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Alumni Column: Emily Ratzlaff


Written by Brandi Clement

Emily Ratzlaff is a 2004 graduate from Heartland Community Schools who earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Design from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Upon finishing her bachelor’s degree, Emily moved to Tampa, Florida, to attend the University of South Florida-Tampa to obtain her Masters of Architecture degree. 

Since the time that Emily was in elementary school, she always knew that she wanted to be an architect. She explained, “I had a folder that I would use to save images of homes that I would tear out of magazines, and I would draw images of homes. I never considered any other profession as I grew up; I just knew what I wanted to do.” Drawing ideas for homes eventually turned into ideas for jewelry design. “I have always loved fashion and taken inspiration from Andrew Defrancesco, and it wasn’t until my junior year in college in Lincoln when I began to have ideas about jewelry. My ideas were always inspired by the architectural images I would see in my classes,” Emily explained.  

Emily’s passion for fashion grew over the years, especially after moving to Tampa for graduate school. “I began thinking more seriously about turning my ideas into a business. I started making my own jewelry with nuts and bolts that I got inspired from the LaCkore and I would purchase the materials from Home Depot and casting small concrete elements to integrate into my jewelry. For my last year of graduate school in Tampa, I decided make jewelry out of concrete as my thesis project. I utilized 3D design and 3D printing to create prototypes and then created molds to cast the concrete jewelry. I knew that year, without a doubt, that architecture was not my end goal in life and creating jewelry was my destiny,” said Emily. 

Once she completed graduate school, Emily started working as an architect full-time. Working in this field helped get her feet on the ground and then helped her focus on how she could turn her ideas into a business. Emily stated, “I ended up moving to Baltimore for another job in architecture and began focusing on transitioning from concrete to metal which is much more wearable. I searched for metalsmiths who I could utilize to manufacture my designs. I ended up finding a great manufacturer in NYC, and at that point, I began building my collection in metal. In 2015, I decided to name my brand Minton, which is my middle name, and officially opened up Minton LLC.” Emily is still currently a full-time architect allowing her to fund her jewelry business. She has utilized her nights and weekends to work on her jewelry. “It is definitely very difficult to balance both, but when the time is right, I plan to transition into running Minton full-time.”

Minton Jewelry is currently an online shop, but Emily is dreaming of opening a store one day. Most of Emily’s design work for Minton is done within her apartment using a 3D software program called Rhino. When it comes to drafting designs and create the physical items, Emily described, “I utilize 3D printing to create prototypes of my designs and test out the sizes and proportions. Once I feel confident about a piece, I send off the digital files to my manufacturer in New York City and they take it from there.” 

While participating in big events like New York Fashion Week and residing in big cities, Emily hasn’t forgotten about her time growing up in Henderson. “Growing up in Henderson provided me with a strong and consistent foundation. I think of my family and my best friends and having a simple and happy childhood. I believe that having that fundamental comfort and happiness in life was a huge part in my ability to go out and chase my dreams and weather the uncertainty that comes with finding your place in life. Henderson has definitely allowed me to maintain a balanced perspective while experiencing the fast-paced eccentricities of city life. I feel fortunate to know what small-town life is like, and the close community that it creates. Even though I know I will never move back to Henderson, I am proud of where I am from,” explained Emily. 

When it was asked what kind of advice she would give herself in college, she stated, “Trust in my failed dreams and failed plans, because they are the only signs that I need to dream bigger. To know that true happiness, belonging, and truth will be found within myself and not outside. I would tell myself that there are ultimately no wrong paths in life, no mistakes, and no wrong turns. Trust every aspect of life, good and bad, because both experiences are catalysts for growth and are simply life improving upon itself.”

Check out Emily’s beautiful designs at Minton Jewelry!



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