to nature, and strong arts community.

It’s definitely affected how I work. I wouldn’t say my work life is any slower than it was before, but when your surroundings are, it’s a good reminder to take a break, appreciate the trees and flowers. I can focus a lot better, and time seems to move a little slower up here.

I do miss Brooklyn for its variety of food and proximity to friends, so I make sure to stock up on food when I go down there to see them.

Lily uses all-natural dyes in her handmade crafts.
Lily uses all-natural dyes in her handmade crafts. Photo by Christine Han

HA: Where does your inspiration come from?

LP: Daydreaming, listening to sounds of nature, and going on walks. One of my favorite times to brainstorm is on the train into the city. It’s a beautiful view of the Hudson River, and I'm able to focus really well and quiet my brain during the trip. Also: visiting museums, traveling when possible, scouring books in thrift stores, and watching films.

Accessories as wall art.
Accessories as wall art. Photo by Christine Han

HA: What are the biggest challenges and benefits of being your own boss?

LP: Well, in addition to Gamma Folk, I am also a freelance designer and art director. So my biggest challenge is being able to successfully juggle both. Being able to scale Gamma Folk has been tough, because part of its beauty is the handmade quality and energetic exchange that happens when things are produced and dyed by hand. But there’s only one of me! Also being the artisan, finance person, project manager, and salesperson is challenging. But the reason I do it all the way I do is because I absolutely love being my own boss. I’m busy as hell, but I have flexibility to do things when I want, and that is extremely important to me.

In the Gamma Folk studio
In the Gamma Folk studio Photo by Christine Han

HA: What artisans are you digging these days?

LP: Christi Johnson of Mixed Color, Katrina Rodabaugh, Study New York, Rebecca Peacock, Shino Takeda.

HA: Do you have a favorite Food52 recipe?

LP: When I first discovered Food52 years ago, I made a sweet corn fritters recipe with this incredible sriracha-yogurt dipping sauce, and I was hooked. Last summer when fresh corn was in season and abundant in this area, I swear I made this recipe for every weekend guest I had for maybe a month. I also love toast, and this recipe with its wonderful illustrations made it fun to try out!

Sweet Corn Fritters with Sriracha-Lime Greek Yogurt

Sweet Corn Fritters with Sriracha-Lime Greek Yogurt by Carey Nershi

Spring on Toast, Illustrated

Spring on Toast, Illustrated by Sharon Hwang

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Could you relate to any of Lily’s insights of running your own business? We’d love to hear from you below!

Tags: Makers, Product Design, Art