Feature Friday - Q&A with Todd Pownell

When I found Tap by Todd Pownell from Cleveland, Ohio, I just knew that I had found something unique.  Todd's work is not only different than anything else out there but he also believes in the importance of having a social and environmental responsibility.  Todd is a member of the Ethical Metalsmith's.  

Looking a Todd's work, there is an obvious passion in it.  The gold still seems like it's almost liquid, wrapping around the wearer.  The unusual approach that Todd has taken by mounting some of the gemstones in his pieces top down, inverted from the traditional mountings has created a visual interest in the pieces that feels both rugged and elegant as the same time.  The inverted stones almost seem like they have a secret that you will have to pry out of them - much like they were pried from the Earth.

So with that, I hope that you enjoy this week's Feature Friday Q&A with Todd Pownell.

Todd Pownell....and friend.
1.  What prompted your passion for jewelry and jewelry design?
I first became fascinated with metal when I melted steel and aluminum in a high school metals class while doing welding and foundry work.  My further explorations with non-ferrous metals of copper, silver and gold naturally lead me to jewelry.  Once, I began setting stones, I was compelled to study gemology and this grew into my life long love of making jewelry and jewelry design.

Silver, 18k yellow gold & approx. .20 ctw diamond earrings.

2.  What is your favorite piece or collection?
It’s really hard to pick a favorite piece, but the most prestigious piece I’ve done to date is a neckpiece I’ve titled “Glacier Necklace."  It consists of three 1-carat each thick diamond slices at the front and cascades around the neck with a total of 33 carats of additional diamonds.  It has a mix on inverted, traditionally set and rose cuts all bezel set in a seemingly random pattern.  The piece really shines when worn.  It’s like someone spilled diamonds around the neckline and they just float there.

The "Glacier" Necklace - An absolutely stunning piece of artwork by Todd Pownell.

3.  What would your perfect “jewelry day” involve / be like?
Starting out very early in the studio with a good coffee and some high-karat gold and begin by melting & pouring the precious metal with the classical music of Schubert or opera of Caruso playing while I forge out forms on a clean anvil with my personal favorite hammers.  Through the afternoon, I’d be fabricating and soldering the finished forms together and switching to the soundtrack to rock it out with Joy Division, David Bowie, Nick Cave and the like.  Late in the day, the bench top would be re-organized and I’d have the selected special gemstone ready to be placed and set.  I’d switch the music to Italian lounge or Ennio Morricone soundtracks as I place the gem and put the final details and finish on the new piece.  By early evening, the piece would be presented to someone special with an invitation and finally worn out that very evening for fine dining wine, new jewelry and conversation.

4.  Thus far, what would you say is your proudest jewelry moment or memory?
In 2013, I received a monetary award through a competition that is supported by Cuyhahoga County in Ohio where I live through a program run by CPAC a Community Arts organization.  The jury process they use is a double blind, two-tiered process of a high caliber.  Entries included all disciplines of visual arts, so I was proud to be the only jewelry designer selected.

Palladium, black diamonds & aquamarine ring.  How stunning is this
amazing ring?!?!  I love the way that it looks like the diamonds are stuggling
to get free & the aquamarine has an ocean-like appearance.

5.  Where do you find your greatest inspiration?
The Romantic period of the late 18th century has had a considerable influence on my jewelry.  I like to emphasize interaction of dark and light and the materials I choose to convey both order & chaos is an important aspect of my work.   The use of fine gold with diamonds is a conscious decision on my part to evoke a sense of mystery and a sublime nature.   Diamonds are set upside down to produce an effect of capturing and reflecting light in a succession of broad flashes thus creating an appearance of twilight. 

Approx. .30-.40 ctw. inverted black diamonds, palladium & 18k yellow gold irregular top ring.

6.  In your personal wardrobe, do you find that you gravitate to one particular jewelry accessory (rings vs. necklace vs. bracelets vs. watches, etc.) more often than others?
I’m more of a maker than a wearer of jewelry myself.   That said, I would gravitate toward wearing a single masculine piece of either a nice gold ring or cuff bracelet. 

7.  When putting together an outfit, how do you feel about mixing metals, designs and even new with vintage pieces?
I really like to see mixing and complimentary juxtapositions with both jewelry and outfits on women.  Of course, it has to work well and not just thrown together.  

18k yellow gold, palladium, silver & diamond bracelets.

8.  Layering seems to be a trend that is here to stay, for now. What are your feelings on the layered look?  How do you like layered necklaces with layered bracelets plus layered rings? 
I really love seeing stacked rings, bangles and layered necklaces.  There is a balance, when its too much, it fails.  Especially with some high-end jewelry pieces.  Layer to a point but please, let’s not be garish.

Silver band layered with 18k yellow gold, darkened siver bead with approx. .50 ctw. inverted diamonds.

9.  What advice would you give to budding jewelry designers? To budding fine jewelry collectors?
To budding designers, I’d say work authentically, don’t put image or marketing ahead of your true self.  Know your materials and your Craft.  Once you’ve put in 10,000 hours, you are ready to start. 

To collectors, purchase along your passions.  Pay attention to the product supply chain on high-end brands.  Make it a personal connection.

Flash Question - Dream trip destination?
I hiked across Iceland in 2008 and that was an amazing landscape.  I’d like to do another long backpacking trek in New Zealand or a long solo motorcycle trip along the back roads from coast to coast right here in the U.S. 

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