Authored by Marlene Richey
In the previous three parts of my series on Designing a Jewelry Collection, I’ve talked about what a collection is, design principles, designing for your customer and the difference between being a designer and being and artist. For this final post, I wanted to talk to the designers of jewelry collections themselves. I asked a bunch of jewelry designers to share their thoughts and goals in their own words when designing jewelry for their customers. Here is what they so graciously shared with me.
“I am in the wonderful position that my design is inspired by my travel on the luxury ships that sell my collections. I am continually looking for unexpected texture, plays of light, and color on days we are in port. Last summer I began work on a Mediterranean collection that is based completely on the rich, but muted, colors of Cinque Terre and the sea around it.”
“The most important aspect of my design process is that my designs are unique and recognizable as Martha Sullivan. There are trends and influences that we all latch onto but for any amount of success interpret those things in a way that is unique to you. I have been using the Maine coast and landscape as my muse of late.”
“These are probably the three major things I consider when designing. Does it represent my brand? Does it have broad appeal? Will my designs retain their integrity when manufactured by other craftsmen who may not have the same high level of skills that I do.”
“When I design, I think of making something beautiful that will be meaningful in my customers’ lives. Something that is heirloom quality, made with high quality materials, that will bring beauty and pleasure for generations to come. My desire is that the wearer enjoys my pieces as much as I enjoy making them. I want to bring beauty to people’s lives!”
“Design, craftsmanship and wearability are the most important and consistent factors I consider when making my jewelry. I do consider a certain type of customer but I think a great design can appeal to a wide range of consumers. Affordability and ease in the making process are equally important when it comes to production items but whether production or one of a kind the most important factor in designing a successful piece of jewelry is giving the wearer a sense of inner strength as well as outwardly beauty.”
“The greatest influence in my work is rooted in WORDS. Words are very powerful in every way that they are used…through language, music and writing. I admire their permanence as well. Quotes have helped me through some of my most challenging times. They make me think about love, possibility and what’s important in life—a reminder of how we should never give up on our dreams, never forget that dear loved one, and, most importantly…never forget who we are.”
“I have a very clear picture of my ultimate customer when I am designing. I picture her in my design. I ask myself is this wearable? Will this make my customer feel pretty when she wears it? Will it add or detract from an outfit? I see it as a part of a whole. I get very excited seeing a design idea come together. That’s what I think when designing.”
“In the studio, I don’t necessarily know what it is I will be making. I never sketch. I get in a rhythm in a certain process, and go! Always in motion. It’s very satisfying to feel so free.”
Marlene Richey started a jewelry design firm with no prior business experience. During the 35 years since, Marlene has run a wholesale business and a retail gallery, participated in hundreds of craft and trade shows, and traveled across America selling the pair’s jewelry. She has served on the boards of SNAG, CJDG, Maine Craft Association, Metalwerx and WJA. Marlene consults with artists, teaches workshops and was professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Maine College of Art. She is also a contributor to various jewelry and craft publications and wrote an award-winning book on running a jewelry business, Profiting by Design. Have a business question for Marlene? Leave it in the comments section below and she’ll get back to you.