I’m a big believer that it’s fine to wish friends a HNY within the confines of the month of January.
And as I run out the clock on January I’d better do that soon. Like now.
Hello February! Mea culpa.
(This little thing thing called the Tucson Gem show comes along every February. Specifically the AGTA show where I was exhibiting this year kept me plenty busy preparing for it.
My writing was the first casualty. Meals for my children the second. But more on that later.)
Never a big one for resolutions, I thought I’d share some New Year inspiration specifically for jewelers that I have taken to heart over the past couple of years. A delicate and somewhat embarrassing subject is the accumulation of stones. Bits and bobs of precious materials. . .
diamonds, pearls, colored gemstones that can crowd the safe.
It could be that you ran across a great buy when supply and demand in it’s purest form smiled down on you. Or there was a beautiful stone that you knew was just meant to be yours even if you don’t quite know what it will become. Or that pearl that maybe I passed on only to call my dealer to tell her that "there’s this pearl that is haunting me. . ." and she somehow always knows which one it is and it appears in my mailbox a few days later.
All that to say, even with the best intentions, I can buy faster than I can design / draw / fabricate. And I'm not alone.
A couple of years ago I was in Asheville and as is my habit, was visiting a jewelry store downtown. Engrossed by the collection, I looked up briefly as a woman flitted through the showroom announcing that she had just worked through the contents of her safe. I think I was more awestruck by that than any of the beautiful jewels. This offhand comment rolled around in my brain as I con-sidered the monetary and aesthetic value of my inventory of gems waiting to be transformed into amazing jewels.
It took me well over a year to a.) figure out just who was that person and b.) to arrange a time to chat and thank her. Her offhand comment had fell upon receptive ears that had turned it over again and again in my mind. This chance encounter provided a new buying matrix for me and has saved me thousands of dollars. I knew there was an interesting story there.
This past October I was in Asheville and had the opportunity to talk with Paula Dawkins at length. Her beautiful store, Jewels That Dance, is a beautifully edited collection of contemporary jewelers.
And the answer to the burning question. . . it took her a year to work through eight trays of stones and three boxes of diamonds.
My approach (most likely crippling ) would be to carefully inventory every box and then start drawing, planning, scheming and no doubt buying even more stones to go with the ones in my current collection. Instead, Paula would go to the safe, pull out a box, and go straight to the bench and get to work. She would visit the safe two to three times a day and spoken like a true artist-businesswoman hybrid stated. . . "It's not fair to the stone and it's not fair to your pocketbook to leave stones in the safe!"
Her bench is worn and sits next to another bench jeweler with whom she confers often.
Theirs' is a creative partnership. This is a workroom that is thoughtfully organized for flow and productivity. I was struck by the simple beauty of an anvil that was just like one outside my father’s barn. Her desk, on the other hand is high tech. Paula is able to seamlessly combine old school technique with technology precisely because of her over 40 years on the bench.
From pixels to casting . . nothing was lost in translation on this collaboration with one of her customers. The tendrils and leaves were gracefully "carved" to create this garden for the wrist.
The finished bracelet did not have that sterile digital feel, but one that has passed through the hands of a human, engaged in its creation.
My real interest lies not just in process, but in people who have gone through ups and downs and survive as both artists and business people. Longevity speaks to me, far more than flavors of the month. There's depth. There's an evolutionary quality that comes from practicing and refining a vision and an aesthetic. There's also a quiet confidence.
With the exception of the cyclical, post-Christmas letdown that occurs every January, she's never entertained the thought of doing anything else. She became addicted to possibilities.
Paula defines success as making jewelry that will be handed down and enjoyed by a new generation. And she has been in the business long enough to see this happen. Repeatedly.
Her advice to those entering the industry: keep your nose to the grindstone, show up every day and be willing to risk everything you have. Common sense with an uncommon boldness.
So the next time you’re in North Carolina, carve out a couple days for Asheville and be sure to visit Jewels That Dance. Jeweler or jewelry lover, you’ll be inspired.
Tucson treated me well and I made judicious buys.
(Heads up: I focused on emeralds and am designing an entire collection around the dreamiest Columbian green. . . )
And my mostly empty safe is for sale. It’s too big.
Serious inquiries only.