Continuing the CJDG In the Studio series, I stopped in to see Jennifer Dawes of Dawes Design while I was in the Bay Area recently. Jennifer is outside the city, in rural Sonoma County. It's not just a studio: it's a compound, really. There are buildings scattered on the one acre property, quite a few if you count the Airstream trailers! Jennifer and her family have set up a little oasis of life and work, and I feel like the impact of that shows in the jewelry she creates here.
These rings are from a collection that incorporates tourmalines from a particular mine and family in Afghanistan.
If you read my interview here with Jennifer Dawes, or know anything about her, you know that creating sustainably beautiful jewelry is her mantra. She was one of the first jewelry designers to make a comittment, back in 2005, to knowing the origins of what goes into her jewelry. Jennifer is on the Board of Ethical Metalsmiths, uses recycled or fair trade metals, and knows the responsible source of her gemstones. This philosophy informs every part of her art and her business--and life.
Over delicious scrambled eggs--from her resident chickens--we discussed her start in jewelry. Her first day of jewelry making class she knew she had found her calling. She has an ongoing fascination with metal, which is evident not just in the jewelry she produces, but in her own hand-made light fixtures in her 100-year-old home. She welds, which is how she paid the bills early in her career. It's also how she met her husband, doing architectural metalwork on a building site.
I asked Jennifer how she feels about the current trend towards responsible jewelry, since she was a vocal proponent of putting "sustainable" on the map long before it became a fashionable buzzword. She is happy to see that it is an important part of dialogue happening around jewelry. For instance, the fact that in 2015, Fairmined Gold is available to many more designers and manufacturers through supplier Hoover and Strong, is a satisfying development. Ethical Metalsmiths has been working for years for this kind of accessibility, and now it is really happening! Of course, there is still a lot more progress to make, but at least important dialogue is happening, and Jennifer is very happy about that.
Her bench staff was lovely--and had excellent stacks of rings on her talented fingers!
We spent some time in her workshop/studio, in a converted garage not far from her house (nice commute!). She took me through the work flow of jewelry: from conception, wax modeling, and gem selection; through castings being cleaned up; to the finished pieces receiving their signature hand-hammering and polishing. Jennifer has a couple of current fascinations. Wide bands glimmer with flush-set combinations of fancy-shape diamonds, and three-stone rings delight with spectacular natural color diamonds in combinations that intrigue and delight. There was something so satisfying about the colors and textures of the diamonds and metals.
You can make an appointment with Jennifer and her staff to see her collection and make something exactly for you. Contact her studio here for more information.
Thank you for your warmth and generosity, Jennifer! It was an honor to see what--and where--you create each day.
Monica Stephenson, an Editor at CJDGjewelers.org, would really love to have some chickens, and is the founder of idazzle.com, a jewelry blog that profiles artisan jewelry designers and explores the jewelry industry from an insider's perspective.