By Reagan Lightsey
Photo Credit: Crafted by light
Summer Issue 2012
When I met MJ Barton for coffee on Lincoln Road, I had an idea of what I was expecting; but, when I sat down with the smart, ambitious—not to mention downright pretty—Chicago native and creator of Electric Picks, I quickly found out that she isn’t your run-of-the-mill trendy jewelry designer. A graduate of Arizona State University, MJ got a job (by accident, no less) in the Public Relations department at Ocean Drive Magazine. From there, she began working with and eventually planning and directing charity events throughout Miami.
RL: “So, from your own event planning company to jewelry design…did you always know this was what you eventually wanted to do?”
MJB: “No, I actually—I know this sounds crazy—I had a dream about a guitar pick in a bracelet while I was living in Miami. That’s when I decided to move to New York and pursue jewelry design.”
RL: “That’s a pretty brave move—just going for it like that…”
MJB: “I know! But, I thought, for fashion that’s really where you have to be, LA or New York.”
RL: “But you like to move around a lot, right?”
MJB: “I do. I like to say I have led a bit of a gypsy lifestyle simply because I’ve lived a number of places in a pretty short period of time—Chicago, Arizona, Ireland, Miami, and now New York.”
RL: “I read somewhere that you grew up playing the piano…so why the guitar pick as the driving force of your jewelry?”
MJB: “I have a mutual love for jewelry and music…I played the piano for eleven years, but I have to say the guitar is my favorite instrument.”
RL: “Do you play?”
MJB: “Ha-ha! I took lessons for four years, but I wasn’t that good,” she added, probably all-too modestly.
RL: “Who are your musical influences? Who inspires you?”
MJB: “I love Bruce Springsteen and The Roots—I think they’re such amazing musicians! And Carlos Santana is my favorite guitarist; he’s amazing! But I really love music in general: classic rock, jazz, and hip-hop music—they are all part of a universal language that speaks to everyone.”
MJ takes a sip of coffee and the rows of beaded, guitar pick-accented bracelets shift down her arm. The edgy jewelry takes on a cool, sophisticated, rocker-chic look on her tiny wrist. In my mind’s eye I begin to envision everyone from Kate Moss to Keith Richards sporting the crystallite, skull-laden pieces.
RL: “So…back to your big move… you just up and moved to New York; what was that experience like—working to break into a pretty tough industry?”
MJB: “Ok, well, I moved in May and I had my first sale in July—”
RL: “You mean LAST May? And you already have Victoria’s Secret Angels and pro-football players (Nina Agdal and the Miami Dolphin’s own tight end Anthony Fasano, just to name a few) wearing your jewelry?”
MJB: “Well, it was completely organic growth. It was sort of serendipitous the way that people came into my life. They all taught me so much about the industry along the way. And I began to take classes. Also, I began selling the bracelets on FAB.com. That’s where Urban Outfitters saw me.”
RL: “Tell me about Urban Outfitters. What was your reaction when they picked up your line?”
MJB: “Oh, I was completely floored. We just launched Electric Picks at the end of September. Urban Outfitters said they wanted orders in time for Christmas. Then they sold out! They just recently reordered, so we will continue to work with them.”
RL: “That’s pretty huge. Where do you see the line going—a.k.a., what can we expect out of Electric Picks?”
MJB: “Of course I’d like to see the line expand…”
RL: “I for one would love to see you do t-shirts eventually—”
MJB: “Wow… (MJ laughs) Maybe? What you can expect is the eventual expansion to necklaces.”
RL: “I can’t wait!”—And I seriously can’t, because I am already in love with the bracelets’ rocker-chic vibe—“My favorite so far is the Joplin (black beading with a hot pink skull and a fleur-de-lis guitar pick).
MJB: “Really?!” (MJ grins and reaches into her bag.) “That’s awesome, because that is just like the one I brought you!”
And this girl is for real! She reaches across the table and hands me what has now become one of my very favorite accessories—which, I have literally worn every other day since our interview: the I-WANT-CANDY black onyx bracelet. It’s a great example of what her line stands for: edgy, modern, fashion-forward conversation pieces.
So, if you’re like us and simply can’t wait to get your hands on some “Rock n’ Roll for Your Wrist,” as MJ puts it, you can find her collection at Zoe NYC at 19th and Collins or at Therapy and the W Hotel. Otherwise, you can check out the full line at www.electricpicks.com. Either way, these pieces will certainly help you be “pick[ed]” out of the crowd.