Top of Mind
Good People: Kelsey Lim
By Crown Affair
Welcome to Good People, an interview series featuring those who inspire us and keep us forever excited for the future. This month's Person is Kelsey Lim, the creator behind Abel Objects, in honor of our collaboration together, creating a solid sterling silver rendition of our signature Comb No. 001 (available now!). Read her full interview here:
- Tell us where you grew up, and what led you to where you are now.
I grew up in Massachusetts in a suburban town by Boston, but from a very early age I identified New York City as my one true home.
A few years after I was born, my grandmother bought an apartment for herself in Manhattan—she is the reason why I fell in love with this city. As long as I can remember NYC just felt like home, and to this day it is where I always feel most alive. Growing up I would find any excuse I could to come stay with her, and I moved here the day I graduated from college.
- What was your early career like? What (or who) were your biggest inspirations?
I went to art school to study graphic design, and in my freshman year I took my first metalsmithing class. I absolutely loved it and looked into doing a double major or minor, but found out that would entail a whole extra year of college. Instead of doing that, I opted to sneak into the jewelry department as often as I could—I even devised an independent study one semester to secure my own jewelry bench. When I moved to NYC I immediately threw myself into my graphic design career, working a series of jobs at digital design agencies. While I loved (and still do love) graphic design, I found myself missing working with my hands—I was spending all of my time at a computer. I still had all of my jewelry tools stowed away under my bed, so I looked up a local jewelry studio and began taking classes and renting bench time there. As soon as I started making jewelry again, I knew it was back in my life for good. That was in 2017, and that same year I decided to go freelance to have more flexibility to work on jewelry. As a graphic designer, I was able to embed myself within lots of different types of companies and be a sponge soaking up and learning as much as possible. I ended up having some very educational experiences building brands—both bad and good. After the fallout of one particularly formative experience, I realized I was throwing my heart and soul into building other people’s businesses and thought—”what would it look like if I invested that same energy into my own passion?” That was when I decided to take the leap and go all in on Abel.
- What are some of the core principles Abel Objects was built on?
As someone who creates physical products, I am extremely conscious of the environmental and social effects of my work. While I know that producing anything leaves a footprint, my goal is to create products that will stand the test of time (both in style and construction) and to do so as responsibly and sustainably as possible. My ultimate goal is to get to a place where I’m able to give back via Abel, and make meaningful positive change. I also want to build my company slowly and deliberately, driven by my personal definition of success versus the one more commonly glorified by society. I’m really not interested in “growth at all costs” or “getting rich quick.” Instead, if I can make enough money to support myself while doing what I love and staying true to my values—that, to me, is success. I don’t need or want to be the next multi-million dollar jewelry company. I’d rather stay small and be able to create and nurture personal relationships with my customers and partners, and stay connected to the work. That is when I find I feel most satisfied and fulfilled.
- What do you find most rewarding—and challenging—about owning a business?
The list on both sides is very long!
If I had to choose just one, I would say the most rewarding part of owning my own business is having the agency to stay true to myself, even if it means taking a hit on margins or profits. It turns out I have some strong convictions, and from time to time at past jobs I would find myself questioning why things were being done a certain way, or why we were moving at the pace we were. Being my own boss means that if I want to make a change, I can just do it.
A challenge specific to my particular business is that I am currently operating solo, which can feel isolating and daunting. I’m used to having colleagues and higher-ups to aid with decision-making, but now I have to be the final call on each and every decision — from the many minute details to the bigger picture stuff. I’m fortunate enough to have an incredible network of friends who are very generous with their time and expertise, so that’s served as an invaluable extension of the Abel family. There are definitely times when I wish someone else could just make some decisions for me, though!
- Take us through your creative process—what does a typical day look like for you? Do you have any rituals you follow?
Part of handling all elements of my business means that every day looks completely different—the variety of which I actually love. There are some days that are admin heavy and find me planted at the computer, but they’re always broken up by days where I’m running around the Diamond District or working at the bench. I find that switching things up and doing different types of activities day-to-day is best for my creativity.
Two rituals that have been immensely beneficial for me are how I start and end each day. Every morning I must immediately have a cup of coffee and eat breakfast—usually oatmeal or cereal with fruit and a mix of seeds and grains. The breakfast is purposefully healthy so that no matter what else I eat that day, I know that I’ve had at least ONE nutritious meal. It’s nice to tick that box and I like starting my day that way.
I used to really struggle with establishing a sleep routine and waking up in the morning. About a year ago I started keeping my phone in the bathroom when I go to bed so that it’s not the last thing I look at at night nor the first thing I see in the morning. It’s not a groundbreaking concept, but it has hands down been the most beneficial habit I’ve developed for my sleep (and believe me — I’ve tried it all!).
- What has your relationship to your hair been? Past, present, how has it changed over time?
I’ve spent most of my life trying to change my hair; I always wanted it to be something it wasn’t. It’s both thin and fine, and I’ve always wanted it to be long and full of volume — two goals that just aren’t in the cards for my hair type.
The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve grown to accept and appreciate my hair for what it is versus trying to force it to do or be something else. What’s important is that it’s healthy, so that’s what I focus on now.
- What is your current haircare ritual/routine? Feel free to give us a rundown—how often you cleanse, what you do in between washes, what products you use and why, etc.
II know this sounds so sycophantic but I do use almost all of the Crown Affair products! I met Dianna in 2018 when we were freelancing at the same company and when she later started Crown Affair, I immediately purchased. Having witnessed that woman’s hair in person—that was all the marketing I needed.
My haircare routine is extremely low maintenance—I’ve never been able to be too fussy with it. I wash with shampoo + conditioner 2-3 times a week and use dry shampoo when my roots get greasy in between washes. I put my wet hair up in The Towel while I lotion and put my skincare on, then work in leave-in conditioner and let my hair air dry the rest of the way. All of these products are Crown Affair—I SWEAR this is not sponsored!
I either wear my hair down, pulled back in a clip, or up in a bun with a silk scrunchie (my hair is so fine, if I use anything other than silk I lose 200 hairs immediately).
I’m currently on a crusade to have Crown Affair make a perfume, but until that day comes I’ll just keep dousing myself daily with The Signature Scent.
- What kinds of things do you do to care for yourself, inside and out?
Pre-2020, I hated both exercising and cooking. These days, they are two of the most important ways I take care of myself.
I started cooking during the pandemic as a necessity, and it’s turned into one of my very favorite activities (and love languages). Similarly, after being extremely non-athletic my entire life I got hooked on rock climbing a couple years ago, which I now do about three times a week. It still blows my mind that I “have” a sport, and it feels really good and empowering to feel strong.
These two activities serve as a barometer for my work-life balance — if I’m going through a period where I’m not cooking or climbing as much, I know work is taking over and something needs to change. When they’re missing from my life I start to really feel it both mentally and physically.
- What things make you happiest? What do you do to incorporate more of those things in your life?
I feel happiest and most alive spending time with old and new friends, learning and experiencing new things, and designing/making. My ultimate grand scheme, if I can pull it off, is for Abel to be a vehicle for bringing more of all of the above into my life.
Abel is a fine jewelry company for now, but I want it to be so much more than that. I want to build it in such a way so that if there’s an opportunity to make something I’ve never made before (for exp: a comb!) — I can go ahead and try it. I want more excuses to bring people together, to work with different materials and at different scales, and have a platform to make a bigger impact than I could as an individual alone. I know that’s all a bit vague, but I have so many ideas spinning around in my brain and in the works… all I can say is, I’m really excited for what’s ahead!