Recipe for a Happy Life: Meet Jewelry Artist C.D. Davis
Jewelry artist C.D. Davis creates jewelry designs that combine wire wrapping, hand engraving, and gemstones in a magical, intricate way. Get to know him and what drives his work in this interview.
ABOVE: jewelry artist C. D. Davis
Wire Wrapping, Engraving, and More with Jewelry Artist C. D. Davis
Please describe yourself and your work as a jewelry artist.
Eight years ago, I started wire wrapping, which sparked my love for jewelry. In the last couple years, I have broadened my horizons to include fabrication, wax carving, hand engraving, and traditional stone setting. With every piece, I want to further develop my artistic vision and become a more skilled jewelry artist. I feel very lucky to have found something that allows constant challenge and evolution. From what I can tell so far, that seems to be the recipe for a happy life.
Why do you do what you do?
The whole experience is gratifying. I like the diversity of running the whole show. Not only making the jewelry, but diving into the vast world of gems and minerals, marketing my work and my brand on social media and elsewhere, communicating with clients to make really special custom pieces that they cherish, etc. But really, designing and creating the pieces gives me the most joy. Something about creating a small, beautiful sculpture out of metal and gems is very gratifying to me.
I love gems and minerals, especially natural crystals; that’s really where this all started for me. Taking a piece of natural art, the crystal, and using it as a springboard to create your own design around it, to ultimately make something more beautiful, can be a lovely process. Watching a design go from paper to a real-life piece of jewelry is very rewarding. Being able to create art that satisfies me deeply, and also gets other people excited and inspired, is really special. Jewelry making started for me as a hobby in July of 2010 and quickly became a passion. Now it’s a lifelong obsession, as long as I continue to keep learning and getting better. If I ever stop growing, then I might start to question what I am doing . . . but I don’t see that happening any time soon. The more I learn, the less I feel like I know, and I love that.
What would you consider your specialty as far as your process goes?
Well first, I have a deep relationship with gems and minerals. My love for natural crystals is really what got me into making jewelry–just wanting to make simple wire pendants out of them. That quickly became more complex. But for me, the stone is always first. And my goal is to make designs that frame the stones, to really bring attention to their beauty. Because of this, I am asked to work with very fine and rare natural crystals frequently in custom work, and I always choose to use the most desirable natural gems in non-custom projects.
More recently I would say my specialty is my use of many different skill sets to make jewelry that’s really unique and striking. I combine my well known skill set of wire wrapping with more recently acquired techniques, such as metal fabrication, wax carving, multiple styles of hand engraving, metal inlay, and fine jewelry stone setting. The results so far have been awesome, and I have been flooded with creative inspiration. I really think this new wave for me is just getting started. I can’t wait to keep pushing forward with this.
Please describe a life experience that inspired you.
Music, nature, crystals, art, people, skiing, skateboarding, architecture, conversation, podcasts etc. inspire me. I get inspiration from all different parts of life. I make jewelry that excites me and makes me feel good when I look at it, and that’s probably influenced by a lot of different experiences. There is definitely a cosmic and spiritual component to my work, in the final product but also the experience of designing and making it. To be honest, I see great artists as antennas, communicators, using art as their channel between the “physical” and “non-physical.” Art can really help re-familiarize us with the things we forget to see, and help us to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.
I see great artists as antennas, communicators, using art as their channel between the physical and non-physical.
What is your favorite part of your work as a jewelry artist and why?
I love designing jewelry; it’s like going on an adventure. I have a starting point, and maybe few destinations in mind if using particular stones, but how I am going to arrive at those destinations is completely up to me. Sometimes it’s best to get it done with the direct route, but mostly I find the scenic route most fulfilling. My imagination is my only limit for where I want to go and how I want to get there. Because I have all the right tools, and a diverse skill set, my studio is my playground. Pretty often, I just feel like a big kid playing with Legos. But in all seriousness, I work hard to design high-end jewelry art, and I am proud to create pieces that are constantly evolving.
What part of your job as a jewelry artist is your least favorite and why?
Accounting/bookkeeping. The one part of all this that feels like a real job.
Please describe what failure means to you.
Coming to a point where I stop challenging myself and become permanently complacent. Basically, letting myself get bored and still continuing to make jewelry. Whatever it is I pursue, I want to be passionate about it.
Please describe what success means to you.
This is something that is constantly evolving. When I first started making jewelry I would consider where I am at now successful. But for me, success is mostly internal. If I continue to grow and get better every year, then I am successful. But it is important to me to make unique jewelry that has impact as well. I want to make jewelry that makes people feel something, that people really consider art. I want to inspire people and I want to help contribute to the total sum of beauty in the world. My favorite thing to hear is, “I have never seen anything like this, and it’s so beautiful!” What makes me most happy is making very complex, high-end, one-of-a-kind wearable art pieces that are cherished by my clients.
I want to inspire people and I want to help contribute to the total sum of beauty in the world.
