ARC Boldly Went from College Thesis to Legit Business in One Summer

The following post is brought to you by Squarespace. Our partners are hand picked by the Design Milk team because they represent the best in design.

08.19.19 | By
ARC Boldly Went from College Thesis to Legit Business in One Summer

Say you have an idea you want to execute, maybe even turn into a legitimate business, but it’s more the selling of a concept than anything else – how do you make that happen? One of the best shops we’ve come across in this vein is ARC, which at its core seeks to encourage mindfulness and creative expression. An “arc” is simultaneously a shape and a concept, similarly ARC’s objects seek to be both literal and figurative in their existence. Daniela Jacobs, the designer behind the brand, looks to a world that celebrates the beauty of small, everyday moments to create a collection of sculpture that’s both wearable and functional. Squarespace, an all-in-one website building platform, has been there since the start for Daniela, with a sleek website design that complements ARC’s brand and e-commerce that helps build the online side of her business!

While some people seem to have to continually cultivate their creativity, others appear to have been gifted with it since birth – Daniela easily falls into the latter category as you’ll soon see. She’s also a go-getter who explored several facets of fashion and design before ever committing to college.

The creative support Daniela received started at home, “Ever since I was tiny I’ve loved creating things, inventing ways to bring daydreams to life, and experimenting with different materials. My parents always encouraged me to use my imagination to the maximum degree possible and to find creative ways to solve problems.”

“I went to LaGuardia High School, a public school in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I was an art major. It was great to be among other kids who were just as quirky and passionate about something creative like I was. It made me gravitate towards a university like Parsons, where I hoped to encounter the same thing. In between high school and college, I took a gap year during which I worked and interned as much as I could to explore different aspects of Fashion and Design from various angles in NYC. I also designed and created a clothing collection and put on a fashion show. I was one of the first interns at Refinery29 in its early days, I interned at Vena Cava, and for about a year I wrote a DIY jewelry column for Stylecaster and worked at ROOM, a furniture showroom in downtown NYC,” she shared, laying out the timeline pre-ARC.

Daniela boldly and courageously took her senior thesis at Parsons, where she was an Integrated Design major, and evolved it post-graduation into what is now a full-fledged business.

“This (Integrated Design) program encouraged alternative approaches to Fashion rather than teaching students to follow industry standards/ideals/ideologies. I studied the ethics of production and consumption, sustainable business practices, and throughout the years developed my own visual “language.” Eventually I found my creative voice in jewelry and home object design, but it wasn’t a linear process. Since my program was so small, I had to take my technical classes (ceramics and metal) with Product Design majors and subsequently apply those skills to jewelry design. Because of this, my approach to designing things in general became more open and fluid,” she explained.

“I didn’t plan on starting my own business so soon after graduation, but after presenting my thesis I received a lot of positive feedback and encouragement to go for it. So after a summer in Mallorca contemplating my various options, that’s what I did. ARC objects officially began in early 2014. It’s definitely been a challenge, especially because of the whole in-house production aspect, but from the beginning I’ve felt so lucky to be able to continue with this creative project and grow with it.”

ARC’s core collection is inspired by colors, textures, shapes, and sounds that Daniela has come across in nature. Most of the future-heirloom pieces she creates are bold and made by hand in porcelain and metal, bringing together organic and industrial techniques along with responsibly sourced materials.

Though she learned to work with both materials during such different times of her life, they seemed to come together so naturally once she started producing pieces. “I took my first ceramics class when I was 5, so for a long time it’s felt like a natural material for me to work with and explore. I first learned the small-scale industrial production techniques in Parsons though – and that opened up a whole new creative space for me, as I’d never worked with molds before. I also liked the idea of making jewelry out of an unexpected material. In fact, part of my original idea with my thesis was that if the substance of the objects we use and adorn ourselves with are a bit surprising, perhaps this will encourage us as users and makers to be more mindful of what and how we consume on a larger scale,” she said.

