A day in the life of a jewelry designer: Q&A with Kelly Sternau
How did you come to work in jewelry design?
I have always wanted to be an artist, but I did not always have a specific medium in mind as a permanent expression of my art. I can recall doing jewelry doodles in my notebooks (and on my homework) my whole scholastic career. It was not until I began creating jewelry my Sophomore/Junior year in High School that I knew jewelry was what I would dedicate my life to. I was placed in a jewelry class by my guidance counselor and ended up falling in love with the art form. I worked for a local jeweler during High School, after which I attended formal jewelry training in Florence, Italy. When I moved to Minneapolis in 2012 I met Mark and started work with computer aided design (CAD).
Where do you find your inspiration?
I draw inspiration from everything. Art, architecture, landscape, antiques, even from my customer’s personalities! I never want to feel limited; I am always open for a challenge or a new design concept.
What do you consider your design style?
My greatest love as a designer is antique jewelry (specifically Etruscan Revival, Georgian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco eras). I like to take design elements from bygone eras and revive them with more modern styling.
Take us through your "typical" day at the office.
The best part of each day is the fact that in the morning I will have no idea of what the day will bring. Each time our door opens we are blessed with a different individual who wants something one-of-a-kind. This makes it so my days are never exactly the same.
Mornings consists of...
Replying to e-mails and checking on the progress of current projects. Since we manufacture in-house there are many pieces and parts to monitor continuously.
Afternoons consists of....
Depending on the day my afternoons are spent either working with clients in store, sketching, designing at my computer or getting jewelry ready for 3D printing or casting.
Can you briefly walk us through the steps customers experience when creating a custom jewelry design?
Custom design has come a long way, even from when I first began in this industry 11 years ago. I love CAD technology because it helps bridge any gap in communication and helps those who may have a hard time visualizing.
First I sit down with a prospective client and see what their intent is for this project. Once I know what gems or design elements they are interested in including I create a series of pencil sketches to create the general design idea. When we have a design that is chosen by the customer I build the model in 3D, using CAD. With CAD I am able to bring the design to life by creating photo-realistic images of what the finished piece will look like. From there a 3D wax model is created and shown to the customer. The 3D wax model allows the customer to see widths, proportions and can even be tried on! I love this process because it ensures that our clients really get what they want instead of having to do a lot of guess work.
What are your favorite things about being a jewelry designer?
I love the process. I feel tremendously honored and lucky to see a piece that came out of my imagination come to life and have them love and cherish this item that we made for them. I also love the nostalgia behind jewelry. A wedding ring set is all about love and a treasured lifelong relationship, while redesigning and heirloom can help heal and provide closure. We get to touch many people’s lives and hear so many stories and get to go on these journeys with so many people. I like to collect these stories, they intrigue and inspire me.
What do you like best about custom designing jewelry directly for customers?
There are many designers who never get to meet the recipients of their work. Getting to meet and speak with the person who I am designing jewelry for allows me to personalize and really adapt what I design specifically to the individual.