What is something we may not know about you?
For the first six years, my focus in jewelry was almost entirely in wire wrapping. Over the last two years, I have taken a real interest to hand engraving, inlay, and fine stone setting as a major push towards incorporating complete backs onto all of my work. And through that push, I have stumbled upon a whole new vision of fully integrating all of these techniques together, front and back, into a “hybrid” style of jewelry.
There is something so special and unique about fine wirework that no other technique can accomplish in my opinion, but a lot of wire work out there has its shortcomings, incomplete backs being a big issue in the high-end jewelry realm. Although I have made very successful and beautiful double-sided wraps, there is still something so intriguing about learning new skills and combining them all together that I can’t resist. So my goal right now is to combine all of these techniques under one roof to make beautiful, high quality, never-before-seen jewelry art.
In addition, a lot of people ask me how I make such small, fine work, as such a big guy with large hands. I always laugh, because it seems all my life, I have been attracted to pursuits that most 6’ 6”, 300-pound guys don’t find themselves participating in or being successful with. Whether its skiing fast through the trees, sliding on rails and hitting jumps, needing a few hours at the skatepark on my skateboard every week, or diving deep into small and intricate jewelry making, I always feel like the personal pursuits that make me most happy are a bit unexpected considering my size, haha! So just do what you love, regardless of what others are doing, work your hardest at it, and you’ll be happy. At least it’s working for me.
What is the best piece of work-related advice someone has ever given you?
It’s the idea that artists need to actively contribute to their creative inspiration. As one takes from their collection of creative ideas while making art, make sure that one takes time for themselves to fill up their creativity reserves with something other than making art. It can be anything–read a book, exercise, etc.–whatever makes you happy. But the overall message here is that to have the most impact as an artist, and to have longevity, switch it up and get out of the studio to get inspired. Or eventually, you will get stuck in a creative rut.
What career project do you consider your biggest accomplishment to date?
My most recent project, “Tsavage Solis.” This project features the most valuable materials I have used yet, two top-quality green grossular garnets (tsavorite garnets) and a 2mm tsavorite facet, in all gold (14k, 18k, 22k, and 24k). It incorporates many techniques, including wire wrapping, goldsmithing, traditional and nontraditional stone setting, multiple styles of hand engraving, and 24k gold inlay. For me, it was an accomplishment to successfully combine my more recently acquired skill set with my more familiar skill set, and apply the combined skills to such valuable material in a very successful design. It was also an honor to be asked to produce such a high-end custom pendant. When someone believes your vision so strongly, it feels amazing.
Please name one key thing you do every workday that helps you be successful as a jewelry artist?
At least for me, when it comes to creating a successful design, I think it really helps to start with a drawing. Drawing first is a huge advantage in helping to push new design ideas and my overall creative vision forward. Trying out ideas on paper is much cheaper and quicker than in metal. Not every new idea needs to be made into jewelry, and drawing can help roll one idea into another idea with even more potency. That lets you use a bulk of your time to make the most unique and impactful jewelry possible.
What were some of the unexpected hurdles in your career as a jewelry artist?
To make the jewelry I’m proud of has required a lot of determination and time. Creative jobs can be unexpectedly challenging I think When you’re running a creative business, you gotta stay very focused to do your best work. For me, I tend to get very deep into my projects, to stay in my zone. I sort of cut myself off from the world. I dream of the day I can have a weekly “schedule” or routine and still produce my best. That sounds nice. But for my best work, I follow it when it comes (although I have to put in the design time to allow the ideas to come). And sometimes it comes out of nowhere. So I really try to follow my creative jolts. I usually start a piece and work until I finish it, or at least finish a big section of it. A lot of times, that can be 12+ hour days, for a week or a month straight.
I say all this because socially, this has taken some getting used to, but my art is my priority and I gotta do what I gotta do. I love the quote, “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life, but you will also never have a vacation.” But as I said earlier, I am learning the importance of taking time to step away from art to fill up my creative reserve. I’m always working on finding the proper balance.
What were some of the unexpected benefits in your career as jewelry artist?
The community! Lots of my best friends are people I met through the industry, or friendships that have been strengthened through participating in the industry. The Denver Gem Show and the Tucson Gem Shows every year are just as much a social event as they are a trade show; same with lots of my engraving classes at GRS in Kansas. There are so many cool people that are into rocks and jewelry. It’s been a pleasure getting to know these awesome folks over the years. It’s an honor to be part of a connected network of passionate, creative people, pushing the boundaries of the jewelry and gem and mineral industry. The future is bright for a lot of us!
What valuable piece of advice can you give our readers that aspire to make a living off their jewelry making?
Be yourself and do you. Live your truth, and work hard. Success will find those with a unique vision and a strong work ethic. Passion is what it’s all about.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Thanks for the interview! It’s been really fun to reflect on all of this stuff. I think every artist should ask themselves these same questions.
Enjoy more of C.D. Davis’s work on his website.