February 23, 2021

Interview with Jewelry Designer Madeline Rigatti

Posted in: Jewelry

We are thrilled to welcome jewelry designer Madeline Rigatti to the Happening Hands blog! Maddie owns MJ Designs and Blakely Jean based in Pittsburgh, PA, and she’ll tell us a bit about her process and business story.

Maddie Rigati - Shop Blakeley Jean and MJ Designs

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What’s the story behind you and your business?

I started making jewelry in 2006 when a jewelry class was offered in my high school. I fell in love with casting and enameling. My instructor was extremely supportive and always inspired me and taught me new techniques.

Maddie Rigati - Shop Blakeley Jean and MJ Designs

When I graduated high school, I wanted to find a way to keep working with jewelry even though I no longer had access to the equipment that we used in the studio. I attended Virginia Tech and started working with wire and beads, oftentimes collaborating with other local artisans for events. I loved setting up my jewelry at concerts, festivals, and craft shows; and I cannot wait to get back to that!

Maddie Rigati - Shop Blakeley Jean and MJ Designs

Where do you draw inspiration and motivation from? How do you stay creative?

I draw inspiration from many places, but mostly nature. I lived in southwest Virginia for 6 years and the mountains, rivers and streams gave me energy to stay creative.

Maddie Rigati - Shop Blakeley Jean and MJ Designs

I also find inspiration from my customers! I love collaborating with customers on special projects where we work together to identify stones and colors that reflect their personality.

Maddie Rigati - Shop Blakeley Jean and MJ Designs

What does your creative process look like from start to finish?

I usually have random spurts of inspiration where I will have an idea and want to get started making it a reality right away. My process includes cleaning my space and keeping everything organized so I can see all my materials — a cluttered space can really stunt my process.

Maddie Rigati - Shop Blakeley Jean and MJ Designs

Name one thing not many people know about you.

I work in a research office as a research coordinator. I manage geriatric research projects which I love, but I am happy to have jewelry making as a means to stay creative and connected.

Maddie Rigati - Shop Blakeley Jean and MJ Designs

What are your top three values in life?

Open-mindedness, reliability, and service to others.

Maddie Rigati - Shop Blakeley Jean and MJ Designs

In 2021 you opened your brick and mortar shop, Blakely Jean, in Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh with your friend Amelia. What’s behind the name?

Blakley is Amelia’s middle name and Jean is mine. Both are family names! Myself and Amelia are both descended from a long line of hard-working Pittsburgh natives, and their passion and love for their city runs deep.

Blakley was the middle name of Amelia’s father, grandfather, and great grandfather which encompasses three generations of Pittsburgh lawyers. The generations of Blakleys before them, like lots of people who settled in Pittsburgh, were hard working people who lived in Clearfield County, PA.

At the time, this was a big farming and coal mining area in central Pennsylvania. Amelia’s great grandfather was a railroad mechanic in Dubois who married a Blakley and then moved his family to Verona, PA, one of the many river towns near Pittsburgh, so he could work at the train engine repair shop (The Roundhouse).

Gene was my grandfather’s first name on my mother’s side. I spent the first 18 years of my life spelling my middle name “Gene,” until I went to get a passport and found an error on my birth certificate. I decided to keep the “J” spelling but honor my grandfather everyday.

Both sides of my family settled in Lawrenceville in the late 1800s after they came from Italy and Ireland; I even have photos of my great-great grandfather and great-grandmother hanging out on Butler Street! Both of my grandfathers served their country proudly and my grandfather on my dad’s side was a prisoner of war in the Battle of the Bulge. My beloved Nan was one of 11 children – so chances are if your family is from Lawrenceville, you’re bound to know someone in my family!

Shop Blakeley Jean in Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh

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  1. Sandy Gilmore says:

    Just beautiful . I am so proud of you. You ROCK

  2. Rosanne Oberleitner says:

    Beautiful. You and the jewelry!!

  3. Kay Mausteller says:

    Dear Maddie, Your jewelry is beautiful, as are you. Thank you for sending it to me. I wish you much success with this and with your work in your profession as a researcher. You have worked hard, are very talented, and are a wonderful caring person. What a combination!!! Congratulations. Kay

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