From rickety old shed to shiny, new shop
Ari O’s Ariane Coleman creates art you can wear
Working out of a shack along the banks Dudley Creek, Ariane Coleman shared her first jewelry studio with mice. While creating her one-of-a-kind creations she’d often hear traps snapping in the background. She’s still making her unique jewelry, but rest assured no mice inhabit her current shop in the Town Center.
Coleman came to Big Sky 21 years ago, relocating from Billings after taking a few years after high school to travel before getting serious at 21-years-old, earning a metalsmithing degree from Montana State University in 2004. “I asked myself, ‘What am I going to do? I’m not going to be a doctor, so I better be an artist," she said.
She decided making jewelry was a fitting way for her to be creative while also making a living. “And jewelry is an intelligent form of art, not that all art isn’t, but jewelry is very mathematical and fun to work with. I like to make structures,” she said.
After graduation, she soon married her husband Ben and had two children, Orrin and Chloe.
When the kids were napping, she’d find herself out in the “nasty little” Dudley Creek shed.
“It was just me and the mice, and we were at war. It was raunchy, tiny and gross, but it was my spot,” Coleman said. “I figured while I was raising these little kids I would be in the shed figuring out who I was, what I was trying to say. When you first tell yourself you’re an artist, you can’t think of anything. There’s so much pressure you put on yourself. So, while I emulated other people’s style, to figure out how metal really works, I’d go out to the shed to figure out who I was.”
She eventually upgraded to a garage in the Ramshorn neighborhood, which, thanks to structural soundness and the help of a cat named Ozzy, had no mice. In 2013, she moved out of the garage and into her first commercial space—a small, old kitchen located behind the Wrap Shack in the Westfork Meadows. There she worked on wholesale products, also selling a few of hers and other artists’ creations in the small shop area up front.
“That was the most awesome studio space I had, because it was a kitchen, it was roomy, and I could have my photo studio,” she said.
Stepping up the retail game, she soon moved into a studio next to the Bugaboo in the Canyon. She sold a small amount of jewelry, and eventually hired her first employees so she could amp up the amount of pieces made and sold. Two years later, as the Big Sky area expanded, she moved to her current location in the Town Center near Lone Peak Cinema.
“This was a huge step. It’s worked out well, and really grown a lot,” Coleman said, sitting in her bright workspace at Ari O. “It brings in a wider audience, and I don’t have to go all over to show things.”
Coleman does travel for work, though. In 2017 she was invited to the Golden Globe Awards in Hollywood where she offered up some of her nicest pieces to actors who could borrow and wear them during the awards if they chose. One of her leather bracelets was worn by an executive at Sony.
“It was really cool,” she said. Coleman was invited back this year but turned it down to focus more on her business.
Appearing right at home at her shop and studio space in Town Center, Coleman said she truly enjoys what she does.
“Are there headaches with small business? Anybody who has ever owned one knows there are, but it is not a bad job,” she said. “I get to figure stuff out. If I have something that’s on my mind I get to put it into an art piece. I think, ‘I’m making something today.’ All the jewelry in here has been made by three people, and it’s got energy in it. Not to sound hokey, but it really has meaning. You see the people making it, we’re excited about it and everybody is stoked.”
Check out more of Ari O’s offerings on Facebook or on Instagram @ariojewelry.