Interview with Jewelry Designer Shelly Duke of Shel Couture

Z+N A couple of months ago Z and I got to meet and work with an amazing jewelry designer named Shelly Duke, the creative force behind Shel Couture. She hired us to shoot photos and video of her latest designs for the launch of her new website and lookbooks. We met up with Shelly and her husband Travis and instantly felt like we had all been friends for years. It really just felt like we were hanging out with old friends and collaborating to help complete Shel’s creative vision. Her jewelry designs are really beautiful and unique, and combine an ocean inspiration with a refined aesthetic and attention to detail. We worked as a super small tight crew that day and had a lot of fun. You can check out some of the photos from that shoot on our portfolio here and the rest of the photos and her amazing jewelry on the Shel.Couture site.
Shelly and Travis Duke Shelly and Travis have an adorable little boy named Napali, and I caught up with Shelly between work and parent duties to ask her a few questions.


When did you start designing jewelry? 
I was designing custom homes about 7 years ago when i was living in La Jolla…. I used to walk by this bead shop and say, hmmmm… maybe i’ll make something.  i made a pair of mother of pearl and gold chain earrings that I ended up selling in Laura Gambucci’s boutique in town.. We met one day in her store and she asked me where I got my earrings…. and that was that.  I was suddenly a jewelry designer and needed new business cards.  After working on multi-million dollar custom residential interiors for over a decade, your exposure to art, architecture, and interior finishes & fixtures is absolutely insane.  It ruins you forever.  😉  It’s why I don’t make cheap jewelry.  It’s just not the way to do things.  I guess when you become a designer, you feel like you can design anything… I think anyone can.  🙂  I look forward to watching shel. couture evolve… My sister, one of my most favorite people in the universe, is an architect… We’ve talked about designing lighting together…  I hope we find time to do it!  


What inspires you?
People who make change.  I’m inspired by people who create the power to make a difference.  I want to be like them.  🙂  People with big hearts.  -Nice humans who care about shit that matters, and who want to spread the knowledge and love.  I’m inspired by history, romance, architecture, music, fashion, and mostly, the challenge of balancing your life to accomplish an epic journey living by the ocean.  If everyone could be so lucky…   Oh and kids.  They inspire me because they are fearless.  

Tell me a little about the coral project, and a hint at the process you use to make your coral pieces sustainably.

Years ago I had this rad pink and white coral necklace I sold regularly.. A few clients of mine that were big island travelers and divers mentioned coral and its “sustainability”…  After much research through emails & phone calls, I was boldly told by professors, scientists and marine biologists, “there is no good way to buy harvested live coral from the ocean.  Once I was educated, I knew I couldn’t support it…  I’m the same way with factory farming… The second I learned that process, I stopped buying from those sources.  I only have to hear something once and then I’m done.  ew.  gross.  anyway… for years I’ve met with glass makers trying to recreate the coral look and feel, since it was one of my biggest sellers, but was unhappy with production turnout.  Long story short, I ended up using coral branch photos and exact measurements to recreate coral pieces out of metal (sterling silver, brass, solid gold, etc.)  CAD drawings and 3D printers were apparently my missing link.. My husband and I were in Maui for a wedding with our 16 month old last month… I was literally approving CAD renderings on my laptop from the Jeep bound for the Road to Hana thinking, “yay, this is finally happening, I get to start something cool.”


How did you find us (Z+N)?
You and I argued about how we found each other… but I swear I started stalking you first on Instagram.. 🙂  I told Travis that I wished I could hire a model & photographer and he said, why don’t you just call them?

What was your vision your new site + jewelry line?
California girl rides off all badass in her vintage Porsche… Something like that… 😉  
Shelly Duke


How do you balance being a mommy and a designer/ business owner?
Bahaaaaaaaaaa!  I haven’t figured out balance yet.  The second I feel like I need more mommy in me I run to that side of the teeter totter with jewelry in one hand.  The second I feel like I need more shel. couture time, I run to the other side with napali in my arms.  I’m not joking.  It’s total chaos, no matter how much I breath.  Every day throws something new at you when you have sweet babes.  Yoga helps.  Husbands that support you help.  Laughing helps.  Oh, and going to the beach and running free is the ultimate gift.  🙂  Our first world problems ain’t nothin’, right?  

Shel. Couture Summer Collection 2015 from ZplusN on Vimeo.

1 response to Interview with Jewelry Designer Shelly Duke of Shel Couture

  1. Bronte Moore says:

    Your photos are amazing…and so is her jewelry!!!  How do you do it???  xoxo, Grandmother From: ZplusN To: Sent: Thursday, July 9, 2015 11:13 PM Subject: [New post] Interview with Jewelry Designer Shelly Duke of Shel Couture #yiv7973982066 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv7973982066 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv7973982066 a.yiv7973982066primaryactionlink:link, #yiv7973982066 a.yiv7973982066primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv7973982066 a.yiv7973982066primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv7973982066 a.yiv7973982066primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv7973982066 | Natazha posted: “A couple of months ago Z and I got to meet and work with an amazing jewelry designer named Shelly Duke, the creative force behind Shel Couture. She hired us to shoot photos and video of her latest designs for the launch of her new website and lookbooks. W” | |

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