Our decision to partner with JCK on the first-ever “UncommonGoods Design Challenge” for JCK Tucson was driven by our passion for supporting emerging jewelry designers. Also new to the larger JCK Events team is the appointment of Design Ambassador Jacqueline Stone. Jacqueline is one of several members on the JCK Events team made up of industry insiders that have come together to ensure that each JCK event is flawlessly executed. She is also the lead designer and founder of Brooklyn-based fine jewelry company, Salt + Stone. As soon as we learned about Jacqueline’s new role on the JCK Events team and her diverse background in the jewelry industry we were eager to chat with her to get a designer’s perspective on the event. In part one of this two-part interview series, Jacqueline talks about what it means to be the JCK Event team’s first Design Ambassador and why jewelers should operate with positive energy instead of fear.
Learn more about the “UncommonGoods Design Challenge” at JCK Tucson here.
Tell us about your role as JCK Events’ first Design Ambassador.
In my column for National Jeweler, “Designer’s Diary,” I talk about the challenges and joys we face as emerging designers. Katie Dominessey, JCK Industry’s Vice President, had read one of my pieces and asked me to breakfast. The position came into being organically during our discussion. Ms. Dominessey is extremely passionate about re-launching the Design Center, so when she asked me to be the JCK Design Ambassador I was floored. It’s such a perfect fit as I’m not only a designer myself, but I’m an advocate for change. It’s such an honor to be chosen for this role and it’s one I take very seriously.
As a designer yourself, why is it important to you to support other designers in this way?
I think fear has ruled our industry for way too long. When I used to step into other vendors’ booths at a trade show without a buyer’s badge on I’d promptly be asked to leave. Unfortunately a few bad eggs in the business have created this environment of secrecy and closed doors. It’s made the entry point for emerging talent almost impossible. I want jewelers to let positive energy lead the charge. Sharing information and collaborating with your peers is powerful, not prohibitive, to creating great work. And if someone is copying your designs, bravo! You’ve really made it. I say move onto the next thing or let your lawyers go after them. Most jewelers in the business are not out to steal each other’s ideas. In fact, most of the folk I’ve met are very honest, passionate and creative souls.
What are a few goals you have for the year ahead as Design Ambassador?
My biggest goal is to help dispel all the silly perceptions about JCK’s Design Center. Some of the designers have been with us for over 20 years! While many like to gripe about what we’ve done in the past, we must have done something right from a business perspective, or people wouldn’t have stayed loyal. There are other designers who got their start with us, such as the incredible Todd Reed, who moved on when the Design Center lost its focus a little bit. We’re so thrilled to have him back at our Design Center re-launch in Tucson this February. He’s just as excited about all the new changes as we are and it’s a very sweet homecoming. We’re putting the focus back where it belongs: on well-designed product that is built with integrity by incredible and passionate people.
My other goals include positive vibes and generating some much needed excitement for our industry as a whole. I get to cheer up pessimists all day long on the phone who keep quoting statistics and keep talking about their fears, but I’m a huge believer in thoughts becoming thing. If we put our focus back where it belongs, creating beautiful wearable art then we can’t go wrong. Customers are super savvy these days and they pick up immediately on genuine passion and interest in the why. Why is your customer buying fine jewelry? What are they celebrating? Is it a wedding? A baby? A new job? A graduation? A gift for themselves? Fine jewelry is a thoughtful purchase and if we are thoughtful about the story behind the work, the artist and the presentation, then slowly, but surely we’ll start remembering how magical our industry can be.
What can the industry start to do to close the gap between designers (particularly emerging designers) and retailers?
Another goal would be to help shorten the gap between jewelers and retailers. Not only have jewelers been leading with fear, but so have retailers. Sales are soft this year. I have a strong suspicion it has a lot to do with Millennials hitting the luxury market and a lot of retailers aren’t quite sure what to do with them. Not uncommon as they are a complicated bunch, but I do know this: Millennial are not even close to being label conscious as generations past. They don’t necessarily buy something luxury for status quo, but because it’s an heirloom, or tells a story. I think we are about to embark on a huge revival of really beautiful, thoughtful and well-crafted jewelry. I encourage retailers to not just go into a show with a name brand mindset, but to be open to new work and unknown jewelers. There is a huge crop of incredible talent on the forefront and I’m excited to see what they produce.
What is your one wish for the jewelry industry?
That all the crazy hippies come back into action and join me around the drum circle. In all seriousness, business should be fun! I would like all of us, myself included not to take ourselves so seriously. I hate that luxury doesn’t immediately equate to fun. Why not? Who says you can’t wear your diamond necklace and have a good time? I don’t believe we all need to be frowning to have permission to wear gorgeous jewels. My biggest wish is for more fun.
Images courtesy of Jacqueline Stone.
Want to learn where Jacqueline gets her design inspiration from and how she tackles her to-do list? Read part two of our interview with her here.