Where do you get your ideas?
Bainbridge Island jeweler Robin Callahan seems to have endless creativity, and she says she draws a lot of inspiration from the two different processes she uses to create jewelery: client commissions and jewelry competitions.
“Both processes push me to create better and better pieces,” says Callahan, owner of Robin Callahan Designs.
Jewelry competitions stretch Callahan’s imagination
Callahan has won a lot of awards — local accolades like Best of Bainbridge and national awards like the AGTA Spectrum Awards (“the Oscars of the industry,” Callahan says) — and this year will be creating more pieces for competition than ever before. A collector of Callahan’s work has pre-purchased several of her competition pieces, giving her the budget to go all-out this year.
“In competitions you’re competing against the best of the best, and that pushes me to dig deep and try things that have never been done before,” she says. “All of these new designs will influence my work going forward, for both competitions and commissions.”
Custom creations create lasting memories
Client commissions start with a conversation, either over the phone or in Callahan’s studio. She’ll ask questions about their style preferences and also about their daily life. A nurse or gardener will need a low profile ring for everyday wear, for example.
“Sometimes a client will ask me to recreate a competition piece I’ve made, with a few changes. Sometimes they’ll send me 30 photos from Pinterest that are all over the map. It’s my job to decipher their style, by narrowing it down to their strongest loves.”
Then she starts sketching, first with pencil and paper, and later with a computer to create 3D designs. She’ll come up with a variety of ideas — one might jump out to a client right away, or they’ll combine favorite elements from multiple designs. With computer-aided designs (CAD) Callahan can show the client a 360-degree view of the piece to make sure it’s exactly what they want. She can also print a 3D mold for the client to try on.
“Sometimes they’re describing a $20,000 ring, but their budget is $5,000. It’s up to me to make the finished product feel significant and special, and also work with their lifestyle.”
Callahan is involved in every aspect of the process from beginning to end. At a larger company a sales person might have the initial client conversation, and then send notes to a CAD designer. A third person might build the ring from the CAD, without ever meeting the client.
“I love getting to know my clients and being part of the journey from the first conversation to the final hug goodbye. Because of my knowledge of the client and of jewelry design, I can spot issues and fix them before the piece is even finished,” Callahan says. “I love keeping it personal, and making the experience super special for my clients.”