Christine Fail imbues a piece of herself into her jewelry line with every swing of her hammer. Both a jewelry designer and owner of a jewelry boutique, Fail is a do-it-yourselfer whose best friend, Jessica Tata, describes as person who has her fingers in a lot of cookie jars and is always working on some creative project. After becoming frustrated with boring nine-to-five routines, Fail decided to follow her creative intuition and make a name for herself in the realm of jewelry retail.
Schatzelein, the jewelry boutique she opened last year, features affordably priced handmade pieces from unsung local, national and international artists. Last week, she celebrated the first anniversary of her shop by releasing her latest collection, Sliver. Though her general aesthetic is one of timeless, organic simplicity, Sliver features mixed metals and an edgier feel.
“I’m into that kind of understated elegance. I want something easy that I can just pick up and wear every morning,” Fail said.
Fail attributes her taste to her German-born mother’s European sensibilities, which is the inspiration for the name of her boutique. Schatzelein is a German term of endearment, meaning “sweetie” or “honey.” This word, full of memory and meaning, is indicative of the heart Fail pours into her creative endeavors.
While studying studio art at UT, she took two semesters of metalsmithing, where she got her first taste of forging jewelry. Fail fell in love with the intellectual challenges of working with metal and transforming it into delicate pieces of art.
“Working with metal in school was a really different approach and process than painting and printmaking — there was more of a chemistry to it. Metal has a lot of different properties that you have to understand in order to work with it, so it was a little more intellectual,” Fail said.
Working a few years after graduating in 2002 in property management, she realized that she had fallen off track with her desired career path. Fail, more than anything, wanted to be able to use her creative and artistic abilities in a business-like setting. With Tata’s encouragement, Fail realized she was meant to do more with her life than lease apartments.
In 2004, Fail entered the gold industry, working for local fine jewelry studios Anthony Nak and Shaesby, where she gathered marketing and sales experience. Fail began to contemplate owning her own small business while she still worked at Shaesby, but when she was laid off in January of 2010, she began to set her retail ideations into motion.
Due to her busy schedule and her duties to her store, at the moment she keeps her designs simple. But even a minimalistic approach lends itself to more design challenges, like how to make a ring or a bracelet without soldering anything.
“I think the best way to push yourself creatively is to have a problem you have to solve,” Fail said. “I like the organic textures that [metalsmithing] produces — nothing is perfect, but it’s simple. You can see each hammer mark, so you can see my hand in each piece,” Fail said.
Fail selects which artists to feature in her gallery-esque boutique, based on her personal style or the personal style of her friends.
Tata joined Fail’s team as the sales and marketing manager after moving back from San Francisco, where she worked as a gallery coordinator for Pier 24 Photography. Tata and her fiancee, William Knopp, also have their own jewelry line, Son of a Sailor, which is sold alongside Fail’s designs in Schatzelein.
“We’re not just making stuff for other people. We’re making it for ourselves and our peers,” Tata said.
Though Fail and Tata have many similarities, their jewelry designs differ vastly. Whereas Tata’s line tends to be current and trend oriented, Christine’s work, Tata said, is versatile and classic, which fits seamlessly into Austin’s fashion scene.
“I think if you looked at fashion from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and today, her jewelry would be relevant because it’s timeless. She finds and makes things that you could have inherited from your grandmother or your mother or that you’ll feel comfortable passing down to your granddaughter,” Tata said.