For our fifth feature in the series I got to spend time with my good friend Kate Jones of Ursa Major in her studio in TriBeCa this past weekend. Her mum, who is also an amazing jewelry designer, was in town for Kate’s birthday so we spent the afternoon chatting and geeking out about jewelry. I took the opportunity to take some shots of Kate working on the necklace my boyfriend got for me for Christmas and chatted with her about what she’s been up to and what she has planned for Ursa Major this coming year. Also click here if you want to read my Q&A with Kate from earlier this year!
Q. This fall you’ve started creating pieces for men. Are there different challenges that you face making men’s jewelry compared to women’s?
A. The cufflinks are pretty straight forward- but there is a real issue of functionality. I love the look of cufflinks that use chain in between, but all men tell me they’re impossible to use. I don’t like the look of hinged backs- so it was about finding a balance of aesthetics and function, which I love. Rings are a different thing- the scale is completely different to the women’s I’m used to. Sounds obvious, but it’s harder to be as minimal as I like and still make sure it’s gonna work for a guy- are the walls too heavy? Too thin? Too dainty? I’m always open to feedback. Fortunately I’ve got a lot of design opinionated guy friends ;) As for the rest, it’s really just a challenge to make pieces that men want to live in, but one I’m happy to take on.
Q. Do you find that more men are comfortable wearing jewelry these days? Is there a piece that is commonly commissioned from you?
A. It seems that way. Men seem to be paying more attention to accessories and details. I think they realize it’s a way to make an otherwise very simple daily “uniform” personal. And most guys come to me after a piece which is ultimately very simple yet unique, and something they can live in. I do a lot of wedding rings.
Q. You’re cuff links look amazing and I’m sure will be a huge hit. Can you elaborate on the process of making them? Including your inspiration behind the patterns they feature
A. Well I was hanging around Scott Schuman and we were talking about how few good, simple cufflinks are out there that aren’t novelty. Vintage ones were the closest we could find and both agreed it was time for an update. Plus Freeman’s had been asking me to make some. Some of the patterns come from etched plates I made, others from existing patterned metal, and one, the Squash Blossom, is a design I came up with and had engraved- an amalgamation of the iconic American Indian motif and old coins (like the buffalo nickel, commonly turned into jewelry).
Q. And finally, what we’ve been asking all our vendors involved in the Pop-Up shop, what do you see for yourself and Ursa Major in 2012?
A. Big things! Finally the men’s line will come to fruition. I’ll begin selling Ursa overseas and the work’s been published in a couple of books coming out in the fall. Plus a new line I’ve created with a couple of great guys, Derek Brahney and Edge Trullinger, called Hyde. It’ll focus on men’s accessories- namely belts, but some fun bits and pieces too- like the “Spin to Pay” bottle opener you guys have got at the pop-up and available online at Partners and Spade http://store.partnersandspade.com/2011/12/05/spin-to-see-who-pays-bottle-opener/