Q+A with Sarah Graham

Q+A with Sarah Graham

From earning your bachelor’s degree in International Business, at what moment did you realize that metalsmithing was your passion?

After graduation, I worked at a brokerage firm, but wasn't enjoying it. I went into a local jewelry store and asked for a job. On my day off, the bench jeweler let me observe and eventually started teaching me some basics, and I was hooked.


 

Sarah Graham Sea Urchin Studs
 Tell us about your design style.
What makes your collections unique in the industry?
There are two aspects that define my style - the use of oxidized cobalt chrome, and the portrayal of nature and science in non-literal ways. I want to show the natural world in ways that people aren't used to seeing.

Sarah Graham - Pebble Ring Stacks
You have so many amazing collections! Is there one that holds special meaning to you?
 
PEBBLES was my first collection ever, and is still the most popular. I think it is still the best representation of my core inspiration. And it reminds me of the early days, my first sales, my first connections with collectors, the excitement of becoming a jewelry and building this passion into a real career.

Sarah Graham Aspen Ring
What drives your creative process?
I'm always on the lookout for great textures and shapes, and ideally concepts that
can incorporate two or more different metal colors. The Aspen Collection is a perfect example of this - when I looked at the rich textures of the trunks, I was intrigued, and then I noticed the dark eyes, and I knew it would make a great collection of jewelry.

 


Sarah Graham Shadow Band

 

 

Your matte black finish of Cobalt Chrome has become a staple of your work.  What inspired you to incorporate this finish into your pieces?
While I was doing my apprenticeship, I saw a vintage necklace made of dark black metal, marked as 'anodized steel'. For the next 7 years of my training, I asked everyone I knew how to anodize steel, and everyone said it can't be done. Finally, I was directed to a caster that did work for the medical industry, and they introduced me to cobalt chrome, which was even better, as it turns dark, matte black, AND is totally stainless and hypoallergenic.

 

Sarah Graham Stacking

 

 

 

 

What’s it like to see someone on the street wearing one of your creations?
It's actually quite amazing and flattering and really, the best feeling in the world. I want to run up and say "I made that!" but I don't...that would be embarrassing. I quietly observe the person, noticing what else they may be wearing, where they are going, what they are doing - this is my customer, my 'target market', the person I should know and keep in mind every time I design a new piece.

 

   Sarah Graham Leaf Earrings

       

 

 

We all get in ruts now and then.
How do you get unstuck creatively?
I look through art books and online, but not at jewelry! I tend to find a lot of  inspiration in clay -   it is so sculptural and textured, I find it relates more to my design sense than other jewelry. Also, if I look at other jewelry, I am just seeing ideas I can't use, since they have already been done!

 

 

 What projects are you currently working on?

I'm working on a new design based on the Egyptian Goddess Hathor.  A wonderful client commissioned a piece of this inspiration, and for a while I was stumped...I just couldn't figure out how to make something that was a subtle gesture and not an obvious representation. But once I finally hit on it, I fell in love with it. And I found a texture in an unexpected place, which I have also totally fallen for.


What is your favorite piece of jewelry you own?
It would have to be the necklace I wear almost every single day - it is gold and oxidized silver, and it has my son's toe prints on it, made when he was four months old. Not only is it beautiful and just about the best design for non stop every day wear, it launched a collection concept that has become very successful for my business!

What was the first piece of jewelry you ever made – what made it so special?
The first piece of 'real' jewelry I made was an enormous opal ring surrounded by two rows of basket set diamonds. The entire thing was fabricated by hand, and about as ugly as it gets. But it is technically still one of the most challenging pieces I've ever made, and it is a source of pride to have had the skill to make it.

Sarah Graham Pebble ring
Do you have a stone you love working with most?

Diamonds  - they are easy to work with since they are so durable, and they sparkle like no other stone. I am not big on major color; I consider myself a metalsmith first and foremost. I feel the subtle colors and huge sparkle of diamonds is the perfect complement to my metalwork.


Sarah Graham Ring
 
What is the most challenging part of owning your own jewelry studio?
Managing employees is the biggest challenge in any business. I also find it challenging to stay fresh, do things differently, and try new ventures while staying true to my self. But if we don't change, we die...so I press on.

 Who have been your biggest mentors in this industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you?
One of my early bosses told me that if I ever wanted to make any money, I couldn't do it sitting at the bench. I was horrified to hear this, and adamant that I would be the exception. Well, 20 years later I find myself at the computer and on the road 90% of the time. He was right, of course, but he was happy with this fate, and so am I, as it allows me to connect with my stores and collectors, which I love just as much as making jewelry. And without a steady income, none of this would be possible, so it is worth it.

 

What is something about you that would surprise people?
Hmmm...maybe that I married my hairdresser?

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