Inside Peppercotton's Quirky-Cool Studio

There's a handful of things we simply can't refuse — among them, an obsession-worthy collection, and an adorable, feel-good story. So, when Patrick Culpepper and Aurelia Cotton of Peppercotton jewelry offered both of these things, we just couldn't resist.
Naturally, we invited ourselves over for a peek at their studio, and to learn more about what makes this design duo tick. Warning: You're about to fall in love with the pair, who are taking bling to the next level. Did we mention their studio has naked ladies and Elvis on the walls?
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
How did you two meet?
Aurelia: "The very first time we met was at a Halloween party my freshman year. Patrick and all my future friends were sophomores, and he was dressed up as Eminem. We became really close my junior year when he was working on his thesis. Even though we were in different majors, we always ended up working on our homework assignments together in our apartments, which were a block apart. We just worked really well together, and our respective work was stronger from our collaborative working environments. "
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
A glimpse of the Peppercotton studio. Talk about your open-door policies.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
Aurelia, how would you describe your personal style?
"Ripped up T-shirts, flannels, jeans or cutoffs, and black boots are my standard outfit. Most of the nice things we barter from our various designer friends. But, one day, we hope to have lots of nice clothes we can wear our ripped up T-shirts with and remember the days when those were all we wore."
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
Timo Weiland dress.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in creating your own business?
"Keeping the company afloat while growing the business/building the brand is still a huge challenge. We do all our own sales and press, so we are fully in charge of our direction, which is very exciting, but usually means we are constantly working. Also, we somehow still haven’t had the opportunity to work and connect with Swarovski! We are very fortunate to have incredibly talented friends and assistants/interns that have made each step possible — without them, Peppercotton would have folded a long time ago! We are always looking for new interns, too!"
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
Aurelia, you studied apparel at RISD, and Patrick, you were a painter. What influenced your decision to create jewelry?
Aurelia: "The crystal/tube medium was invented while we were working on my senior thesis for apparel, where we made clothes out of them — including a very heavy crystal vest. Regardless of our different mediums, our aesthetic concerns were aligned. We share a highly attuned sense of color, and a specific interest in layering color to achieve the exact shade or effect we desire, whether we are using paint, textiles, or crystals. And, we are both perfectionists. So, Peppercotton is really an amalgam of our strengths, and our jewelry represents that.

Patrick: "As we continued to collaborate at RISD it became obvious to us that our ability to work together was really unique. Jewelry seemed to be the most logical step for us to partner up and try and establish a business/brand."
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
The white theme really makes the colorful Peppercotton jewelry pop.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
And, Patrick, how would you describe your personal style?
"Casual, distressed, pretty simple; good jeans (long and cut-offs), disintegrating T-shirt collection, and black shoes are my uniform."

Timo Weiland shirt; J.Crew jeans; Converse shoes.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
Sweet kicks!
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
What were some of the things you took into consideration when setting up/designing your studio? What's important to you in a creative space?
Patrick: "I’m fairly particular about any space/workspace, but size and natural light are always deciding factors. The apartment is all white with high ceilings, large windows on either side, and two massive skylights. So, there is constant natural light, which is crucial for making/seeing the jewelry. The space is calming, but always in constant flux: Almost everything in the apartment is on wheels for easy rearranging. Our individual studios (where we make the jewelry) have steadily become more and more organized. The amount of little components necessary for the jewelry, and other miscellaneous objects and papers demand a lot of organization/reorganization—there are hundreds of drawers, and hundreds of containers. Maintaining neutral areas outside of our studios is important for the energy of the space, breathing room."

