The Jewelry Designer Diva

Just because it’s not May anymore doesn’t mean I won’t be hosting interviews on my blog anymore. They just don’t always have to be about writers…like this one!

I talk about my sister Soteria and her spectacular jewelry all the time–heck, I’ve handed out her business cards to people who have complimented me on the New York subway–but how well do you really know her? Here’s your chance to find out!

I asked her these questions a while ago — she took her time answering, and I took my time posting them. I say this because in one of the questions I reference “this holiday season,” and I actually have NO IDEA WHAT FREAKING HOLIDAY I’M TALKING ABOUT. Just so we’re clear. Enjoy!

And when you’re done, pop on over to the Dixie Dunbar Studio website and check out the pretty shiny stuff!


Alethea Kontis: When did you start making jewelry?

Soteria Kontis: I started making jewelry when I was a kid…of course I moved up the bead ladder from making friendship bracelets and daisy chains to knotting pearls, soldering and working with semi-precious stones. I always considered myself the jack of all trades until one day it occurred to me that I am actually really good at making jewelry. It’s nice to have one thing in your life you feel you’re really good at, whether it’s parallel parking or doing your taxes…it doesn’t matter what it is, just having something that makes you feel more confident about yourself is an awesome thing.

AK: Where did the name Dixie Dunbar come from?

SK: There is a Dixie Dunbar who was a famous actress in the 1930’s, but the one my store is named after is the Dixie Dunbar I helped to open this shop with 10 years ago. We worked together as best friends for years until she decided to retire two years ago. She is the coolest. I have never seen her “unadorned”, she wears jewelry when she gardens or even when she goes out for a jog. She taught me so much, her style is so unique and unmatched. People always said that Dixie could pull off so many things that they never could, and after being around her all day I finally realized why Dixie COULD in fact pull off her outlandish style…because she DOES. She doesn’t let insecurity get in the way of being who she is, and that’s her secret perfume. I aspire to be more like her. I kept the name because she lives on in the hearts of people who dare to try something new and different for themselves.

AK: How did you manage to get that famous red door?

SK: You have to offer up your first born in this town to get anything you want. I hope my husband doesn’t find out that our future son will be adopted by the city of Charleston. No, kidding. But you do have to make about 16 phone calls to city appointed members and then create a porfolio of pictures and color samples and show up in person to the Charleston Historical Society and beg and plead your case. FOR A DOOR. It’s the city’s policy, they want to keep people from “tackying” up Charleston, I suppose. I just wanted our shop to be noticed on king st. The city almost made me hire a “city approved Contractor” to paint our door FOR us, but luckily I talked them out of it.

AK: How often do you change the decorations in your shop window? How labor intensive is that?

SK: I have the most wonderful woman who helps out on occasion in the shop, and she calls me to remind me of upcoming events and holidays in which we need to decorate.  She has FABULOUS ideas, for valentines day we had huge blow up lips in the window and fuchsia pink busts with giant purple hearts behind them.  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with for the Spoleto arts festival we have in May.

AK: Who are your favorite customers?

SK: Men make the best customers. They are always content with everything. They never want anything in the shop that you DON’T have, unless their wife/girlfriend sent them on a mission for something. They are so easy to please, I swear sometimes I think I should have opened a cigar shop.

AK: Can you tell us some “worst customer” stories

SK: OH no, do I have to?!?!?  Okay, okay, well without naming any names I had (or currently have) this woman who saw a necklace in our shop window that she couldn’t live without.  Over the course of the next three months she proceeded to call us 8 to 10 times a day just to “talk” about the piece and sent us payments for it in small increments of money orders and by western union.  It got to the point where even though she was considered a customer, I felt I was being harassed.  8 to 10 times a day was a little much, and she would get angry if no one answered the phone. I tried to explain that we had a very small store and only one person in here at a time and that if we were currently helping customers there would be no one available to take her call.  She ignored my pleas and continued to call anyway.  After the three months it took to pay off the necklace we shipped it off and thought we were done with her, but she recently called back to “see what else we might have that she would like.”  I tried to direct her to the website but she didn’t seem interested.  I don’t want to jinx it, but we haven’t heard from her in a couple weeks.

AK: What are some of your favorite local independent shops?

SK: There’s a really cute shop called Willy Jay’s on middle King with some of the most adorable clothing and they are really affordable!  I also love the little local businesses that have opened up on my block, Lucinda Eden has beautiful dresses and housewares and LIly has cute little Charleston keepsakes. We are really making quite the little “locals corner” on lower King st!

AK: What would you like to tell everyone this holiday season?

SK: As a struggling owner of a local shop I must say I’d love to try to talk people into supporting local business more.  I promise we’re not that intimidating, I really don’t mind at all when people come in and let me know what they were thinking of spending…that way I can either help them find something in the shop that’s in their price range or even make them something special to give as a present.  Not only can you give a sentimental gift but you can help support the little man, I’d hate to think that one day this whole world will be one giant wal-mart.

AK: Where can people find your jewelry that don’t actually LIVE in Charleston?

SK: We do have a website,, and I now have pieces in a couple of stores around the US besides South Carolina…

Teri Anns, 290 Front St. Marietta Ohio, 45750

Artemisia, 101 S. Third Street Geneva, IL 60134

AK: If you could have one superpower (or be one superhero), who/what would it/you be?

SK: I always thought it would be cool to be able to go to any country and automatically be fluent in the language, but is that necessarily a superpower?  Or maybe I could just be Temp-Girl, who’s superpower is perpetually being 72 degrees with a light breeze.