If you’re a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Riverdale or Arrow, then you’ve seen the work of Peggy Li. It’s subtle but her work ties the whole character together.
Li is a jewelry designer from San Francisco who’s been designing jewelry for 17 years and shows no signs of slowing down. I was lucky enough to give her a call to discuss her work, what’s next for her and Heroes and Villains.
BS: When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career as a jewelry designer?
PL: You know, I don’t think I ever consciously made the decision to do it. I think I was always crafty growing up and I liked all types of art, then at one point in my life, you’re a poor college student so you’re not making a lot of money so I was making jewelry for myself and people would stop me on the street and ask me where I got my jewelry from. I happened to be working as a writer for Channelone.com down in LA and I also had an interest in screenwriting and film and TV. I’d happened to do a story on the costume designer for Buffy The Vampire Slayer. That was one of my favorite TV shows. I had been making jewelry for myself at the time and really just thought to myself, ‘what if I sent some into the show? They might like it.’ I took a few of my pieces into the costume designer and forgot about it. A couple of weeks later I got a phone call from her office and she was like ‘Hey we loved your suff can you send anything else? By the way, we gave your name to a reporter from USA Today.’ The reporter calls me and is like ‘we hear your stuff is going to be on Buffy, where can people buy your stuff?’ I told him I had a website so when I hung up with him, I was like I need to build a website right now. I literally had nothing. That’s how the actual business was started.
BS: All of these pieces have a bit of you in them since you started off making jewelry for yourself, right?
PL: First and foremost, I think I am making jewelry for myself, I follow trends and designs and ideas that I am interested in. I think my style is very eclectic, I have a wide range of different designs. I think it’s just a reflection of my wide range in style.
BS: Your jewelry got started on Buffy, did you take approach when it came to Jane the Virgin, Riverdale and the other shows?
PL: From that point on, I had a good relationship with costume designers and I’m a fan of Sci-Fi and TV and pop culture stuff in general so it seemed like a natural fit to just keep up that relationship and keep pursuing this. Buffy was like what, 20 years ago, and back then it wasn’t common or people weren’t as aware of what brands were being used on tv shows. Nowadays, it’s totally different. People have access to so much more information and they can search for stuff that people are wearing easily online. I like to say I’ve been doing it before it became trendy to do.
BS: Do you design for specific characters now or do costume designers come to you to pick out pieces?
PL: It varies from show to show. Different costume designers like to work in different ways. I have in the past been asked for specific things, they will be like ‘I need a small, delicate gold necklace, can you send me some?’ I’ve had costume designers send me full descriptions of different characters, character breakdowns, and ask me to send items that might be appropriate for those characters which is really fun. They’ll be like ‘the one sister is this hippy boho chick and the other sister is the corporate lawyer, send pieces that could fit both.’ Other places, I can send a box of stuff and they can pick out what they like and send back the rest. It really depends on the production.
BS: What character to was your favorite to wear one of your pieces?
PL: I think the original, Buffy, was thrilling and so surreal. To realize something I made with my own two hands suddenly appearing on one of my favorite shows, on one of my favorite characters was very cool, I think Felicity on Arrow has been a great pairing. She’s a great character a strong smart woman. She isn’t afraid to dress with feminine accessories.
BS: Where else can we see some of your work?
PL: My work was seen just last season on The Bachelorette with Becca Kufrin. Coming up I can say that my work will be seen on the 3rd season of The Bold Type on Freeform. I’m super excited, I love that show. It’s about three women in New York working in the fashion industry and it highlights their friendship which I think is great for a tv show, it’s not always about women and their romances, so I really love that. Trading Spaces, the host Paige Davis, will be wearing some of my jewelry. There’s a bunch of different stuff on the horizon.
BS: Is there a dream tv show or character you would love to design for?
PL: Right now, I’m in love with Good Trouble. That one I have my eye one. I would love to work with that tv show. That’s the one. I love the characters and I love the show so I would love to be involved with those kinds of projects.
BS: What’s been your favorite part about being a designer?
PL: I think the greatest thing is that ive had this business for a long time while also working full time. I grew the business slowly, sort of organically and I think doing it that way really gave me a lot of creative freedom and that’s been the best part. It’s also taught me that success can come in many different forms so you can pursue the path that’s right for you. Ive done it my own way and ive found success in it. A lot of the ipotess to start a business was like-I love working in the medium, I love making jewelry but I need money to keep buying more supplies. I wanted to do more and more and thought maybe this thing should fund itself so I can keep working at it. Having that freedom for a long time was really fun and enjoyable. I’ve been working full time with my jewelry business for four years. It’s still a small business, a labor of love, and I enjoy it and im glad other people are finding joy in it as well.
BS: How do you want people to feel while wearing your jewelry?
PL: I love when jewelry can give people confidence, people feel like their outfit is complete which gives them more confidence. I think my favorite thing is when I hear people say that they get compliments when they wear my work. They’re getting attention but it’s not like it’s tangential it makes them feel good. I like women to feel confident and unique when they choose something of mine to wear.
BS: Anything to say about your experience at Heroes and Villains?
PL: I think when it comes to FanFest, it’s been, well I used to do a lot of craft shows and hadn’t done that for several years and this past year or two I discovered things like FanFest and I thought oh my gosh this is such a natural fit, why haven’t I thought of going out and meeting fans and it’s been really fun getting to interact in person with people who are fans of these shows and make that connection. I’m looking forward to doing more Heroes and Villains in the future. Its tough to do in person shows but I’m definitely going to make an effort and try to do at least one or two a year. Being able to interact with fellow fans is great fun.
You can find Peggy Li’s creations on her website and she even has items seen on TV in stock. I’m about to grab that Triangle necklace, I love both Betty Cooper and Felicity Smoak! It was a pleasure to get to speak with Peggy Li about her pieces and I’m going to keep a close eye on CW and Freeform shows to see if I can spot any new ones.