From the Bench: Meet Todd Reed

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. 




Max’s and the Todd Reed Alternative Bridal Event

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 Marry Well in Wedding Rings

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?


What’s in a Word?

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?


Too Much Chocolate?!?!?!????

Is there really such a thing as too much chocolate?  You might think it’s a strange answer coming from me, but I say yes there is.  I feel this way every year at this time after I’ve been shopping at the Fancy Food Show looking for new delicious and different chocolate for Max’s. Two solid days of taste after taste (I know, sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?!?!) does really get to be bit much.  One of the things that gets tough when you’re trying so many different chocolates is the ability to decipher the nuances between them (that’s where the coffee samples come in handy–cuts through the sugar!). Having said all of this, I’m happy to report that I did sacrifice my stomach (and waistline!) in the name of research that would allow me to expand our already fabulous (if I do say so myself) selection of chocolates.

So what did I find?

Gluten free, dairy free, soy free EVERYWHERE!   As someone who is lactose intolerant, sensitive to soy and who just found out she has a pretty serious gluten sensitivity, this was really nice to see. The allergen-free messaging was abundant in just about every category of food, and chocolate was no exception.

In the world of chocolate there were chocolates that have sweeteners other than cane sugar which is great for people who want to eat a less highly processed diet and who are watching their sugar intake.  Coconut sugar, beer sugar and honey are examples of alternative sweeteners.   There were a fair amount of chocolatiers using safflower oil (and even one using pine tree oil!) and there were several using safflower lecithin instead of soy lecithin.

In addition to bringing some chocolate into Max’s that are using these different ingredients, we will also be expanding our selection in terms of the countries we represent–either in terms of the origin of beans, the place of manufacture or the style of chocolate being produced.  Stay tuned for new arrivals from the U.K., Germany, Italy and the USA.

I’ve gone to this food show for 10 years and I really think that this year’s show was the best in terms of variety offered and products that excite me for Max’s.  Our new selections will begin to arrive this month and you’ll be track their arrivals on FB and our Instagram feed.  In the meantime, I need to go hit the gym!


It’s Time to Celebrate Dads & Grads!

Question for you – what do a pair of bright yellow and black bumble bee cufflinks, a pirate key chain and a hand blown glass paperweight have in common? Here at Max’s, we think they all make fabulous gifts for your dad and grad! Yep, it’s a double-whammy in terms of gift giving this month and we’ve got you covered. Allergic to the bumble bees? How about the red guitar or the rabbit or the skull with a moving jaw? We love all of these fabulous and fun cuff links from British design house Deakin & Francis.

And for the women who are graduating? Well, there are lots of choices for them too including fabulous wrap bracelets, hoops and studs, layering necklaces – you know, that type of jewelry that you love to wear every day. Of course, we think that a little something sweet works too, so we’re all stocked up on a variety of chocolates, including my current favorites – chocolate with quinoa and chocolate made with coconut milk. So for the dads and grads in your world, come on in and let us help you find that perfect something-something!


Getting Stoned (Again) With Suzy Landa!

Trunk Show: Thursday, June 18 – Saturday, June 20

Suzy Landa is a stone junkie.  Those aren’t my words, those are hers.  She says that she falls in love with a stone first, and then creates a design that best shows it off.  Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?  She also says that she doesn’t follow trends when creating her jewelry which I LOVE about her.  She’s got a strong enough sense of who she is and confidence in her designs that she doesn’t feel the need to be trendy.  That’s good news for all of us who like to wear her jewelry, because it means that we won’t see ourselves coming and going all over town.  If your attendance at prior trunk shows is any indication, Suzy is one of your favorite designers. We love it when Suzy is in the store with her entire collection because the vibrancy of the gemstones she uses in her jewelry just lights things up — and she’s a lot of fun! Rather than me continuing on about all that I think is so right about Suzy’s approach to design and the corresponding results, why not listen to her talk about her approach and how she does what she does.


Happy Birthday (to us!)

At the risk of sounding a bit like a broken record, I find it amazing that another year has flown by and that Max’s is another year older.  When we opened our doors, I don’t know that I can honestly say what I thought the store would be like nine years out.  What I can say though, is that it’s been a terrifically fun journey filled with great new relationships with our customers and designers and staff.  Who can argue that coming to a place filled with beautiful jewelry and delicious chocolates every day is a pretty sweet deal?!?!  I am so in awe of what our designers’ brains develop, and love selecting from their creations to bring them to Max’s with the hope that you’ll react to them the same way I do.

When I left the corporate world to open Max’s, I referred to it as the start of “Chapter 2” in my life.  Nine years later, I’m still writing, and have every expectation and hope — with your fantastic support and a bit of luck — that it’s going to be a VERY long chapter.  I hope that you’ll stay tuned!



Have You Heard About Mother’s Day?

There are a number of things that happen every year.  It snows (well, ok, only if you live in certain places), you have to file a tax return (yep, sorry, that’s not optional), young adults toss their hats in the air during commencement ceremonies, there are fire works sent high into the sky in July, and holiday decorations start springing up in many shopping establishments the day after Halloween.  One of the other things we do, if we’re lucky to have her, is celebrate mom.  Yep, Mother’s Day.  Did you know it’s this Sunday?  Need some ideas?  How about this for starters.  Given that it’s spring and the time of year that flowers start to bloom, we’re in love with these hydrangea earrings from John Iversen, one of the newest designers to join Max’s collection.  The hydrangea is one of John’s signature styles, and is  available in gold or silver, with different numbers of blooms.  We think it’s perfect for mom, because you were thinking of getting her flowers anyway — right?!?!


Amali for Mother’s Day!

Do you know what’s fun? Here at Max’s, it’s welcoming one of our designers to the store for the very first time. On May 1-2, we’re welcoming Sara Freedenfeld, the designer of Amali jewelry to the store for a trunk show. Sara discovered her passion for making jewelry while backpacking through South America. While in Chile, she learned to combine natural elements with knotted strings to form intricate wearable art. In Venezuela, she met an artist who taught her the how to link and mold metal and things took off from there. Drawing inspiration from the natural landscapes and vibrant textiles that she saw during her travels, Sara hand weaves gold chain and gemstones together to create jewelry that is sophisticated and glamorous. We couldn’t be more thrilled to represent her in the store and welcome her for her Twin Cities visit. She’ll be in the store on May 1-2, which – hint, hint — just happens to be in time for some Mother’s Day shopping!


Jewelry, Art and Alex Sepkus

Is it jewelry as art, or art as jewelry? That’s a question we often ask ourselves when we’re choosing designers to represent and I don’t think that any designer walks that line more than Alex Sepkus. Alex is a self-described “intellectual eccentric,” composing each of his designs as a mosaic – it’s a compilation of many intricate pieces that come together in a harmonious, artful way. The components in each piece are so small that microscopes are needed to execute the work. His work is inspired by the Renaissance and Baroque eras, interpreted with a very modern approach, resulting in designs that are at once playfully quirky and eclectic, featuring extraordinary beauty and quality. I am so proud that Max’s is the exclusive Twin Cities retailer for Alex’s work and invite you to see this magnificent jewelry. While we carry his work throughout the year, we will be hosting a trunk show on April 24 and 25, enabling you to see and choose from even more and decide for yourself — is it jewelry or is it art?