Erin Merriman is truly an artisan in her craft. She is the creator behind Bearhead Factory – an experimental line of handmade jewelry that transforms symbols from their collective mythology into wearable art objects. Her vivid imagination and organic way of looking at life translates into her jewelry. Her pieces are the epitome of beautiful statement pieces.
Where does the name “Bearhead Factory” come from?
“The name is actually now almost 10 years old! I had graduated from school, and was living in an old factory in Brooklyn, and just making tons of different kinds of art. I wanted a name that could be an umbrella or container for whatever I was working on. Around this time, I had a dream about a warrior woman wearing the most beautiful, intricate helmet made from the head of a grizzly bear. This dream woman at the time represented a fierceness of spirit that I was eager to harness/ channel into my business and life.”
What inspired you to start making jewelry?
“I grew up in a very small town with not much to do, so I spent most of high school fantasizing about moving to New York City. When I finally got to art school in Brooklyn, I was surprised to find I missed the solitude of my family’s 100 acre tree farm. I chose jewelry as my major because there where only 3 people in that department, and the idea of being left alone to explore a completely new craft excited me. Also, whenever I would see a painting or sculpture I liked growing up, my first thought was always “ How can I wear that?” I am always inspired by the way jewelry allows us to explore ideas we are interested in by wearing them on our bodies.”
What inspires you, in general?
Carl Jung, Star Trek The Next generation, Dreams, New Aged self help books, good conversation, vintage textiles, textures in general
Where do you make your work?
“A chance encounter with a local Armenian goldsmith lead to an unlikely friendship and an invite to share his studio in Downtown San Diego. This has given me access to so many tools I had only dreamed of owning, and also immersed me in a completely surreal work environment! Many a late night we have spent there together, me grinding metal, him chain smoking and watching Russian Christmas pageants on the big screen TV. He’s always trying to get me to stop working and have a shot of cognac with him.”
How did you end up in San Diego?
“My husband and I left Brooklyn for an earthship in New Mexico, where I briefly considered becoming a homebirth midwife. Instead, we ended up having a homebirth! As soon as our son arrived, we realized how important it was to us both that he had an extended family. My husband is from San Diego, so we just packed up everything and moved here when our son was 8 weeks old. I thought we would just make it work for a couple of years and then choose our next adventure, but San Diego has shown up for us in really incredible ways, and I couldn’t be happier living here.”
What do you like about San Diego? What do you like about North Park?
“It feels like an unbelievable blessing to get to live walking distance from the ocean. The weather is mild all year, and the creative community in San Diego is very collaborative and welcoming. Most of our friends live in North Park, so that is my very favorite thing about the neighborhood, but there is also good yoga and vintage/ resale spots too.”
Where do you see your artistic endeavors taking you?
“I am getting ready to launch a new project. We will of course still make jewelry collections, but within a more conceptual context, including lots of exciting collaborations. There are so many stories about how to be an artist or run a business out there, but most of them feel isolating, limiting and outdated to me. I am meeting a lot of amazing artists who are feeling the same way, and together we are writing a new story of how to engage creatively in life in an authentic way that leaves room for experimentation, mistakes, individuality and imperfection. Perfection is numbing- Messy is more fun!”
Bearhead Factory jewelry pieces are originally designed and hand made. You can shop some of her specialty pieces in store,and online.
photos by: Chantal Pasag