It was just “National Random Acts of Kindness Day”. Apparently, the entire week has been earmarked for random acts of kindness. Hmmm….. Do we really need a designated day or week to remind us to be kind? That seems a bit sad to me but, given everyday events in the news and the tone of the current political discourse in our country, it certainly couldn’t hurt. Mary Fisher, an activist, artist and philanthropist, created the 100 GoodDeeds bracelet as a way to mark our kind acts every day. I had the privilege of meeting Mary almost 2 years ago and fell in love with these bracelets that she created and what they symbolize. Every time you do a good deed, you move the marker over one of the 100 beads. She calls it a game, saying that the only rule is that you can’t tell anyone that you’ve done a good deed. According to Mary, “a good deed means we’ve gone out of our way to help someone and only counts if the deed remains anonymous.” No attention, no public pats on the back — just a way to make good deeds and acts of kindness come a bit more to the forefront of our minds. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of these bracelets goes back to the vulnerable women in Africa who made them. Definitely a huge good deed — and I love that it’s quite intentional.
Welcome to “From the Bench” from Max’s! We like to tell stories here at Max’s — in particular, the stories of the artists whose work we represent. From creative inspiration to the “back story” of what a particular artist did before s/he started designing jewelry, we believe that knowing more about an artist can deepen the appreciation for a particular design aesthetic and make an item as much (or more) of a piece of art as it is a wearable item. Jewelry is all about personal adornment — how we feel about ourselves and what our personal style is (avant-garde, fun and funky, tailored and classic) — and, after all, you’re buying the jewelry to help tell your story to the world, right?
Rather than us always telling the story, we’ve decided that once in a while we’ll use our blog to let our designers tell you their story directly “From the Bench”. With our trunk show featuring the work of Todd Reed happening this weekend, we thought it appropriate to launch this type of post with the following Q&A and video from Todd — where you can hear more about his design inspiration and approach to jewelry.
What role does emotion play in your design? My jewelry can be emotional. A little sad even. There’s a layer that’s wrought with a little bit of angst. And I don’t try to take that away, that’s the privilege of being an artist, you can put a little bit of yourself in it.
What is your favorite gem to work with? Why? I love any raw material including raw coloured gems and my first pieces were designed with raw rubies and emeralds. I focus on diamonds because they offer the most exquisite beauty, variety and luxury for my designs.
What practices do you employ to ensure your designs are created with ethically- and responsibly-sourced gems and metals? We work with a great company called Hoover and Strong, a refiner and manufacturer that has been providing socially and environmentally-responsible products for more than 95 years. We send them our scraps and get usable pieces of metal in return. All of the metals we use, Palladium, 18ky Gold, 18ky Rose Gold and Sterling silver, can be and are easily recycled. My primary procurement method for stones is opportunistic buying, that is seeking upcycled and recycled stones that come from Australia, Africa, India, Colorado, Brazil, Russia and all around the world.
What inspired you to begin designing jewelry? I got into jewelry design through a job stitching leather clothes. Craft couture, the clothes and handbags were very popular and we expanded into silver components for the pieces. This was the entree into designing and learning how to fabricate gold, silver and gemstone jewelry. The inspiration came from trying to communicate with objects in an authentic way.
When choosing gems for your work, what do you look for? Unique stones that grab me.
What inspires your approach to design? Everyday life.
Who is your muse? I don’t have a muse. I see beauty in everything. I’m not designing for one specific person.
Do you follow trends in jewelry design? I am aware of them and I pay attention to fashion, but I am not influenced by trends.
How had the jewelry industry changed since you got into the business? When I first got into the industry I was the only one using raw stones and textured metals. So much has changed because of the Internet and eCommerce as well.
Where do you see the industry going in the future? I see it shrinking. Great brands will rise to the top, the consumer will dictate and demand quality as well as a unique buying experience. Brands will surpass designers.
How do current events influence your work? They don’t. I’m totally uninfluenced by social reality.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you? Most of my time is spent thinking about how to have the best jewelry brand.
What talent do you have that would surprise people? I’m great at painting nails.