Aurelia: "Maintaining an organized studio is something I constantly have to work at. My general feeling is that I like to be able to see everything I like all at once, and apparently, I like so many things that there isn’t enough room to display them all! But, that is why I have so many little toys around my space, and why every inch of my walls is covered. I need to be able to gain inspiration from every place I look."
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
Hanes T-shirt; A.P.C. jeans.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
Patrick's spent a solid 10 years distressing this shirt.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
LiLo sitting pretty in the pink-to-green transitional section of the inspiration space.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
Are there any designers or influencers you dream about collaborating with?
"We have been lucky enough to collaborate with some amazing people, like Lori Goldstein, Susan Cianciolo, and Timo Weiland. We collaborated with Paul Rowland for our fall/winter '13 collection while he was still at Ford, and he shot our lookbook with Kremi Otashliyska. It would be a dream to design trimmings or appliques for clothing — especially Marc Jacobs, Rodarte, or Jeremy Scott in terms of domestic designers. Comme Des Garçons, Moschino, Undercover, McQueen, and Karl Lagerfeld, are a few of the international designers we would love to work with. Our private clients are hugely inspirational for us when we collaborate on custom pieces. We also want to collaborate with Scalamandre to make high-end textiles, trims, furniture, and wall coverings. Even more than our jewelry, our sense of color can truly be applied to anything and everything."

Vintage top, which Aurelia's mother found in a dumpster.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
It's a jungle out there, but a very organized one.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
What's one of the weirdest materials you've used to create jewelry?
"Since our medium is untraditional, we embrace unexpected materials for jewelry. Last collection, we integrated both synthetic and human hair into our work (available at Opening Ceremony). Victorian mourning jewelry was often made of hair from the deceased, so we took it in the opposite direction and made fun, raver-y pieces — like an armband festooned with a rainbow of human hair. This season, we used polymer-clay nail decals inside the tubing to create a layer of little drawings over the crystals. We also incorporated found plastic pieces intended for aquariums and cake toppers into our jewelry. However, the most unexpected material we’ve ever used to make jewelry is human remains. A close friend asked us to make him a locket containing the ashes of a loved one, and he wears it daily."
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
Tell us about all the ladies on the walls. It looks like Elvis also makes a guest appearance.
"We have an immense collection of magazines (fashion, cinema, art, pornography, etc.), books, advertisements, wrapping paper, art, and other loose ephemera ranging from the last 100-plus years. We are constantly sifting through for color inspiration, and the walls are changed several times a year, usually with a loose theme (i.e. Elvis) or only black/white imagery. Aurelia’s studio is almost always full spectrum — complete saturation. The imagery is important, but color is the guiding force behind the wall collages. In our broad magazine/ephemera collection, generations of different printing techniques are present, and each one has a different effect on color. With this in mind, different decades have certain color trends, which we find fascinating. For example, tones of olive mossy green were popular from the '20s through the '50s. But in the '60s and '70s this color transformed into an avocado color, and by the '80s this color was totally unpopular and replaced by splashier emerald and teal tones. So, we like to represent different spectrums within just one color on the walls, like the pink wall for example.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
What are some of your favorite places to shop and eat in New York?
"Window shopping is the only kind of shopping we do these days. Second-hand places are usually more our speed. Something we like to do when we get antsy in the studio is to walk down Manhattan Avenue to The Thing (a thrift shop) and buy a bunch of old magazines for the walls. In terms of food, we are trying to cook more at home, but like to eat at Ashbox around the corner, Dudleys on the LES, Fanelli's in Soho, or a secret French place we recently found in Queens. If we are really feeling extravagant, we will occasionally splurge at the Mercer Kitchen, or the seventh floor at Bergdorf's. Bergdorf's is one of our favorite places in the city, and we’d love to sell our jewelry on the fifth floor there. We love to go to there for inspiration, and also because they don’t care if you try on $80,000 diamond rings with no intention of buying them."

- Timo Weiland dress; Marc Jacobs shoes.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
Aurelia, you have such a natural beauty look. What's one of your go-to beauty products?
"I wear Josie Maran argan oil every day as moisturizer, and Weleda skin food in the winter."
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
So much color!
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
Fresh air and plenty of space make for a productive studio.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
Vintage American Apparel shirt; Timo Weiland jacket; J.Crew jeans.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
That necklace! It's the first time we've ever been jealous of a mannequin.
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Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
What advice would you give a budding jewelry designer? "Good luck and work hard."
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