“I started working with metal because once I became inspired to try making ceramic jewelry, there arose the question of hardware. Most of the options for necklace closures, for example, are hard to trace back to their original sources. Once I started learning how to work with metal, I found that I loved the grittiness and satisfaction of it – so different than ceramics! (Or any other material I’d experimented with before.)”

As far as what’s to come, Daniela shares, “I would love to learn to work with other materials in the future. Glass and wood have been on my mind for so long, and I also still love making and designing clothes.”

Inspiration is one of the most fascinating things to discuss with anyone – creative or not. Ask one hundred people where they find theirs and you’ll get one hundred (or more!) different answers. We talked to Daniela about where she finds hers and who she looks towards for mentorship.

“I find inspiration from many sources! Especially shapes, textures, and colors found in nature. I grew up between Mallorca and NYC, so Mediterranean sights like mountains and the sea and weeds and desert-y sands both inspire and soothe me. I often go to the library to browse through random sources, and the scans I end up with are usually a mix of National Geographic photos of sweeping landscapes or nature shots from around the world, tribal / folk creations, and (usually) a random deep dive into the world of another maker/designer,” she started off.

She continued on, “I also love odd pairings that somehow make sense together. Accidental beauty. Asymmetry that just feels balanced. Warmth – in people, in temperature, in color – in all various ways. Romance. How love opens us. Elements of water – waves, obscured transparency, the way things look underwater. (Swimming is also something that’s very important to me. I swim every day, even in the city, many new ideas come to me while swimming – including the name ARC!). Strong contrasts (textural, musical, sensory, edible); the golden light that touches everything as the sun is lowering in the sky.”

Switching to talk of mentors Daniela went on to say, “As for people, Lisa Mayock is a dear friend and mentor with ARC and work-related things, and is a beautiful person I feel so lucky to know! She’s always been an incredible role model in terms of personal style and creative exploring.”

“Pascale Gatzen was my teacher and thesis adviser in IDC (my program at Parsons) and is so brilliant and insightful. She really helped me learn how to develop and trust my own visual voice, and truly unpack the concept of sustainable design.”

“My mom is a very beautiful, inspiring person and artist – and as a graphic designer, she helped open my eyes to how we experience design from a very young age.”

We know it’s tough to play favorites, but we have to ask the tough questions – like whether there’s a piece you’ve created that’s resonated more than others.

“Hard question! I can say that I wear the Wing Hoop Earrings pretty much every day… I still wear the original prototype I made from scratch at Parsons. I also wear one of the porcelain bangles, usually on my left arm, if not every day then almost. And the Full Circle Plate is a favorite, I enjoy that it functions double-sided (that is, flat side as the bottom or the top). It was originally intended to be pretty different in design, but I liked the mistake better than my original concept so I went with it. This happens a lot, and it gives me a particular joy when I think about how something turned out so much better because of a little openness.” We have to agree whole-heartedly on that last count, Daniela!

At the end of the day it’s just about impossible to run a business entirely on your own, which is when it’s time to reach out for help. Squarespace isn’t just a website builder – although they’re a great one – they’re an all-in-one platform that can help you create your business’s online presence.

Daniela shared her experience by saying, “Squarespace has been my website platform from the very beginning because it has beautiful templates and features that are clean, minimal, and user-friendly, and suit my minimalist aesthetic really well. The shopping feature is super convenient, because it means ARC exists online all in one place. As my business has continued to develop, so too has my website, and the Squarespace platform is both malleable and consistent enough to continue being the right fit for ARC.”

Ready to get to work on your own site? Take the first step with a Squarespace website. Use coupon code DESIGNMILK at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.

Kelly Beall is Director of Branded Content at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based writer and designer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, from Fashion Plates to MoMA and far beyond. When not searching out the visual arts, she's likely sharing her favorite finds with others. Kelly can also be found tracking down new music, teaching herself to play the ukulele, or on the couch with her three pets – Bebe, Rainey, and Remy. Find her @designcrush on social.