Oct 01, 2015 BY Diamond Foundry IN Artisan Craftsmanship
“I feel like I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet because I get to make beautiful things for people that appreciate them, and I can actually make a living doing what I love,” says Jennifer Dawes from her studio in Sonoma County, California. “I had a transcendental experience on the first day of my metalsmithing class when I was 18 years old. I realized on the first day, within the first hour, that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.“
Dawes heads an artisanal jewelry design company, Jennifer Dawes Design, which she created in 2000. In 2005, the company rose to prominence as a committed member of the green jewelry movement, which coincided, not accidentally, with the birth of Dawes’s first child.
“Becoming a mother was the most meaningful and spiritual experience I have ever known,” she says. “It changed the way I perceived the future and showed me how important it was to be committed to a socially and environmentally responsible lifestyle.” Dawes owns a house powered by solar for electric and water, and which is attached to a solar powered hydraulic system for heating and cooling. In the studio, she uses recycled gold and responsibly mined stones, and acts as a board member for Ethical Metalsmiths, a nonprofit organization that seeks to create transparency within mining practices. Even her staff is green. “Every single person in my company drives biodiesel, electric, or hybrid cars,” she says.
When asked if she screened for like-minded individuals in the hiring process, Dawes insists that “it happened organically. I’m lucky enough that I had everyone come to me.” Indeed, attracting and keeping a staff of entirely environmentally conscious individuals is no easy feat, but it might have something to do with the appeal of Dawes’s unconventional corporate structure. “My corporate structure here is very aligned with everything – with the art that I make, with how I do business,” she says. “We are very aligned in our beliefs. The corporate structure here is very supportive. It’s mothers, fathers, creatives and visionaries. It’s a relaxed corporate environment. We compare it having a family.”
It is, perhaps, fitting that Dawes and her corporate family produce the very rings that initiate and commemorate the unions of new families. While Dawes crafts earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, she thinks of engagement and wedding rings as “life-changing totems.” These rings will accompany their wearers, every day, into a future full of transitions, conflicts, and solutions. “I want [the rings] to feel good and pure and imbibed with nothing negative,” says Dawes. “They are powerful objects, and they should be devoid of any type of conflict or question,” which, of course, includes stones and metals mined in conflict.
More generally, Dawes hopes that her work conveys “a feeling of freedom.” She knows that “consumers are savvy now,” and that her customers are concerned with philosophy and ethics, as much as they are with design construct. “For millennials, the prestige comes from knowing you have something that nobody else has. It’s about ‘I got to meet a designer in her studio, and this is her philosophy.’ It’s the story of the piece.”
Jennifer Dawes Design is led by Jennifer Dawes. This article is part of Diamond Foundry’s “Featured Designers” series. To see more of Dawes’ work, visit her website. To view Jennifer Dawes Design’s artisanal rings with Diamond Foundry, check out the Diamond Foundry catalogue.
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