Architecture Meets Jewelry

Architecture and jewelry have a lot in common: form & function, balance, personal connection, and materiality, just to name a few. It’s no surprise the A & D industry has contributed to the jewelry world, and vice versa. Recently, I was commissioned to make a small contribution of my own, and the experience was the ultimate collision of my career and small business.

My background is in commercial interior design. When I’m not running my handmade jewelry business Once Again Sam, I’m working as an interior designer part time for LS3P, a major architecture firm in the Southeast. I’m part of the Worship Studio, which consists of a dedicated group that helps design traditional and contemporary churches all over the country. Interior Design and Jewelry Design influence each other in ways I never imagined. I have designed floor tile patterns that became leather cutout cuffs, and I have chosen wood veneer for pendants that ended up appearing on feature walls. Design is design, oftentimes applicable beyond it’s intended application.

Women in Architecture of the Upstate recently commissioned me to create a special gift for their upcoming event, to be given to the speaker, Kate Schwennsen. Each year, they feature a different artist, and have commissioned a variety of work that ranges from painting, to film, and fine jewelry. I was glad for the opportunity, and a little curious how the design committee process might go.

Working as an interior designer means I regularly meet with committees to present concepts and material finishes, and share sketches of potential designs. I’m used to feedback, managing a range of different opinions, and communicating ideas with clients. However, working as an independant jewelry designer and small business owner, I’m used to working alone, having almost no feedback, developing ideas from start to finish with zero outside influence. Designing jewelry with a committee was an entirely new opportunity, a combination of my two skill sets, and the experience ended up being incredibly enjoyable thanks to the wonderful ideas and productive interaction with the WIA group. I’m also thrilled with how the final gift turned out and hope the recipient is too!

This is the final gift set - it includes a mahogany jewelry box with a laser engraved top, and matching leather lining. Inside is an orange laser cut leather bracelet, a pair of bocote stud earrings with orange leather insets, plus a geometric bocote pendant with brass tube detail (the orange is a nod to Clemson’s colors, because Professor Schwennsen is director of The School of Architecture at Clemson University).

So how did we end up here? Where did this design come from? The process went something like this:

The committee shared what they knew about the speaker, her style, what kind of jewelry they thought she’d enjoy. We also wanted to portray an abstract storyline about the “bridge” between an education in architecture and career to inspire the geometry and connections within the jewelry itself.

  • We looked at examples of jewelry I had made in the past, so that the group would better understand the kind work I’m able to create, plus we reviewed color and material options available.

  • I developed 4 concept sketches showing different wooden pendant ideas, which was our primary piece. Some ideas were similar to pieces currently in my jewelry line, others were 100% new.

  • The group provided feedback on the sketches, asked questions, brought up some excellent points, and I made a few templates and prototypes before getting final approval to proceed with an option.

  • I began making the final pieces based on a majority vote in favor of option #1 (and had some help from my handy husband making the box to contain the set).

The final gift set was presented at the AIA / WIA meeting on October 20th, following Kate’s talk titled “We’ve Done More than Stir: Celebrating Women Leaders, Creating Cultural Change”. It was easy to see why she’s one of the most admired educators in the USA, and I was really inspired by her message. Women have been making headway in the field of Architecture, which is exciting, but there’s still a long way to go!