The origins of Amy Nordström's career as a jewelry designer could easily be traced back to her early childhood. After sitting in for a modeling session with renowned sculptor Glenna Goodacre at the tender age of six, Nordström began to hone and develop her eye for art and design.
The Colorado-native and Marin County, Calif. resident has been pioneering minimalistic, sculptural and consciously made jewelry since launching her eponymous jewelry label in 2004.
Today, Nordström cultivates her authentic and holistic approach to design from her Californian home. Eschewing mass-production and forgoing trends, Nordström uses her love of thoughtful, handcrafted design to relay the story of each collection and continues to build a loyal following worldwide.
We interviewed the designer to discuss her career path, design process and her recently debuted "Nave Collection."
Read on for an exclusive peek into the life and inner workings of Amy Nordström.
Fashion Times: Your design journey began with sculptor Glenna Goodacre. How did you two meet? Would you say that her work has had an impact on your own?
Amy Nordström: Growing up in Boulder, Colo., my family and the Goodacres were dear friends. When I was six years old, Glenna was working on a sculpture called "Song Of China" and needed a child to model their hands.
I sat for Glenna in her Boulder studio and watched as she effortlessly sculpted these little, lifelike hands holding a wooden mandolin from what was before just dull, brown clay. As payment, Glenna gave me a Crayola easel complete with paints, brushes, markers, you name it. I was hooked on art of all forms and mediums from that moment on.
FT: You studied both sculpture and metal smithing while in school -- what led you to pursue metal smithing and jewelry design as opposed to becoming a sculptor?
AN: Throughout my higher education I always gravitated towards the painting, sculpture, stone carving and design courses. I became super focused on sculpture -- metal in particular -- and decided that would be my major.
The only caveat for me was that the pieces I was making were so large they could only be seen in very specific venues. I would pass by the metal smithing department and became so intrigued by the concept of making little sculptures that could actually be worn and seen even after the lights of the gallery were off.
That is what got me into the making of jewelry. There really isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of how lucky I am to have found my passion.
FT: Do you have a muse, or are you inspired to design pieces for a certain type of woman? Who is she?
AN: Mother Nature is my muse. Forms in nature really do blow my mind; the inter-working of a butterfly's wing, a lotus flower, a pattern on a snake's skin, the stripes on a zebra. My work is definitely derived from nature.
I wouldn't say that there's a specific type of woman I design for, but what I do find so intriguing is that a large portion of my clients are designers, architects and fine artists themselves. It's such a huge compliment to me that they love my work.
FT: Your pieces are all handcrafted and you bypass all mass-production methods. How important is it to maintain "slow fashion," high-quality practices in an industry that is always demanding more?
AN: It's very important to me that the artist hand is predominant in all of the work. I've never really followed trends. We do cast some of the designs but even in doing so, after we cast and clean the pieces, we then cut, bend, melt and patina them before they're completely finished.
What separates my work from a lot of other jewelers is that we work in 14-karat gold-filled wire. This is a unique metal in that it has far more gold than anything plated. It is far less expensive than real gold, and it can only be hand-wrought -- never cast. So in turn, the client is getting a true handmade artisan piece that will never fade or tarnish and, with the right care, will last a lifetime.
FT: Do you have any favorite stones or metals that you're particularly drawn to at the moment?
AN: A few years back one could say that my work was more stone-driven. Now, I've since gone in the opposite direction to all metal-driven pieces. Recently, I've begun working with diamond slices and designing custom cuts for my stones. The Kunzite Serif Ring, for example, is one of my custom-designed stone cuts.
The concepts of perfect symmetrical cuts and perfect clarity have never interested me. I love to see inclusions and flashing in stones. Just like with people, it's the imperfections that make them unique and interesting.
FT: Tell us a little bit about your latest collection. The designs are so distinct, are they derived from any sculptures or specific forms? Do you have a favorite piece?
AN: The new Nave Collection stems from my art history days of studying cathedral, basilica and church architecture. The Nave is the main body of the church. The collection is derived from the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, Spain and was designed by architect Antoni Gaudi.
The Nave necklace was the first piece I designed in this collection, and I'd have to say it's my favorite because it's multi- faceted. It's designed to be worn layered and long, or you can double it up and clasp it in the back with a handmade S clasp. I call it "One Necklace 3 Ways," but a lot of my clients have discovered several other really cool ways to wear it!
FT: As a designer and an artist, what is the legacy you wish to leave behind?
AN: I've just recently branched into custom bridal jewelry. It really is such an honor to design and create pieces that are so sentimental and will last a lifetime. I love the idea that my work can be cherished and passed on.
As a mom with two kids ages seven and 10, I often think about how incredible it would be for one or both [of them] to work with me some day, and then potentially they could take over the business ... a mom can dream.
Take a look at Amy Nordström's pieces on her website here.