Q&A: Olga Ganoudis
Nov 26, 2017 09:58AM ● Published by J. Chambless
Ganoudis is responsible for many items sold on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” shopping site.
now, many Greenville-area shoppers who collect artisan jewelry are
familiar with the name Olga Ganoudis. Her booth is consistently
crowded at the Brandywine Festival of the Arts and Wilmington Flower
Market. But those in the know can find her on most days simply by
pushing open the purple door to her small Trolley Square studio.
Located on North Scott Street, the studio experiences brisk traffic
around the holidays and Valentine’s Day.
Not only can you see Ganoudis at work at the large table, which dominates the space, but you can also view her jewelry, which is attractively displayed in cases. There are statement-making cuff bracelets with mixed metals and eye-catching stones, earrings with bold textures and elegant earrings with pearls.
Her own designs are sold at such local shops at The Station Gallery in Greenville, as well as in galleries across the country. Yet the Wilmington-born Ganoudis didn’t grow up determined to be a jewelry designer. She had an early case of wanderlust and wanted to travel the world. The middle child and only girl of three children, she grew up in a townhouse near Matson Run, a creek in the Brandywine Hills area of Wilmington. Even diehard collectors, however, might not realize that Ganoudis is responsible for many items sold on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” shopping site, both in the U.S. and abroad. This is not the first time she’s leveraged the love of a popular television show. She also designed jewelry inspired by the show “Lost,” which was sold through ABC’s online store.
“It was a Norman Rockwell-like area at that time,” she recalled. “We all loved it.”
Her parents both had an artistic streak. Although her father was an engineer for the DuPont Company by day, he caned chairs at home. “He was good with his hands on any project,” Ganoudis said. Her mother, who worked for Frances Boutique in Centreville, was a clothing buyer.
After graduating from St. Elizabeth's High School, Ganoudis got a job at an airline. Based in Washington, D.C., she worked at reservation desks and arranged travel to ski resorts and Hawaii. It was a well-paying job with travel perks, but she wanted to pursue her artistic streak. She moved home to attend the Philadelphia College of Art, now the University of the Arts.
Greenville & Hockessin Life talked to Ganoudis about her impressive 30-plus years as a jewelry-maker.
Q.: Did your mother’s job at Frances Boutique in Centreville have an influence on your style?
A.: It was a very inspiring place. There were clothes and designers there that were just unbelievable. There’s never been a store like it since. Ladies were looking at Chanel furs, and the boutique sold clothes by designers who were coming into their own. One of the people I admire the most has been and still is Coco Chanel. I think her story is amazing.
Did your mother take you on buying trips to New York?
She took me with her a few times, but my grandmother lived in Brooklyn, so we were going to New York all the time.
When did you first develop an interest in the arts?
I was always into the arts. Always. I was always making stuff, and I was in the arts club [in school].
Why did you go into the airline industry?
I wanted to travel, and that was the best way to do it at the time. But I didn’t want to stay in the airline industry forever, and I don’t even know why. I came home, went to the Philadelphia College of Art and worked part time in a travel agency.
In college, you gravitated toward jewelry design. Did you have a mentor?
My teacher was Dana Standish. She said, “If you want to make a living at this, it’s going to take a lot of blood, sweat and tears. You have to do a lot of craft shows. You have to spend a lot of hours alone. You just have to do it.” So that’s what I did.
What did it take to start a business that’s focused on making and selling own jewelry?
It took a lot of energy. You live, eat and breathe it for 24 hours. I’m not sure I could do it again. Back then there was no internet. I had to do a lot of craft shows, and I had to do wholesale shows in Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore. It wears you out. Galleries came by and placed orders, and you had to fill the orders. Things have changed. You can sell so much online now or send a text. Galleries don’t want to go to a show because it costs them money to go, too. They tell me, “Send me a box of jewelry; you know what I like.”
After so many years, do you sell direct to consumers?
People still come to my studio a lot.
What is your design process like, and how has that changed? How do you come up with ideas?
I never draw out my designs, because my work is really about texture. Once I’ve created the texture, then I go in and make the jewelry. I may know I want to make a cuff and use a certain stone, but I don’t put it all together until I’m at the bench.
Do you still take classes?
I just took a workshop with Marne Ryan, [a jewelry artist and instructor]. She was so inspiring. Workshops are a great way to get your creative process. As you gain experience, everything seems to flow more fluidly. You know how to execute to realize the idea. In the beginning, it’s a lot harder. Some of my early designs were so complicated. I was trying to overachieve a design.
What are you working on now?
The new textures that I’m creating are like working with pieces of fabric. My current pieces have layers and layers.
Do you create a collection, much like a fashion designer does each season?
Yes, I do limited editions. I don’t want to run with the same thing forever. I was doing a lot mixed metals with sterling, copper and bronze. Right now, I’m doing a lot of things that are all sterling silver. I’m really liking that look -- sterling silver with a stone or sterling silver textures all on their own.
Are there any designs or styles that are difficult to retire due to customer demand?
I dropped blister pearls for a while because I just wanted to do something else. Now I’m back to doing them again with a different design. People just love that blister pearl. Then there are some designs that you just move away from, and people don’t ask for it, either. People like to see fresh designs; it’s so much better. You can still keep your signature style because your hands are the ones that are designing it. You’re always going to have your touch on it.
Are the items inspired by “Lost” still available?
I don’t make them anymore, but I still have some in the inventory in case somebody wants something. Other than that, I’ve put that one to rest.
“Game of Thrones” has one more season left. Is there still a big interest in 'GOT'-related jewelry?
People are still in the game, so to speak. People have become more obsessed with it. They know it’s ending, and they want to be part of it. The big seller is the collectible box with the three dragon eggs – we can’t keep them in stock. We’re constantly having my factory make more. We’ll see what happens when season eight comes to a close. It keeps me busy. There are days in the studio when I’m just doing “Game of Thrones” stuff, and that’s it. But I still have time to do my other designs right now.
Would you get involved in making jewelry and accessories for another show like “Lost” or “Game of Thrones?”
How has the marketplace changed since you entered it?
Etsy has really opened up the market for stay-at-home crafters and artists. It’s more competitive. But with jewelry, it’s always competitive. The market is still going to dictate whether you’re successful or not. If you’re making something you love but people don’t love it, then no one is going to buy it.
You live in the Highlands, which is close to Greenville. Why is this area a good place to live?
It’s so convenient to everything – the Copperhead Saloon, Brew Ha! Ha!, Pizza By Elizabeths, Janssen’s Market. I buy all my cards at Whimsy and shop at Francesca’s. Houpette is fabulous.
Do you have a motto?
Good things come to those who work their ass off. They always do. Work hard, even if you don’t feel like working.
Is there a profession other than yours that you would like to try?
I’m right where I want to be. I really like what I do. Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m working because I enjoy it so much. When I hear people say they hate their job, I don’t know how they exist. To make a living out of something you love is like winning the lottery.
By Pam George