At the end of last week, I wrote a post about unique and alternative bridal jewelry. We have a jewelry trunk show coming up in a couple of weeks featuring the work (both bridal and everyday) of Todd Reed, who just happens to have an alternative bridal event going on right now. Coincidence you ask? Ok, I know that you’re not really asking, because we know that you’re all too smart to believe it if I said it is coincidence. Nope, purely planned. There you have it, complete transparency (are we all tired of that word yet?) regarding our motives. First we talk about alternative, then we tell you about the Todd Reed alternative event, and then it’s time for the trunk show. Perfect timing. Planned.
Ok, here’s how it all works. Todd’s alternative bridal event is going on through the end of September with 10% of every one of his engagement style ring purchases applied to the purchase of one of his wedding or stacking bands – pretty nice, huh? We have a number of center stone rings and bands to see in the store, so you may want to come in and do a little pre-shopping if you’re inclined to wait for the trunk show (September 25-26) to see a lot more from the collection.
If you’re reading this blog post and thinking that the trunk show isn’t for you because you’re not in the market for any wedding jewelry, fear not and please do come in. Todd has an extensive collection from everyday to more couture and one-of-a-kind. His work is so stunning and he is always coming up with new designs featuring some of the most beautiful “non-traditional” raw and natural color diamonds. The show runs all day Friday, September 25 and Saturday, September 26 and the alternative bridal event runs through the end of the month.
Unique and Alternative – words used to describe something that’s unconventional, a challenge to traditional norms, unlike anything else, and particularly remarkable and unusual. At Max’s we strive to offer our customers artistic work that they won’t find elsewhere, with designs that could easily be described as unique and alternative, in both our wedding and every day jewelry collections. We were thrilled to be included in Minnesota Bride’s “Unique Engagement Rings” story in the issue that hit newsstands this summer. The magazine’s editor and stylist reviewed several options and chose these spectacular pieces by Adel Chefridi and Annie Fensterstock. Adel’s use of a magnificent blue sapphire and Annie’s wide halo diamond design are just a couple of examples of the ways in which our designers create rings and other works that are truly unique, and might also be considered a bit alternative.
Alternative can mean many things – to us, it’s defined by artistic jewelry that bucks trends. White diamonds, long the traditional stone of choice for weddings, are lovely but many designers are now introducing a myriad of colored diamonds to the marketplace to enthusiastic response by couples seeking something beautiful but different. Designers Todd Reed, Yasuko Azuma, and Pamela Froman are some of our designers thinking outside the jewelry box by using cognac, autumn, grey, black and raw diamonds in some of their wedding pieces and Todd even uses raw diamonds in some of his work.
And many of our designers are forgoing diamonds altogether or working them into designs with other gemstones. Jewelry artist Polly Wales took an alternative approach to wedding jewelry when she created her Ruby Eroded Narrow Band with clusters of rubies set freely in yellow gold and her Harlequin Sapphire Mix Ring featuring white and colored sapphires set in yellow gold.
So this is how we define unique and alternative when it comes to wedding jewelry. How about you?
Sustainable. We often see this word used to describe jewelry and other consumer goods, and we ask ourselves just what the word means. Is it simply a trendy industry buzzword? Is it meaningful to our customers?
When we think of sustainability in the jewelry collections we sell, we’re referring to something beyond the common practice of designers using precious recycled metals that have been melted after a previous incarnation. At Max’s, social responsibility is of paramount importance in our business practices. When sourcing new designers, we purposely seek out those whose work is handcrafted either in their studio or in a partner studio, not farmed out to offshore factories for mass production, and those who create their collections in an environmentally-safe and conscientious manner.
Many of our designers are members of industry organizations that advocate for safe and fair business practices. They create their work using ethically-sourced gemstones from suppliers whose stones have received certification by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, a joint governments, industry and civil society initiative formed in 2002 as a means of stemming the flow of conflict diamonds.
Additionally, some belong to other industry organizations that support and promote responsible business practices. Designer Todd Reed is a member of No Dirty Gold which advocates for responsible gold mining practices, and Diamond Development Initiative whose certification scheme protects the most vulnerable group of diamond miners and their communities. Jennifer Dawes of Dawes Designs and one of our newest designers, Todd Pownell of TAP by Todd Pownell, are members of Ethical Metalsmiths, the jeweler advocacy group that fosters social and environmental responsibility by supporting ethical mining operations and safe manufacturing processes in their studios. Knowing how principled these hardworking designers are makes us appreciate their exquisite work even more!
This is what sustainable means to us. What does it mean to you?