The naturally sourced, woman-owned business is a dream come true for artist Mary Kunze
A relentless dreamer, Mary Kunze, owner of Halibou Studio, has turned a childhood love into her career, and now uses her sole-operated business to share her handcrafted art and inspire others to follow their dreams.
Founded in 2021 and operating out of Malibu since 2023, Halibou Studios is a handmade jewelry business of primarily metalsmith and silversmith-made jewelry of all sorts, including necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings and more.
The business motto is “Chase Curiosity, Realize Passion” and Kunze brings elements from all her passions into her work at her studio.
“Follow those little ideas that are knocking, those things that excite you and are running through your mind, follow them and give them a chance. Chase those curiosities,” Kunze said. “I truly believe that by doing that, you learn what your passions are and you carve out a path for your life, shows you what you’re missing, and also what you don’t like.”
The inception of Halibou Studio dates back to Kunze’s childhood, when she recalled finding a hobby that she shared with her parents and her community during open houses of her family’s bird feed and greenhouse business. As visitors came by the greenhouse, Kunze would create jewelry collections made of beads, expressing her creative style and she would sell them to the visitors.
She said an experience with her mother opened the door to what would someday become her career and since the beginning, her mother had always been her biggest supporter.
“My mom had taken me to a beadwork class with her in the city and I loved it,” she said. “I was begging for beads and all the materials to make my work. I would bring them downstairs and show my mom and she would say even the most ugly thing I created was great.”
Growing up in western New York, Kunze and her family were very fascinated and inspired by nature, which led to her studying and obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in expeditionary studies from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh in northern New York. There she became immersed in nature, greatly exploring the Adirondack mountains and Lake Placid.
Her studies took her across the world and the U.S., leading expeditions and learning about the wilderness. As she explored state parks and natural areas, she experienced a creative gravitation to the handmade jewelry of different regions around the world. The artistry of jewelry made by natives around the world captivated her, and she desired to create her own art pieces. This academic connection with nature and handmade artistry built on her love for natural resources, a love that would soon be the core of her jewelry business.
Graduated and inspired, Kunze convinced herself to chase her curiosity, taking a four-day silversmith course in the Pacific Northwest. Beginning with soldering and creating small personal pieces, what began as a hobby was now gaining traction as a possible career choice.
Her pieces were garnering attention from coworkers and strangers alike, and after informing them that they were handmade by Kunze herself, she began to get personal requests and offers for personalized jewelry.
“I started getting asked for custom work and gifts for others and all those first customers is where it really all began,” Kunze said. “People were willing to spend their hard earned money on my craft. It really would blow my mind.”
A steady progression of practicing more advanced silversmithing, and spreading word that she was practicing and looking for projects led into the pandemic, where her hard work and unwavering determination were met with unforeseen opportunity created by the subsequent shutdown brought on by the pandemic.
She honed her craft beginning with mostly sterling silver and American-sourced turquoise, and has since evolved to working with natural elements like fine silver, 14k gold fill, 14k pure gold, Peruvian Pink Opal, Mexican Cantera Fire Opal, lapis, aventurine stone, amethyst, quartz, jasper stone, freshwater pearls, Malibu-collected shells, and of course, beads.
Today, Kunze has a studio with a view through the canyon where she can look to the ocean, looking to Malibu’s nature for inspiration for her themed collections. She said that the process of creation of jewelry incorporates a poetic-like use of elements from Earth that encapsulates her love for the Earth’s natural resources. She explained the use of fire for soldering and melting, the use of water for processes like rinsing and bonding, Earth for the materials used and air for oxidation and cooling.
“What I do comes from the Earth,” Kunze said. “It’s a natural process to create that has intention and adorns our bodies. It symbolizes our experience with life and how we walk through this Earth. Our experiences are different from person to person but we can all be linked by these singular things.”
Her boutique operates mostly online, with her collections dropping on her website. Her work could be found on Haliboustudio.com and her designs and collections could be also seen on her social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok @HalibouStudio.