Horseshoe crab exoskeletons found while kayaking in Nantucket. A fossilized megalodon shark tooth discovered on a beach in North Carolina. Pretzel-shaped napkin holders picked up in Round Top. Objects like these fill the East Austin home of jewelry designer and photographer Sarah Murphy. They’re souvenirs of her travels, like the cross-country road trip that led Murphy and her artist/musician boyfriend, Matthew Kemp (natives of the Washington, D.C., area), to Texas, in 2009. “We visited all the cities we thought we might want to live in,” explains Murphy. “We wanted to find a place that would allow us time to pursue our own work.” They chose Austin, and soon after their arrival, Murphy became interested in jewelry making, eventually creating a line of minimalist necklaces and other items. Since then she’s garnered plenty of attention, including a commission from Anthropologie for more than a thousand pieces (“I’d get home from my day job around six p.m. and start working on the order, often until three a.m. or later”). Today Murphy reflects that had she not moved to Texas when she did, her line might not have ever come about. “It was all the right elements for me personally and creatively,” she says. “There are a lot of creative resources and inspiration in Texas, whether it’s the Menil Collection, in Houston, or the Chinati Foundation, in Marfa. There is so much to draw from here.”
Q&A With Sarah Murphy
How has your jewelry evolved since you first launched Hey Murphy?
It has evolved a lot. I started out making brightly colored, almost neon woven necklaces. Now my work is mostly metal geometric shapes. The fibers were taking a massive amount of time, and I couldn’t keep up with production.
How do your designs begin?
I usually find a piece of art or architecture or even just a shape that resonates with my aesthetic and start from there. I don’t sketch everything out, but it’s often necessary to draw certain shapes for the construction process. I’m a tactile person, so it’s important to me to see a piece in completionbefore adding it to a collection.
What are the tools you can’t live without?
A flex shaft for polishing and almost everything else; a tension saw for sawing out metal pieces; pliers for assembling; and a rawhide hammer and mandrels for forming bracelets and rings. And my soldering torch is essential for metal work. Most recently, I’ve also started to incorporate wax carving and casting into my process.
You’re also a photographer, and you shoot the images for your website. What do you most enjoy about taking pictures?
The images provide a voice that emphasizes the style and aesthetic of the various collections. And recently I’ve found that the collaborative elements of the lookbook shoots have been one of the most satisfying parts of the whole process. It’s exciting to have other people interact with your pieces and see how they are inspired
Do you come from a creative family?
Not at all. My dad is a lawyer and my mom works in nonprofit, but they are both extremely supportive of my creative pursuits. When I was a child, my mom would take me to D.C. art museums, and those visits had a huge influence on me. A large part of my creative identity comes from having dyslexia and ADD. I found that being creative grounded me and provided me with a larger dialogue to express myself.
You work full-time for Austin jewelry store Bell and Bird. How do you juggle that with Hey Murphy?
It’s a balance, for sure! I love working at Bell and Bird. I find it inspiring and fun. Then I usually get home and go straight to my studio. Luckily, my studio is in my house, so that makes it easier.
Is your studio your favorite room in the house?
Definitely. It gets great western light, and it’s a lady haven; I’m a huge supporter of women and men having their own spaces to create and relax.
For more information, go to heymurphy.com.